Friday, 22 June 2018

THE KING OF PASSIONATE LOVERS

THE KING OF PASSIONATE LOVERS
No one knows more about romance, intimacy and love. No one has ever loved as passionately like the one deservedly called the King of lovers. His methods are smooth, deliberate, and intentional. His wooing is calculated and done without ever rushing, pushing, or force. As with the best of lovers, the heart of the Lover-King belongs only to the one – the betrothed. For her part, it’s all a mystery why someone so rich, so charming, so good, would want her. This is all the more mysterious considering what her predicament was: kidnapped, held as a captive, guarded by vicious thugs. On hearing of her plight, the Lover-King risked life and limb to stage a daring rescue. There was much blood shed in the rescue, more than the damsel would ever know. When delivered out of harm’s way, the King of Lovers showed her great kindness. Initially the gifts were nice new clothes, then accompanying jewellery, then flowers, meals, strolls together. Her abused and weary heart began to trust again to increasing degrees of vulnerability when her Lover-King was there. As she opened her heart to this King of lovers the more she was seen as deeply beautiful. 
¶ My beloved is mine, and I am his;
Song of Songs 2:16

 

THE ULTIMATE DISCOVERY

The greatest lover who has ever graced this planet was a man who never married and was celibate for life. Yet, this man was the most fulfilled person of all time and enjoyed the greatest riches of human flourishing. Women loved to be in His presence, and never felt safer than when they were. Men respected Him and wanted to be like Him. Children followed Him and shared laughs with Him when they did. He was a man who knew He was loved and knew better than anybody how to really love. 
Yet the world had never seen such love. Neither did it know how to respond. Such love was foreign to all who met Him. Compared to what they had been calling ‘love’ His love was sweet, pure, selfless, gentle, and generous. All this made the following fact all the more remarkable: He never once said, ‘I love you.’ He never needed to. People who encountered it knew it! 
His love was not unbridled passion – not every lust or whim or desire would be met with a ‘yes’, for, as those who watched Him closely knew, His love was was truer than these imposters. Love’s “yes” must be protected by a battalion  of “no’s”! Only by saying “no” to the masquerading imposters of lust, whim, and desire, can love’s ‘yes’ be protected.
¶ The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed Him.
Luke 16:14
The ultimate discovery for many was that what they thought was love was merely instant gratification masquerading as love which then came at a price they later found out to be unimaginably high. 

A REVOLUTION

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35
Love can only be when there is a deep respect for its sacredness. Jesus, the King of passionate lovers, has shown us that there is more to life that is sacred than perhaps we realise. We human beings are endowed with the unique ability to express the image of God to the world in a way that animals cannot, nature cannot, and those who do not know Him cannot. Thus, the King of lovers taught that love only has meaning when it is treated as being sacred (something dedicated to God for His glory). This is why the highest expression of physical love, sexual intimacy, demands the highest commitment first – a covenant of marriage made before the Holy God (Hebrews 13:4).
The rescued girl in the opening paragraph is an apt metaphor for all those who have been rescued from the devilish kidnapping forces of the Enemy who has bewitched many into thinking the heinous lie that love is grounded in fulfilling their basest desires. Jesus Christ, the Lover-King literally risked life and limb to rescue us. Once rescued, He has showered us with lavish acts of kindness and generous bounty. In return He wants nothing but deserve everything. And for those whose hearts have been revolutionised by His wondrous love, loving Him in return is the most beautiful privilege we could ever receive.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  ¶ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:3537
 He still woos hearts. He still rescues the kidnapped. He still lavishes His generosity upon the underserving. Oh what love! “So amazing – so divine! Demands my soul – demands my all!”
Your pastor,
Andrew Corbett

Friday, 15 June 2018

WHEN PROBLEMS ARE COMPLEX, SOLUTIONS ARE SIMPLE


WHEN PROBLEMS ARE COMPLEX, SOLUTIONS ARE SIMPLE

hydra-coinIt is a myth that complex problems require complex solutions! The problem with complex problems is when they involve you. Because when they do it feels like you are trying to deal with unrelated problem after unrelated problem while already dealing with a problem that you already just can’t deal with. This is why getting another perspective is often the first step to coming out of the fog. But someone might disagree with this because they feel they do have a different perspective of the most complex problems they are trying to solve because they are not ones not of their own making. This is especially the case when such complexities involve family or people we deeply care about. I’d like to offer some advice.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Romans 16:20

