This Advent season we want to focus on Christ; His first coming, and second coming, and all that means for humankind. To help us focus on Christ, we will look at some of the names of Jesus in Scripture. There are at least two hundred names, titles, or descriptions for Jesus, but we will only look at 12 over the coming month or so (Carrying this theme beyond Christmas day and into the new year).
In the lead up, you may like to reflect on the following names, and consider which one’s are most meaningful to you today?
Jesus: Read Matthew 1:21
Immanuel: Read Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23
Messiah: Read Mark 8:29
Light of the World: Read John 8:12
Savior: Read John 4:42
The Word: Read John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13
Lamb of God: Read John 1:29
First Born of Every Creature: Read Colossians 1:15
Good Shepherd: Read John 10:11
Alpha and Omega: Read Revelation 22:13
Wonderful Counsellor: Read Isaiah 9:6
The Christ: Read Matthew 16:16
Holy One: Read Mark 1:24
Lord: Read Romans 10:9
Friend: Read Matthew 11:19, John 15:14-15
Son of Man: Read Daniel 7:13, Matthew 9:6, 12:40
Ancient of Days: Read Daniel 7:9
Servant: Read Matthew 12:18
King: Read Zechariah 9:9
Prince of Peace: Read Isaiah 9:6
Bright and Morning Star: Read Revelation 22:16
Bread of Life: Read John 6:35
The Mighty God: Read Isaiah 9:6
Son of David: Read Jeremiah 33:17 and Matthew 20:30
Unspeakable Gift: Read 2 Corinthians 9:15
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of “Christ the King” in accordance with Church tradition. While I think it’s good that we spend the last Sunday of the liturgical year remembering Christ is King, this is something I hope we all focus on every single day of the year! Daily, we need to bring our lives under Christ’s reign and worship Him as Lord and King over-all.
I encourage you to reflect on Christ as King of your life this week and ask yourself: Do I recognise Christ as our king and allow him to reign in my heart? Do I follow his example of humble service and selflessness in all my relationships, and leadership roles (in my family, community, or workplace?).
In a world that values money, power, and success, we need to represent Christ’s Kingdom which is reigned by love. He leads with humility, not arrogance, and serves for the well-being of others, not for personal gain. This is the kind of “upside down” leadership that our world desperately needs.
This week’s gospel reading (Matthew 25:31-46) presents a powerful image of Christ as both king and judge. He separates the sheep from the goats, not based on their wealth, status, or achievements, but on their acts of love and mercy. This is what we will be judged on. So, let us all seek to be more like our King who identifies himself with the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned, and recognise his presence in all people no matter what their status is in this world’s systems.
Let’s choose to honour Christ as our King and surrender ourselves to live under His loving rule every day, not just this coming Sunday. Let him guide us to acts of kindness, compassion, and love. And let’s choose to be a community that serves the least among us, recognising the presence of our King in everyone we meet.
In Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his Kingdom.
We believers in Christ Jesus, have been given a new name. We have been chosen. We are royal people, a holy priesthood, and set apart for a purpose (See 1 Peter 2:4-10). What should we do with what we have been called to do? As 1 Peter 2:9 says; “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
We will do that together this coming Sunday. I pray and trust you will join us for worship. I also hope many of you will stay on for the Annual Parish Meeting at 11am (after our Church service and brief morning tea). Personally, I’m excited for this meeting! I appreciate the amazing support and accountability we share together. I also welcome the opportunity to look back over the year that has passed, take stock and give thanks for the good things, reset for the future and envision the year ahead.
There is much to give thanks for, and even more to pray for, and work towards. I pray, over the coming year, we will be like the faithful stewards who multiplied the talents that the master had entrusted to them (Read Matthew 25:14-30). God, our master, has entrusted us with so much, and given each of us gifts/talents to use for His Kingdom purposes. We don’t need to be afraid to use them for His purposes, because God’s perfect love casts out all fear and he rewards our faithfulness.
I am grateful to all who use their gifts to serve so faithfully at Mount Eliza Anglican Church. Thank you for Taking the extra time to do the required levels of training and compliance checks. Your faithfulness to God and his people is truly appreciated. trust your ministry will be fruitful and bring real reward! May you hear God say; “Well done Good and faithful servant. Come share in your master’s happiness”.
I’m looking forward to the next 12 months (and more) as partners in God’s Kingdom work here. May our awesome God continue to reveal more and more reasons to declare His praises.
