A Pandemic Prayer

Lord, I have never travelled this way before.

I don’t recognise this track at all.

Road signs are twisted and unreadable.

I have no idea where it is leading.

Please shine some light on my path and if that is not possible just now, please hold my hand in the dark.

Lord, my friends have never travelled this way before.

They are stumbling along just as I am.

They ask a neighbour for directions, but

‘Sorry, I am a stranger here myself’, they say.

Please hold my friends and this community in your safe embrace, even when I cannot offer a hug.

Lord, our church leaders have never travelled this way before.

There is no simple roadmap, no precedent to follow.

They long to give reassurance and a word from you

But the familiar ways of connecting are being taken away each day.

Please give our church leaders hearts of love, spirits of grace and minds of deep wisdom.

Lord, our national leaders and decision makers have never travelled this way before.

Crushing responsibilities have suddenly landed on them without warning.

Everywhere they turn they are faced with another crisis, another catastrophe.

They are isolated from international support as every nation is struggling.

Please give all those in authority the wisdom to listen to the very best advice and to act responsibly for the wellbeing of this whole besieged nation.

Lord, as we all blunder along in uncertainty and anxiety,

We give thanks for beautiful autumn weather, for clean air, for water in our taps, a roof over our head, the benefits of electricity, telephones and the internet, for food on our table.

We give thanks for time to read, and listen to music, and create craft and quilts and books and photography, and to make art.

Speak to our hearts in this strangest Lenten period we have ever lived.

Amen

Margaret Reeson

2020

A Ministry Musing from Rev. Rob Buchan

Greetings to our dear church family in the churches of Lismore Regional Mission. As I write it has been fully six weeks since Thea and I took our leave from you to head back south to our little place just outside Berry on the South Coast.

You have been on our hearts and in our prayers ever since as we have tried to work out ways in which we can support you in your love, faith and mission. Coming back physically, at this stage, seems to be out of the question – for the world has changed dramatically in that short period – hasn’t it? Social distancing, quarantining, an uncontrolled virus and an economic collapse have meant that we all need to find new and creative ways of being the church.

I have spoken with Rev. Bill Fischer, Rev. Elaine, Barry, Alan and John about helping out LRM. I’ll be ringing folks from time to time and hopefully putting written and video resources together to support you in your worship and life [something I know Rev Elaine is already considering].

At this difficult time we should all take the words of Psalm 46 into our soul and our spirit and remember that God says not only ‘Be Still and know that I am God’ (verse 10) but that the psalm begins and ends with an invocation to trust in God and find our refuge in him.

These are the words that open the psalm. ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.’

We are strong because we can acknowledge our weakness and know ‘that fear of the Lord’ is not the same as ‘fear of the circumstances’.

Today, I just wanted to report some good news. We want you to know that you blessed Thea and I when we were physically amongst you. You have continued to do that for us in our absence and you have blessed many others on the South Coast, even though you may not have realised it.

On our last day in Lismore, we received gifts of chocolates (that’s the way to Robert’s heart), flowers (that’s the way to Thea’s heart) and an envelope which we subsequently discovered contained $500 in notes. Our first reaction was to find a way to hand it back, but how to you reject a gift from the giver, whatever the gift. We were humbled by the generosity of folks many of who we know struggle to balance budgets and stretch resources.

So we decided to accept the blessing and to bless others.

About two weeks ago we had a few days in our caravan down at Bateman’s Bay. The South Coast, like the North Coast, was devastated by fires especially just before the New Year.

Little hamlets such as Nerrigundah have almost completely disappeared, Mogo lost a number of houses, churches and businesses right in the centre of town, Cobargo lost lives and places of gatherings and Conjola lost the many homes and the holiday season on which the community relied heavily. And so the list goes on. In between the blackened stumps and fences and corrugated iron, the trees were springing new growth and the hills were green. We noted the absence of birdlife and animals and many places were eerily quiet.

However, we found people in the communities and retirees, campervan owners and tourists were (as had been requested) frequenting the remaining cafes, businesses and sanctuaries that remained (including Mogo Zoo with its amazing stories of struggle and sacrifice). In Cobargo, armed with ten envelopes that were simply addressed with ‘A Gift from the Lismore Regional Mission Uniting Church’, we were able to donate to the Rural Fire Brigade (who lost two of their team to the fires – a father and son) and we located an ex-Uniting Chaplain who, with her partner, had defended not only their property but saved the local Catholic church next door. She was also providing free lodging to some folks from Bermagui, so we were able to hand over some more envelopes. We then went to Bega and found another friend who was working as a Disaster Recovery Chaplain and we gave him the remaining envelopes to distribute. The last of these will be handed out to fire affected folks in the Lake Conjola area over Easter.

And how right it is that when we think of Easter – which initially was about death and grief – but ended up with new life and hope rising from the ashes on Easter Sunday.

Please continue to touch the world with compassion and love through your generosity. Thank you

Hope to catch up soon.

May God keep you in his warm and comforting embrace,
You are in our hearts.