PRINCIPLE #1 : THE HEART OF THE SERPENT

Hercules fighting HydraIn Greek Mythology, the giant serpent-like creature, Hydra, with its nine heads, had defeated all-comers. Then Hercules came along. Each of Hydra’s other opponents had been distracted by its multiple heads. Hercules, however, knew that if he attacked the heart of Hydra, he could defeat it. This is a great illustration of how to begin tackling what appears to be complex problems: nine-headed problems don’t always need nine solutions – often they can be solved with just one solution
For example, a business may be losing customers, struggling with cash-flow pressure, trying to manage demotivated staff, and complying with regulatory authorities. By tackling the heart of the problem, each of these symptoms of the real problem could be solved. Sometimes the real problem lies with the owner of the business neglecting their family which sets off a chain of events including grumpiness when they get to work which staff interpret as ungraciousness which causes them to treat customers poorly, which leads to a loss of sales which leads to a cash-flow crises. Jesus had something to say to such business-people about where they should focus their efforts.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [that you are worrying about] will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

PRINCIPLE #2 : STOP MAKING ASSUMPTIONS

stop-assumptionising01Complex problems always involve other people. These people could be the family members, friends, staff, colleagues, or leaders. People have a knack for letting others down. They also have a knack for letting themselves down! When trying to help someone else, don’t assume that they are already doing the basics. The thing I have noticed about great problem solvers who tackle complex problems is that they start with the basics. For example, up until the late 1800s it was common for pregnant women to die during child-birth. Medical scientists worked on all kinds of solutions with no success. The problem continued into the twentieth century until someone read a paper which Blaise Pascal had written addressing the problem. Pascal theorised that something we now call bacteria could be transmitted via unwashed hands into a skin breach on another person which could variously result in that person being infected by that bacteria. This bacterial infection, Pascal theorised, was the cause of so many women dying during child-birth. If doctors and assisting nurses would only wash their hands with soap and warm water, much the stop-Assumptionising03problem could be averted, Pascal claimed. But his ideas were rejected and mocked by the medical establishment. Not until someone read his paper in the early 20th century and decided to put his ideas to the test was Pascal proved right! From that point the numbers of women dying during child-birth plummeted! This complex problem was unnecessarily prolonged because people made some bad assumptions. Someone may be encountering financial pressure. Don’t assume that they have curbed their spending. Don’t assume that they are tithing (something that even secular financial gurus like Robert Kiyosaki strongly advice). Don’t assume they are exercising delayed-gratification.
¶ Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
Psalm 146:3

PRINCIPLE #3 : DON’T ACCEPT THE TRANSFER A PROBLEM’S OWNERSHIP

owning-anothers-problemsPeople with complex problems love to share ownership of their problems – and if you’ll let them, they’ll even transfer ownership of their problems to you! Parents of adult children are especially vulnerable to this illicit transfer of problem ownership.
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Matthew 23:4
Of course, there are times when we can practically help someone dealing with a problem which is beyond them. God commands us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) – not own one another’s burdens. 

PRINCIPLE #4 : ACCEPT THE ULTIMATE OFFER OF HELP

We are meant to live dependently and inter-dependently. We are meant to be dependent upon God. We look to Him in prayer for help with each problem we face.
When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
Psalm 94:19
Not matter how complex our difficulties, He invites us to cast our cares onto Him – which may require us humbling ourselves.
¶ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.
First Peter 5:6-7
Even if you feel that the problems you are facing are too complex, there is probably a simple solution. This will require facing reality and forsaking assumptions. It will mean an end to blaming and the beginning to praying. Because complex problems really do not always need complex solutions.

Father God,
Help me.
Give the insight I need to see how I can get through this, or help the ones I love to get through their problems.
Please give me wisdom and strength to walk and work with You.
May I become more like Christ to those around me and less like the person I’ve been.
I ask this in the Name of Your Only Begotten Son, Jesus the Christ,
Amen. 

Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 9 June 2018

EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY


I have two life prayers. One of them is, “Lord help me to hear Your voice!” As with most of my interactions with the Creator of the Universe, His answers come in surprising forms. Having just returned from several weeks annual leave, I had more than my usual time to think and pray. There were several reasons why I needed to do this, but the main one was – I am deeply concerned about the Church in Tasmania. There are many churches in our beautiful State. We are blessed to have some exemplary followers of Christ in some very strategic positions of influence in Academia, Commerce, Politics, Media, and the Arts. But my heart is heavy with a strong sense that we are not yet where we need to be and that Tasmania is yet to see the kind of church that Christ intends for our State. With all this on my heart, I wanted to use my annual leave to ask the Creator of molecules to speak to me about this.
¶ Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God, and that to You,
O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.
Psalm 62:11-12

A THEOLOGY OF THE ORDINARY

FA18-fighter-jetKim and I used to live near an Airforce Base on the outskirts of Melbourne. We had pilots and RAAF support crew attend the church where we served. We became quite acquainted with one former fighter-pilot who was a highly skilled professional military aviator. He was required to undertake continual professional development and repeated evaluations in order to maintain his flying credentials. He could do what very few could. What he did everyday was extraordinary.  
Very few of us would even know how to get into an F/A 18A Super Hornet, let alone get it to 25,000 feet and Mach III! It takes extraordinary ability to do so – which only a relative handful of elite pilots can do. For the rest of us ordinary folk, we can admire these pilots, but not realistically aspire to do what they do (unless we had several years of intense training!). But we can all aspire to do what is ordinary. Perhaps this is why soccer draws more crowds than Air Races.  
Matt Hall of Australia in action during the Red Bull Air Race 2nd Training Day on May 7, 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. // Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images for Red Bull Air Race // P-20120217-74058 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //
¶ For consider your calling, brothers:
not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,
not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
First Corinthians 1:26
The most ordinary things in life are the most popular. These ordinary things are the things that anybody can do. This is why games like soccer are so popular because anybody can kick a ball. (I was reminded of this when watching Ebony as a 14 year old play in a girls’ soccer team.) Soccer doesn’t really need anything fancy. That’s why it’s played on the streets of Barcelona, the plains of the Kalahari, and the pack-ice of Greenland. Its elements are few: a pitch, goals, and a ball. Its rules are simple: don’t touch the ball with your hands; keep the ball within the pitch; don’t try and kick a goal when one of your team-mates are closer to the goal than you.
brazil-soccer-kids
As simple as soccer and other ‘ordinary’ games are, there are some players of these sports who have developed into extraordinary players. For example, not many can do what Portuguese forward, Cristiano Ronaldo can do. He plays for Rëâl Madrid and earns $29,500,000 a year. While any of us can kick a roundish air-filled piece of leather, not many of us can bend it like Beckham!
A slack hand causes poverty,
but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
Proverbs 10:4
The most popular activities in life are all ‘ordinary’. The most popular TV shows are all about ordinary things – cooking, home renovations, fishing, and the like – even the recent royal wedding was really about two people doing something that any ordinary couple could do. The most popular YouTube clips celebrate the ordinary – tickling kittens, singing a song, opening a box. The most popular blogs discuss ordinary subjects – clothes, cooking, parenting, make-up. 
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:17
It seems that God delights in using ordinary. There is something very noble about the ordinary. Under the Older Covenant, the Creator of water decreed that certain people should be set aside to do work that was not ordinary. When performing their duties, they were not to wear ordinary clothes. These were the priests. But under the Newer Covenant, the prophet Zechariah declared that God would take the ordinary – like, pots and pans used in the kitchen for making family meals – and make them reminders of His holiness. 
¶ And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
Zechariah 14:20-21
pots_pans

