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Immerse Reflections

Over the summer holidays, I had planned to clean out some boxes in the roof. Time passed and it didn’t get done. Last week Andrew pulled the boxes down, but holidays were over and so was free time. Again my days are ridiculously busy and exhausting. Working 4 days a week, studying part-time, running three children around, running a household, doing volunteer work it all adds up. But I had no choice I had to start cleaning out those boxes – I couldn’t see our lounge room floor! And in hindsight it was ironic (or perhaps it was God’s silent voice) that the first box I opened was one of the boxes filled with my mums things that we stored away after she died. The IMMERSE program was beginning at church and what do I find? But copies of prayer, notes and bible studies that mum had collected. The prayer was ‘Slow me down Lord.’ By Wilferd A. Peterson. Quiet apt!  I know if mum was still alive she would tell me I was doing too much, I guess she doesn’t need to be here for her wisdom to stay with me. So I sat in the middle of the boxes and mess, and read the prayer and took time to immerse myself in the quiet of the room, to breathe deeply and slow down. I reflected quietly how I had very much lost the intentional time for prayer in my life. I made a conscious decision that through Immerse I really needed to be more committed again to my faith. So even if it is baby steps, I am going to try much harder to spend some quiet reading/reflective time each week. (I realised later it wasn’t a prayer but a poem, and there are still many boxes in the lounge room!)

– Kellie


#Immerse 2017

The renewal of Gods people is a continuous experience. Often times we can get caught up in the patterns of church or religiosity that blinds us to the life giving nature of the God we all belong to. It is in those moments of routine that I find myself drifting back to the wisdom texts. The Hebrew communities’ experience of God was a constant call back into life. Texts like this one from Hosea are filled with those images that capture a sense of Gods capacity to create life.

In times were most of what we hear are the overwhelming voices of hate and intolerance, this call to life is radical, it is good news to the poor, love to the loveless and shelter for the fragile.

Hopefully your Immerse experience will help you capture something of that in your own life.

I will heal their waywardness and love them freely,

for my anger has turned away from them.

I will be like the dew to Israel;

he will blossom like a lily.

Like a cedar of Lebanon

he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow.

His splendour will be like an olive tree,

his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.

People will dwell again in his shade;

they will flourish like the grain,

they will blossom like the vine—

Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?

I will answer him and care for him.

I am like a flourishing juniper;

your fruitfulness comes from me.” (Hosea 14:4-8).


Attending to the Holy in the ordinary?

Its Christmas next Sunday. That doesn’t seem quite right. Yet when it arrives it will be a wonderful time of reflection and celebration. The following Sunday will be New Year’s day. And while so many people are absent it won’t feel much like an exciting start to a new year it will nevertheless be the start of a new year, and perhaps what we do on that day will be symptomatic of what will be important to us the rest of the year. But there won’t be an edition of the Link, and then I am going on leave (a combination of annual leave and Long Service Leave) until Easter. Given that I have accepted a call to ministry in the Sunbury congregation I will have effectively concluded my active contributions to the Ringwood Church when I commence that period of leave. So what do I say in this note? “Goodbye”? Well, no, because I am formally still the Minister in placement at Ringwood until late April. “Thankyou”? No, we will find a time to say such things when we return from leave. Perhaps I should be saying “Get on with it,” because there is important work to be done in God’s name that the Ringwood Uniting Church has an important role in. So perhaps we should but say “Bon voyage!” as we fly off overseas to enjoy some re-creation. You can see I am finding it difficult to know what to write after 12 years immersed in this adventure. Deciding what to write in this column has often proven the most difficult piece of each week’s work. Yet it has been very therapeutic for me as I have sought to recognise spiritual and theological significance in what is to be found in the day to day realities of my life. Thank you to those who have expressed your appreciation of these writings. So my final comment is to encourage you to do likewise, to keep attending to the presence of the Holy even in the most ordinary, and keep talking to other people of what you find.

(Rev) Stan


Soul gifts

Sometimes we are given beautiful gifts. Gifts are perhaps on our minds as we approach Christmas. At our first Advent Café a conversation took place in which one participant spoke of a tradition of giving ‘soul gifts’ for Christmas alongside other material gifts. She meant a gift desired to lift the spirits of another, to let them know they are thought of, that they are special to us in profound ways. Sue spent Monday sitting with her mother in the Cohuna hospital. It was difficult leaving her Mum because we don’t know if we will see her again, but fearing we likely will. Lots of conflicting emotions are caught up in such existential moments, wanting what’s best for those we love, yet knowing that will be painful for us. As we drove out of town, contemplating the long drive home when we were already tired, for the next hour we were gifted prime viewing of one of the most amazing sunsets we have ever seen. It slowly evolved from nuanced pinks in the cloud covering, blossomed into myriad bands of different shades of colour and texture clustering around what could have been the vortex of a volcano, and finally slowly faded through such subtle colourations. It was as if God was through this beautiful natural event pouring healing salve on our pain, much as the rainbow was received as a sign from God of God’s protection. Some might call that a coincidence. I am happy to receive it as a gift from our loving God who cradles us in love whatever changes are unfolding around us, assuring us that we can confidently trust God to be our companion through whatever unfolds ahead of us.

(Rev) Stan

Tuning up to join the angelic choir

Judging by the traffic on FaceBook last Sunday night and Monday morning the Crowded House live concert from the Sydney Opera House was a pretty popular event. But there was something that intrigued me as I watched that concert. As a friend of mine commented the following morning: “Another myth torpedoed … I often seem to have conversations with people who say things like: ‘Oh Congregational singing is so old school … people don’t sing in public anymore!!!’” Well obviously they can, and they do. There was the reality of a legion of people, men and women, of varying ages, singing their hearts out … every word of every song … joyfully, with a sense of ‘congregation’ about them. It was a most wonderful and uplifting concert on many levels. The music is brilliant. The musicianship was excellent. The lack of pomposity by Neil Finn and his band was truly a credit to them, given what was going on before their eyes. I can only imagine what it must be like for a musician to start to sing a song on stage and have a throng of people immediately join in the song with them, as though it was theirs too. Perhaps I am old school these days (some people enjoy suggesting that) but that is what can and should happen every time the people of God congregate. We heard it in our church just last week as we farewelled Graeme. Not only were the musicians great but the way the people joined their voice with the songs was beautiful and nourishing to the heart. WE do not gather to be entertained by skilled musicians. We congregate to sing together. As we journey toward the story of the angels singing their celebration of the birth of God in human flesh and blood, let tune our voices that we might join the angelic song of celebration.

(Rev) Stan