Rev. Rob and Thea

Sometimes Church is Hard

I sat in a meeting. The discussion was heated. The conversation heavy.

Hearts were burdened. Chests were puffed. Sorrow, pain, arrogance, curiosity, humility, fear, courage, and forgiveness sat together in a single room.

As I looked around the church, I just kept thinking—

Church is hard.

Church is hard for the person walking through the doors, afraid of judgment.

Church is hard for the pastor’s family, under the microscope of an entire body.

Church is hard for the prodigal soul returning home, broken and battered by the world.

Church is hard for the girl who looks like she has it all together, but doesn’t.

Church is hard for the couple who fought the entire ride to service.

Church is hard for the single mom, surrounded by couples holding hands, and seemingly perfect families.

Church is hard for the widow and widower with no invitation to lunch after service.

Church is hard for the deacon with an estranged child.

Church is hard for the choir member overwhelmed by the weight of the lyrics in that song.

Church is hard for the man insecure in his role as a leader.

Church is hard for the wife who longs to be led by a righteous man.

Church is hard for the nursery volunteer who desperately longs for a baby to love.

Church is hard for the single woman and single man, praying God brings them a mate.

Church is hard for the teenage girl, wearing a scarlet letter, ashamed of her mistakes.

Church is hard for gays, adulterers, liars, cheats, and slanderers.

Church is hard for the sinners.

Church is hard for me.

It’s hard because on the outside it all looks shiny and perfect. Sunday best in behavior and dress.

However, underneath those layers, you find a body of imperfect people, carnal souls, selfish motives.

But, here is the beauty of church—

Church isn’t a building, mentality, or expectation.

Church is a body.

Church is a group of sinners, saved by grace, living in fellowship as saints.

Church is a body of believers bound as brothers and sisters by an eternal love.

Church is a holy ground where sinners stand as equals before the Throne of Grace.

Church is a refuge for broken hearts and a training ground for mighty warriors.

Church is a converging of confrontation and invitation. Where sin is confronted and hearts are invited to seek restoration.

Church is a lesson in faith and trust.

Church is a bearer of burdens and a giver of hope.

Church is a family. A family coming together, setting aside differences, forgetting past mistakes, rejoicing in the smallest of victories.

Church, the body, and the circle of sinners-turned-saints, is where He resides, and if we ask, He is faithful to come.

So even on the hard days at church—

The days when I am at odds with a sister. When I’ve fought with my husband because we’re late once again. When I’ve walked in bearing burdens heavier than my heart can handle, yet masking the pain with a smile on my face. When I’ve worn a scarlet letter, under the microscope. When I’ve longed for a baby to hold, or fought tears as the lyrics were sung. When I’ve walked back in, afraid and broken, after walking away.

I’ll remember, He has never failed to meet me there.

sourced from https://herviewfromhome.com/church-is-hard

Not Good Enough

There is so much in our society that tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, etc.  Henri Nouwen, a priest-psychologist from Holland, goes so far as to suggest that this is the single most debilitating aspect of many of our lives.

An interesting article written by Fr Henri Nouwen from the Propel Women site.

Anchoring Ourselves as God’s Beloved: Spiritual Reading with Henri Nouwen

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – Insights Magazine

A movie review from Insights Magazine on the upcoming Tom Hanks’ film A Beautiful Day

MisterRoger’s Neighbourhood was a part of the lives of people for multiple generations in the United States

Source: A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – Insights Magazine

Election of Church Councillors and Elders

As previously advised, Sunday 2nd February will see the election for new Church Councillors and Elders, following the services at Lismore UCA and Jarman churches. This is to bring more people onboard to cope with the demands of the church at this time. Please stay after the services and ensure you cast your vote. Sunday 9th February will see the Commissioning of all church leaders (including those new Councillors and Elders) for 2020.

Please keep all our church leaders in your prayers.

Lord, please help our church leaders to be steadfast in Your work. Help them to know that their toil is not in vain. May they not be distracted, discouraged or doubtful and thus neglect the spiritual gift You have given them.  Give them the tenacity to take great pains to maintain the path You have cleared for them and to be committed to the work You have laid before them. Lord protect their sense of confidence in You. Grace them to not misplace any confidence in the flesh (their own accomplishments or the abilities of other people). Direct them to draw near to Your throne of grace with confidence for their every need.

Lord, I pray that You would send a spirit of encouragement to them so that they might walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which they have been called; lead them to walk with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for those around them in love, and that they would be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Lord of peace, equip our leaders in every good thing to do Your will, working in our church that which is pleasing in Your sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Commissioning Sunday

On Sunday 9th February, 2020, Lismore Regional Mission will be holding a Commissioning Service within the normal Sunday morning worship at Lismore Uniting at the 8.30 am service.

This service will see the Church Councillors and Elders and others commissioned in the service of our Lord in Lismore Regional Mission, to provide leadership and service to the seven congregations that make up the mission.

It would be great if as many people could be present at this service to be part of this special celebration.

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