A THEOLOGY OF THE EXTRAORDINARY

The Creator of pumpkins also delights in transforming the ordinary into something, or someone, extraordinary. Not that the ordinary is replaced with the extraordinary, because the ordinary is done with a certain excellence. For example, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt and had some very ordinary tasks to do. But God put a desire in Joseph’s heart to do more than the minimum.
The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.
Genesis 39:2-4
The same could be said of Daniel. He was deported to Babylon when his home town of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Even as a young man he had a mind that everything he did was an act of worship to God which led him to try harder at everything he did so that he could honour the Creator of lions.
Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Daniel 6:3
Those who draw near to God begin to have a desire to honour God with all of their ordinary activities. They begin to see that even the ordinary things they do which are common to us all – cooking, cleaning, serving – can be done in a way that goes beyond the usual minimum effort. 
Do you see a man skillful in his work?He will stand before kings;he will not stand before obscure men.
Proverbs 22:29
The things we do as a church are all ordinary: talking, sharing, eating, praying, teaching, caring. The things we do when we meet as a church are also ordinary: singing, speaking, praying, reading, serving, feeding. The place we meet together in on a Sunday is also ordinary: walls, floor, ceiling, roof, sound system, video screen. The people who minister within our church and on a Sunday are all ordinary. But while I was taking some annual leave I was introduced to some people who also did ordinary things – cook, bake, serve – but didn’t just offer the minimum. These people each wondered how they could do their ordinary things better. Let me introduce you to one of these people. His name is Jordi. He was born in Spain. Before he was born, his parents bought a little run down café in Girona. His two older brothers developed a love for cooking and became chefs. When they took over the family business they transformed the café into a restaurant and renamed it, El Celler de Can Roca. It has been awarded 3 Michelin Stars. Jordi didn’t care for cooking, the restaurant, or even work for that matter, but his much older brothers always assumed that he too would work in the family business. As a teenager, Jordi began waitering in the restaurant after school. He loved going to parties and nightclubs but soon realised that being waiter was a lot more work than he had bargained for – especially when it was the waiters who were the last to leave because they had to clean up the restaurant after it closed. As he was cleaning up, he noticed that the chefs were the first staff to leave the restaurant. This is when he told his brothers that he wanted to be a chef (not because he had any interest in cooking, but so that he could knock-off work earlier!). 
Jordi’s brothers decided to give him a go in the kitchen. Their relationship with their little brother (there was a 14 year age difference) was always strained. Jordi was born with an unusually large nose. He was picked on at school and at home for the size of his nose. As a young adult, he contracted laryngitis which left his voice-box permanently damaged. He can now only speak in a whisper. His brothers became increasingly frustrated with Jordi after they put him in the kitchen. His work was poor. He would sometimes leave without finishing a customer’s order. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t get their nightclubbing little brother to show any care about cooking or the restaurant. The English Pastry Chef at the restaurant asked if he could apprentice Jordi. The brothers agreed. His apprenticing of Jordi was harsh. Jordi wasn’t used to being spoken to like that. He soon discovered that this Pasty (Dessert) Chef really cared about what he was doing. After a months of working alongside this chef Jordi began to change. He began to care. He began to see that dessert making wasn’t just about food. Then the unimaginable happened! The English Pastry Chef was involved in a terrible accident where he broke both legs, his arms, and his back! That night Jordi had to make the desserts. By his own admission, what he serves customers that night was terrible. He was embarrassed. What eventuated was a quest by Jordi to learn everything he could about ice-cream. He took this knowledge and began experimenting with dishes. The result? Forty-year-old Jordi Roca is now the best Pastry Chef in the world having been awarded the international honour in 2014.
Roca_Jordi

libro_postres_jordi_roca14-665x600
Roca_Jordi2What Jordi Roca does with desserts is remarkable. It is literally, extraordinary. As I watched Jordi’s story I couldn’t help but realise that God was answering my prayer for insight. If someone could care that much about desserts, how much more should we care about the glory of God revealed through His church? What we do as followers of Christ can also become extraordinary – not that what we do is extraordinary – but the way we do the ordinary can become extraordinary. It doesn’t involve much. It’s just a matter of going beyond the minimum. It simply reflects care, and, ultimately, worship of God. Tasmania is yet to experience such a church where a group of ordinary people like us do ordinary things with extraordinary care and effort. Would you please pray for me to have the wisdom, strength, and ability to lead such a church here in Legana?
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
Colossians 3:23
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 4 May 2018

WHEN CARING MEANS DOING RIGHT



WHEN CARING MEANS DOING RIGHT

Month-of-Care-03This month is our church’s Month of Care. This doesn’t mean that we don’t care any other month – but it does mean that this month we are going to focus on how we can improve our care and be inspired to care with some wonderful stories of how care has changed lives. As we prepare to look a little more closely at what caring for each other, those in our community, and even those in our families, can look like, there is currently before us an urgent need to show life-saving care for another category of candidates.
When the cares of my heart are many,your consolations cheer my soul.
Psalm 94:19

