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The Uniting Church in Australia

Cowes, Phillip Island

The Church of St John,
- Fisherman and Apostle -


St John's UCA Cowes

Ministers Web ReflectionNovember2017

“How are you growing?”

When we begin thinking about things that grow we think of things we perceive growing. Plants and trees show buds and shoots. Children grow in height and size. Collections of records and books grow. Cities grow with new buildings and roads.

We have an idea of what growth looks like.

However, when we apply the concept of growth to our faith, we might want to be a bit careful.

How does spiritual life grow? And what does growth look like? We might begin ‘the SHOULD’ sentences. I should do this, I should do that…and it doesn't take long before we start modifying those statements, so that soon we find ourselves saying “we should, but we don't”, and then we feel we have failed. Or that our faithful life is a bit crummy.

Where did those ideas about what a growing Christian life looks like come from??

Growth, especially in the Faithful life is subtle. It's certainly not like looking at a tree or building grow. Growth in the Faithful life is supported by our worship, bible study, fellowship, and all the service rosters we are on, but it's certainly not any one or all of those things. Growth perhaps is measured by other markers; less like a measuring device, or size chart.

It's a bit more like trusting God that every faithful thing we do: that every breath we take; where we go; who we meet; that who is we are, is enough.

And all those faithful people I call to mind, who I think were ‘Saints’ to me: those who I saw as people growing the Faithful life, were actually, just like me anyhow. So, the question “How are you growing” is really a question for us NOT to compare ourselves with others, or our “should lists”. Rather, it is a question that might bring us closer in our walk with Jesus. The writer to the infant church community in Thessaloniki wrote, “God's Word is at work in you!” Believe it! (1 ‘Thessalonians 2: 13)

Open Places: The Fields of Easter.

In the fields of Easter, here in Phillip Island, the land is becoming greener.   The lake at the cemetery is beginning to refill after the dry summer.   The shearwater birds are flying their epic journey to the Northern Hemisphere.   Our holiday neighbours have returned to the cities into their working weeks.   In fields of Easter, in the fifty days that church communities celebrate Easter, things here at Phillip Island are returning to usual.

How usual does your world feel?
Is anything ever really usual?

For the disciples, after the resurrection, there was a sense that ‘one returns to what one knows’. The post resurrection story of Jesus’ BBQ on the beach in the gospel according to John 21, sees the disciples back at work on the fishing boat.   After the trauma of the events in Jerusalem;   the betrayal;   their own shame at not being the faithful people they hoped to be:   even after the appearances behind locked doors;   the testimonies of the women:   even then, how to live life in the light of resurrection was an unknown quantity.   Things began to return to usual.   After years of living as disciples, they returned to their boats.

Known pathways and patterns can be helpful guides after such upheavals.

Psalm 66: 10-12 speaks of such a journey.   It speaks of being through what seems to be life's tests and trials.   Tested as silver is refined, caught up in nets, carrying heavy burdens, through fire and rain, and yet, “You have brought us out to a spacious place.”

Was the disciple's return to their nets a time to return to the known pathways?   And was it also a time to regain space, to regain a sense of self?

Had the disciples remained behind the locked doors, in fear and loss, then something would have gone terribly wrong.   Some people understand the church as a place where disciples huddle and hide, living small lives, blocking out the complexities of life in the world.   However, the Gospel message is one of coming into spaciousness.   The saved people are the ones who have come into a spacious place.

James Alison, historical Jesus and New Testament theologian, describes the calling as “the huge adventure of unimaginable horizons to which we are being summoned to participate.”   Returning to the boats was only the beginning of seeing the horizon differently.

As Phillip Island becomes greener in the Autumn rains, is anything really returning to usual?   Or, is it, that we are invited to see the horizon differently?   To become curious about this Easter season.   What is God showing to me now?   Where is it I feel God is drawing me?   And how can I live in the light of that gift of grace?   As Easter people, we are always being lead to new horizons, and invited to see differently our futures.   For the disciples, they found their new pathways by returning to what they knew and responding to the next call of Jesus.   For them, their horizons were about to expand.

We are invited to discover that spaciousness, of new horizons too in the fields of Easter.

In Christ,