Love in Christ,
In the words of Former Airforce Chaplain, The Reverend Robert Paget; “Remembrance Day draws me back to the fact that our military personnel are just ordinary folk thrust into a world gone mad, a world were diplomacy has failed to resolve differences and governments have resorted to ‘sending in the troops’. It is these troops, often young people not long out of school, that carry a huge burden. Too often when the burden becomes too great, all they find around them is a vacuum. The role of Chaplain helps to fill this void.”
This Sunday, we acknowledge Defence Sunday following Remembrance Day rather than the week prior. This week we intentionally remember our Defence Force Chaplains and the important pastoral care work they do with our military personnel and veterans.
This Sunday, we also acknowledge and welcome among us, those who are involved with Legacy (an Australian charity that was established in 1923 to help families of those who have served for their Country).
Lest we forget!
When I was a little girl, I asked my nana what her favorite book in the bible was. She said "Lamentations", which I thought was strange. In my mind, Lamentations was a hard and boring book to read. It held little meaning for me.
As an adult who has experienced some more of life's ups and downs, I have come to appreciate it more. Today, I am reflecting on these words of lament, spoken in Israel's hardest times and I am encouraged to put hope in God: "Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentation 3:22-23). It's good to be reminded to put our eyes on God and put our hope in Him, especially when times are tough. These words are specifically encouraging to Christians suffering in other parts of the world today where persecution and the real threat of being executed for one's faith exists.
This Sunday I will speak from Lamentations about the suffering of Christians all over the world. It is the beginning of Barnabas Aid's Suffering Church Action and Awareness Week. Children are likely to be present in the service, I won't go into much depth or detail of the suffering and deaths of many Christians. Rather, I include a link here for people who would like to read more.
Persecution Overview | Barnabas Aid
Bible Study Guide HERE
It may cause us sadness to think about these things, but it is important so that we learn to stand alongside our suffering Church family and make known their situation and demonstrate Christ’s love to them in prayer and practical actions.
I pray we all are encouraged to put our hope in God, and trust in his faithfulness, no matter what is going on in our lives. Bible discussion sheets will be available on Sunday if you'd like to discuss in small groups or reflect more at home.
Yours in Christ,
This week’s lectionary readings speak volumes into every arena of our lives. They were originally written in turbulent times; not much different to ours with our political agendas, wars in Israel and other places, and in a time when so few want to come into the Kingdom of God due to their own agendas and the lack of knowledge and love of God. So, as we come to read the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22) and Philippians chapter 4, let us open our hearts and ears to what God is saying to us today.
Before I get into that, I do want to share on the deep and meaningful discussion I had with my indigenous gardener this morning. He raised the topic and asked how I was going to vote? I said, “I’m not yet decided as I don’t know enough to understand it all properly”. He said his grandmother is black as black, and his vote is “No”. He went on to give his reasons why and also made sure to say that the way people vote won’t separate him from his friends. I share that sentiment and want to again reassure our congregation that I will never seek to influence your vote; whether you vote yes or no, is none of my business. So, please be reassured that the acknowledgment of country we have on the welcome screen at Church has no political underlying agenda or overtones. We are simply seeking to be an inclusive, respectful church before God and seeking ways to implement the 11 new Safe Ministry Government standards in ways that honour God and love all people. I’m sure there are better ways to do that, so if you’d like to play a part in the planning of best ways forward, please speak to me about this.
Back to the scriptures… In Philippians, Paul describes a different reality alongside the violence and duplicity of the Roman empire of his day. He sought to encourage the small and struggling Christian congregation in the Roman colony of Philippi by reminding them to have faith in the powerful Lord who has defeated death. He exhorted them to have quiet minds, hopeful hearts, and joy-filled attitudes.
Today, in our own circumstances, Paul’s words encourage us to have the same peace, hope and joy. He reminds us to rejoice in the Lord always. And, this week I have experienced this afresh by drawing closer to the Lord in prayer. Being close to God is like being a joy-filled guest at a wedding feast, as Matthew 22 depicts. In the parable Jesus told: The father (God) invites all to enter His Kingdom (the wedding feast) but many will refuse and miss out on the wonderful experience. Only those who are glad to enjoy His company, honour His son and learn of His love, will experience the fulness of this Joy-filled experience.