THE JOURNEY TO CARE

1993church-people1When we arrived in Legana in 1995, our church had 17 members and a handful of visitors and children. Legana was a town of 1,500 people and we were just one of four existing churches in the town. I was in my early 30s. The average age of our congregation was 65. The age difference caused some problems for many, but not nearly as many problems as where I had just come from! Our last church was in a city of 3 million people. We had people from many different nationalities in this Melbourne church of ours. And prior to this, I was the assistant pastor in another Melbourne church with around 400 members. This background of mine caused many of the 17 members to treat me with suspicion and dare I say it, coldness
1993church-site1I did my best to win my new congregation over. I visited them in their homes, in their hospital wards, and even in their workplaces. All the while I talked on Sundays about the need for us as a church to reach out to those who did not know Christ. This confirmed the fears of some of the members that I didn’t really care about them but was only here to make a name for myself by building a church with outsiders. Many times in the first few years of my pastorate at Legana I was confronted with comments like, “You’ve been here a couple of years now, I guess you’re getting itchy feet to move on?” “Not at all”, I would respond, “God has called us here to sow our lives into this church.” No matter how hard I tried, people doubted that I really cared about them, our community, or even our town.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Acts 20:28
But then things changed. People’s attitudes changed. It happened after we had been here for 8 years. Someone actually said to me, “So you really are staying then!?” While all this happening, I was completing my doctoral studies which had trained me to be more rigorous in my writing and preaching. This involved learning how to research and to put an argument together. At this time, I encountered some visiting scholars from England who the Bible Society had brought to Tasmania. These two men rocked my world. For the first time in my life I saw a clear connection between how the political realm shaped a society to be either open and receptive to the Gospel and its claims, or, to be closed and resistant to it.
¶ First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
First Timothy 2:1-2
1999-baptism-desAt this time, the then State Labor Government seemed to be seeking to deliberately undermine Christianity’s influence in our State. As a student of history, I knew that this was not the reason that the Labor Party had been founded, yet they were becoming increasingly influenced by a Neo-Marxist philosophy that promoted voluntary euthanasia, late-term aborting of unborn viable babies, and same-sex couple adoption rights. Having already been introduced to the profound work of William Wilberforce in the political sphere of Britain’s late-18th and early-19th century culture and the parallel benefit this had for the Gospel transforming millions of lives across England, I knew that it was time for the church of living God to step up and flex its muscles for the good of our society. Along with the help of several others, I was part of a group which successfully campaigned against the then State Government’s proposed changes to the Adoption laws, then its attempts to introduce voluntary euthanasia, and its proposed loosening of the Prostitution and Brothel laws. All the while this was happening we were seeing people join our church and come to Christ out of some of the very sectors of society these pieces of legislation were targetted at.
1995-pre-christmas02
Then along came the proposed Pulp Mill. There was always something smelly about the proposed Pulp Mill. Environmentalists were up in arms about it. I had some environmental concerns, but my increasing concern was over the morality of it. I met with company representatives, politicians, and leaders from the environmentalist movements. I then wrote a paper outlining why I believed that the Proposed Pulp Mill on the Tamar River was fraught with ethical and even moral dangers. This drew a lot of attention. ABC TV sent a production crew from 4Corners down to film one of our church services and to interview me about my concerns. History now records that not only did that project not go ahead, the company proposing it eventually went bankrupt. Curiously, as a result of these public campaigns, people stopped wondering whether I cared or whether I was really committed to stay.  
2000-building
for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Acts 20:27

THE NEED TO CARE BEYOND

¶ Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:9-10
It’s necessary for us to care for each other in our church family (Rom. 12:9-10). But not everyone believes this should be a priority for a church. Some people criticise churches that make loving one another a priority claiming that they end up becoming more of a club than a church. These critics claim that the church only exists to evangelise and when a local church focusses on caring for one another they are neglecting the Great Commission and are therefore being disobedient to Christ. I think these people need a hug! 
Tyrone-moppets06082009bI am a father of four children and I can share that it is possible for a parent to love each of their children without having to divide up their love for each of them. Similarly, it is possible for us to love our brothers and sisters in our church family and have a heart to reach people we know who have not yet accepted God’s offer of eternal forgiveness for their sins. This means that the choice between loving your brothers and sisters in Christ, or, having a heart to reach out to people outside of Christ, is no choice at all. It is not ‘or’, it is ‘and’. In like manner, our love also extends to those in our society of whom there is no real expectation that they could ever join our church. And this leads me to explain the title of this article. Right now in our State we have people pushing an evil agenda which is one of the most insidiously uncaring agendas I have ever seen. These people want to have the State Government spend millions of your tax-dollars to eradicate unwanted children. The other week a small group of them, led by several female State Labor and Greens politicians, protested for the right to have their unwanted children surgically killed in the womb. We have several good politicians who are doing all they can to withstand this. They care. And I conclude this edition of my Pastor’s Desk with a plea for us to care as well. These caring politicians need public support. Our Premier in particular needs to be encouraged to join with these caring politicians and to have the confidence to stand for what is right and caring. This month, as we consider what caring can look like within and by the church, it is also worth considering that caring sometimes means doing what is right and involves writing letters – to Premiers and Newspaper Editors

Pastor Andrew Corbett

Friday, 27 April 2018

ALTOGETHER ODD!



Altogether-ODD2

crowd-with-umbrella-with-1-unique-colorOdd people are the ones who follow Christ. ‘Odd’ in this sense means, strange, differentuncommonabnormal. If you weren’t already odd when you became a Christian, you have certainly become odd since following Him! But there was a time when being a Christian wasn’t that odd. People used to refer to their first name as their Christian name because this was the name given to them at their christening. Biblical expressions like, ‘turn the cheek’, ‘go the extra-mile’, ‘seek and you will find’, were part of everyday conversations, not just Sunday conversations. When a man and a woman co-habited without getting married, they acknowledged, in common parlance, that they were ‘living in sin’. Associated with this was that nearly all weddings, even of non-church goers, happened inside a church, because it was understood that marriage necessarily involved standing before God and seeking His blessing. But in the last few years, Christians have become increasingly faced with the choice to either ‘shut-up and go with the flow’, or become increasingly odd
¶ But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
First Peter 2:9
Altogether-odd
Christianity had a very odd beginning. It was birthed at a time when the prevailing world power, the Romans, ruled the known world with an iron-fist. The law of the land, with some minor exceptions, was that all people had to worship Caesar and the Roman gods. Christians refused to do this. They were odd. The Roman world prized might and power. Christians prized meekness and serving others. They were odd. Romans treated women like second-class citizens – certainly not on an equal footing with men. Christians regarded women as worthy of respect and dignity and men as bearing the greater responsibility to protect them. They were odd. Romans gathered together for celebrations of debauchery and indecency. Christians gathered together for a celebration of their love for the Christ. 
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35
 I think we must be odd! I am not primarily describing us – I am challenging us! We must become odder 
“Too many of our churches function as secular entertainment centers with religious morals slapped on top, when they should be functioning as the living, breathing Body of Christ. Too many churches have succumbed to modernity, rejecting the wisdom of past ages, treating worship as a consumer activity, and allowing parishioners to function as unaccountable, atomized (disconnected particles) members. The sad truth is, when the world sees us, it often fails to see anything different from nonbelievers.”
Rod Dreher, THE BENEDICT OPTION, 2017, Sentinel Publishers (Penguin Random House), New York, page 102
stand-out-from-the-crowd3I sometimes hear Christians refer to the ‘real world’ as if they are describing a reality outside of the one that Christ has gifted us, His Church, to see and be. But how many of us realise that living as a Christian in the community of a church is the real world? We present a grand vision of reality to a world who thinks we are quite odd. Our vision is one of the enthroned Christ as the One who laughs at the schemes of the silly people who think they could de-throne The Seated One with their silly redefinitions! All the while, these silly people continue to ache and hurt, and blame The Lamb for their pain. The very thing they need for their healing – a loving community of brothers and sisters who are bound by love for Christ and His healing Word – is the very thing they think they have to despise and destroy. How odd.
“Christians often talk about ‘reaching the culture’ without realizing that, having no distinct Christian culture of their own, they have been co-opted by the secular culture they wish to evangelize. Without a substantial Christian culture, it’s no wonder that our children are forgetting what it means to be Christian, and no surprise that we are not bringing in new converts.”
Rod Dreher, THE BENEDICT OPTION, 2017, Sentinel Publishers (Penguin Random House), New York, page 102
Umbrella-in-the-crowd2We should be an odd church. We can be a church that is different to how people are normally treated. We can be a church where our critics enter and something odd happens to them. We can be a refuge from a world where people hurt and ache. Not only do we not want to be like the world, those who have come out of the world do not want us to be like the world either!
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
John 17:15

As we prepare for our Month of Care, consider how you might show an odd act of kindness for a brother or sister in Christ. A cup of coffee. A chat. An evening meal. A breakfast. A lunch. These are things of oddness that make a church community so unusual, so different, so strange, so odd. 
¶ Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:1-5

Your odd Pastor,
Andrew.