We can all know this joy by accepting God’s generous invitation, coming into His kingdom, through and for His son, and experiencing His intimate love for ourselves – personally. There is no greater joy than spending time in the presence of God.
May we each experience this daily in our respective lives, and all together this coming Sunday.
God is with you and for you,
At a party last weekend, a group of us danced with a 98-year-old man who danced as if he were still young, doing the twist down to the ground and back up again. Knowing his age, I said to his daughter “I’m afraid we are going to kill him” (I’d hate for anything to happen to her old man). She replied “He’s an athlete. He was a gymnast”. I thought, “that was a long time ago”, so her response didn’t ease my concern, but I like it that she has that view of him.
How about you? No matter what your age, do you consider yourself an athlete? Have you got the endurance to go the distance?
In the scriptures there are several references to believers “Running the race”. These verses inspire us to compare life’s hurdles and difficulties to an athlete competing for victory. Even if you’ve never physically participated in a race, the image helps us understand the reality of life’s intense run toward a victorious finish. We are compelled to view ourselves as runners. And while each one of us has our own life’s course which unwinds with its own difficulties, distractions, joys, and sorrows, this metaphor proves to be one which we can all relate to. “Run the race” verses encourage us to recognise there is still more ahead, and we must not stop.
In Hebrews 12:1-2, it says; “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24, we are reminded that only one runner in a race is getting the prize. In Philippians 3:13-14, we are encouraged to press on toward the prize. In Galatians 5:7, Paul (the writer) chastises believers who once ran well but no longer follow the truth. And in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul, nearing his personal race’s end, talks about finishing it.
Thus we are encouraged to have endurance (because life is a spiritual marathon, not a sprint), and to have perseverance to continue to lay aside every sin, needless burden, and distraction that weighs us down or causes us to stumble. We ought to lay aside anything that makes endurance difficult. We need to run light, and finish well like Jesus did and like Paul did.
So, let us all choose to run with endurance like an athlete (and continue to dance like that 98-year-old man). Let nothing hold us back from living life to the full. May we stay the course, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith who will someday give us the victor’s crown.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote: “Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”. (Philippians 2:1-4)
As you read those verses, who comes to mind?
Who do you know who lives this word out well?
Over the last week, I’ve seen examples of these words lived out in our fellow members. For example: One member attained some new chairs for our small hall so Caritas attendees may sit more comfortably and said she is wanting to help in the office and with our Kids Corner. Another had invited me to attend the SALT Brownlow Medal Breakfast. This breakfast was originally started by Paul Wheelton, David Parkin and Jeff Browne (Collingwood Pres) to give some corporate exposure to Strathcona Girls Grammar where their daughters attended at the time. Since then, it’s become a huge event which is a blessing to so many… including me this year.
At the breakfast, I had the privilege of holding the 2023 premier cup, and more importantly got to sit there with fellow Christians, among footballers, coaches, and for a while next to the wonderful and comedic Mike Brady (Good times!). But what impacted me most (In addition to feeling overwhelmed by my host’s humble generosity) was the work SALT do among sports people. It’s a great work, talking about identity, and helping sports people realize their worth is not in the goal they may miss, or whether they win or lose. They are not what they “do”. I heard amazing stories and testimonies about suicide awareness and intervention, and for that I’m truly grateful as it’s a matter close to my heart. So much so, that in my previous Churches I’ve organized suicide intervention training and I’d be happy to arrange someone to come speak with us at MEAC if there is a need or desire for such training. Please speak to me if you’re interested.
The honest sharing at the breakfast, and what we covered at my Diocesan Supervisor (Professional Development) training session this week, reminded me that life is complex! People, with all their experiences, are sometimes messy and complicated, and at the same time, Christ calls us to be united in Him. We are called to be of one mind, one spirit, and one love… a humble, generous, love which cares for the others as much as oneself. We are to look out for one another’s interests as the above mentioned do so beautifully.
I pray we may all be inspired and encouraged by those who imitate Christ’s humility, and even more so by Christ Himself “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore, God
exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. (Phil 2:6-11)
I look forward to worshipping our worthy, humble, loving, and compassionate, servant King together this coming Sunday.
Shalom, Rev. Tanya
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:3-6). When Paul penned those words to the Philippians, ten years had passed since he’d worked with them. Over that time his care, concern and love for them had not diminished. He would always think of them as his precious partners in the gospel who brought him great joy.
This week has presented many opportunities for me to think about our partnership in the gospel. I met with a colleague today to talk about a combined Church Christmas event hopefully next year, and possibly a breakfast club in a local high school. On Monday I met with my Deanery colleagues, and we encouraged one another. I am invited to lunch this Sunday at my previous Church, Christ Church Dingley, to celebrate their 150th anniversary. And the Vicar of what used to be my home church, St Johns in Diamond Creek, has just celebrated 10 years of wonderful ministry there.
My Area Dean met with me last week and recommended I stay at Mount Eliza 10 years. He shared some wisdom with me, saying that “we overestimate what we can do in 3 years, and underestimate what we can do in 10”. Whether I’m here 3 years or 10 (my desire is for the latter), my heart is to see the gospel take root in all our lives, transforming us more into the image of Christ, and see each of us taking the gospel into the world, for God’s purposes and glory. We exist to glorify Him. We do that when we live for Him, work together to advance his gospel message, and hold on to the sure hope we have in Him, even in the hard times.
Therefore, I pray the same prayer that Paul prayed, over our Church today: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” As I pray this, I reflect on the fact that there is a special bond among us as believers that the world doesn’t understand and therefore cannot appreciate. The world’s clubs and organizations know little of and, quite frankly, cannot equal the deep bond of fellowship among believers.
Last Sunday I had the best time having drinks with friends at a local social club, followed by fellowship over a meal with some sisters in Christ to celebrate the final “OPEN SPACE” service for our Church. This simple meal exhibited a sense of partnership and close union as well as of a brotherly/sisterly love held together by the most powerful common thread; Jesus! This fellowship is much more than simply getting together for drinks or a dinner party. It involves a union and bond in our desires, goals and thoughts as well a focus on God’s will and His way. It is being one together in Christ - His interests our interests, His ways our ways. As Charles H. Spurgeon said: “Hold Christian company, and you will be kept wakeful by it, and refreshed and encouraged to make quicker progress in the road to heaven.”
For all these reasons, in addition to this Sunday being the day we celebrate and give thanks to God for all his kindness and generosity to us, and return our pledges of what we want to offer him back financially through tithing and thanksgiving gifts at Mount Eliza Anglican Church, I want to truly say:
Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel.
Thank you for giving.
Thank you for serving.
Thank you for loving.
Thank you for praying.
Thank you for speaking words of encouragement.
Thank you for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your continued partnership in the gospel.
I give thanks to God for you!
Rev Tanya Cummings
The biography of Jacob, the third and final Patriarch, both enthrals and troubles us. He acted in ways that honoured neither himself nor his descendants. He bargained for his brother’s birthright and later stole Esau’s blessing from their father (Genesis 27:1-45). Jacob blatantly lied to his father and tricked him into thinking he was Esau. The character of this Patriarch is most questionable, yet God used him anyway.
After he stole the blessing, Jacob is forced to leave his father’s house and he goes to work as a servant for twenty years for his father-in-law (see esp. Gen 31:5-6, 38-42). In an interesting twist, we see Jacob’s father-in-law deceive Jacob and give him Leah as his wife instead of Rachel whom he had agreed to work for.
Later in Jacob's life story, we read that his own sons tricked and deceived him by selling one of his sons (Joseph) into slavery and telling Jacob he had been killed by a wild animal (37:3-32). Despite all the deceit in this family, God continued to uphold his promise to bless all the nations of the world through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob whom the covenantal blessing was passed on to, and Jacob became the father of 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel.
This story is the wonderful history of the Jewish people and Christians alike, since salvation came through the Jews. But what fascinates me most is the way Jacob grew in relationship with the Lord over the course of his life. Towards the start of his story he is deceitful and didn’t know the Lord personally, but through several revelations of the Lord he came to know God and experience him personally. God was no longer just the God of his fathers, but God of Jacob himself.
Over time, as Jacob got to know God he was humbled and learned to cling to God and give a tenth of his income to God. This week as we look closer at his story, I hope we will experience more of God too. It is not enough just to know about God, we need to know him personally and let him change our character to be more honouring and Christ-like. May we all put away any deceit that is in us and seek the Lord’s face and experience Him in a life changing way this week.
Here's one of my Favorite songs to listen and pray as you reflect on Jacob’s story. (HERE)
READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY:
Genesis 28:10-22 and Genesis 32:22-32