Coronavirus

Coronavirus

My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust. Psalm 91.2

The notices

 

In these extraordinary times, St Mark's, along with other churches, is ministering to members in different ways:
- Recorded Sunday services - St Mark's YouTube channel
- Weekly worship resources - including newsletters (Connections), readings and online services.
- Weekly messages below from Rector, The Reverend Peter Greenwood and others.
- RSCM Hymn for the Day and Sunday Self-service (daily act of worship)

Please contact the Rector or other minister if you need the assistance of a minister, or any practical help - particularly if you are self-isolating or you are over 70 years.

Reflections from the Rector and others

St Mark's resumed corporate worship in church on 14 June 2020. The Rector's reflections are included in the weekly newsletters, Connections.

Rector, 7 June 2020
“One in three persons, blessed Trinity” – Reginald Heber succinctly summarizes the nature of God. There is no adequate metaphor, image or allusion that can express this understanding without having severe deficiencies. A far more productive approach is to stick within the lanes that God has given us for understanding. More specifically, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ shapes our understanding of the Trinity. For in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son willingly lays down at the behest of the Father. Both Father and Son act to bring salvation to all humankind. This salvation then comes to both Jew and Gentile, descendant of Abraham and the nations through the outpouring of the Spirit. Thus, the ‘righteous will live by faith’ – not according to the law, nor according to a secular code of morality.

On this basis, therefore, we are enabled to turn to God in prayer. The act of prayer engages with God, based on his very nature. For we call upon the Father, (“our Father who is in heaven”), because of the mediation of the Son, (“through Jesus Christ our Lord”), because it is the Spirit at work in us.

Rather than the Trinity being an obscure doctrine that we would prefer to sweep under the theological carpet, through our grasping of the gospel, by faith in God, we come to see the Trinity as a wonderfully liberating teaching that takes us into the very throne room of God.

Rector, 31 May 2020
In vs. out, Push vs. Pull, Centrifugal vs. Centripetal. Well, that last one has always baffled. The physics teacher at school disavowed any student that dared to use the word ‘centrifugal’. However, it makes the most sense. Swing a bucket with a rope, and there seems to be a force pushing out on the bucket. But the physics insiders know that there is equally a force pulling in, called the centripetal force. This force is required to keep the bucket in a stable, orbital position, as it is swung around.

What does this physics lesson have to do with Pentecost? There are two great forces at work as the Spirit of God is poured out upon his people. The first is the formation of the entity called the ‘church’ (which derives from the word for ‘gathering’). That is, there is a force at work pushing in, gathering together this new entity of believers, into a collective, corporate whole. Throughout the book of Acts, the good news of the risen Lord impacts the Jewish community, then the Samaritan community, then the people from the ends of the earth, so that they are all gathered into together. This inward force, then causes a number of questions to be raised about the unity of the church. First and foremost – how can Jew and Gentile worship together? Do the Gentiles need to observe the law?

The second force, the outward pushing force, is the good news itself. The book of Acts is really a missionary journey account, of how the good news of Jesus goes out into the world. The apostles are really the first missionaries, crossing cultures and engaging with different people groups, seeking to bringing the salvation found in the risen Lord Christ to all people (both qualitatively [people groups] and quantitatively [each individual]). This push and pull, centrifugal and centripetal force of the gospel is still at work today. As believers in Jesus go into the world, inviting all to come, God will work to bring many into his kingdom. As the reality of our vulnerability to Covid-19 becomes more and more apparent, and the subsequent reality that death could be lurking just around the corner, there is a wonderful opportunity to provide a sense of certainty and hope that can only be found in our Lord Jesus Christ, to those around us. May we all be little ‘m’ missionaries in this tumultuous times.

Rector, 24 May 2020
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. (1 Peter 5:6 NRSV). Humility whilst being humbled, aptly describes the situation in which we find ourselves. The pandemic has been an enforced experience of being humbled. Not only have our daily routines been displaced, church services transmuted, jobs reduced or terminated, but sadly, many Australians have lost their lives, worse still, the global count is in the hundreds of thousands. Lives have been stripped back, stark realities of existence have been laid bare. Out endless pursuit of materialism seems trivial. Watching reality TV shows about building homes and cooking meals feels like something from a bygone era - the past novelty blown away by the present gravity. Things once taken for granted (like having a job, like have food on the table, like a roof over our heads) no longer are treated with the same disdain that springs from the luxury of choice.

In the midst of this enforced virologically driven humbling, the Apostle Peter’s words ring true for us. We need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. That mighty hand is the one that has brought salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. That mighty hand has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of light.  When we come to the cross, we are humbled by the act of the Son laying down his life for us. Because of that one act, we know that God will exalt us, in due time (season). It is from this position of humility, in the midst of our enforced virological humility, that we can take great strength from the very next imprecation of Peter – “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NRSV)

Rector, 17 May 2020
The question is not whether or not you believe in God, it’s a matter of which ‘god’ you serve. The matters of life and death, unemployment and mental health, financial hardship and social isolation strip back the layers of comfort and protection to reveal what lies in our heart of hearts. What central tenets we hold most dear. Sadly, during this time, there has been a marked increase of alcohol consumption in the home. Furthermore, there has been a marked increase in online gambling. Sadly, many are turning to the gods of gambling and booze for salvation.
In our epistle reading (Acts 17:22-31), Paul ends up in Athens, distressed to see ‘the city was full of idols’. Unlike our time, with the gods hidden in the home, the physical evidence of idolatry was ever-present in Athens. In fact, there is the altar with the inscription ‘to an unknown god’ (v. 23). The Athenians were so devout in the idolatry, that they wanted to make sure that they didn’t miss out any gods, especially the ‘unknown’ one.
Paul diagnoses the situation, “While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." (vv. 30-31).
The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ illuminates humanity’s sorry state of affairs with the burning bright light of a thousand suns. Jesus’ victory over death predicates the reality of the final judgment. The final judgment predicates that the time of ignorance has come to an end. Idolatry is over, repentance has begun.
Thus, the reality is that the resurrection blows away all idolatry, and provides us with a profound and confident hope. Sadly, our human condition is such that we would prefer the fleeting hit from our idols, rather than the genuine assurance of Jesus. The irony of the gods of booze and bingo is that they will never satisfy the soul, rather, their coffers will never be full till one’s soul is destroyed, yet we willing worship at their altars.
As Jesus wept for Jerusalem, so we weep for our fellow Aussies. And yet, just like Paul, who offered the hope of the resurrection to Athens, so we too can offer the comfort of Jesus’ victory to the people of the St George area, our city of Sydney, our sunburnt country, and our world, in this desperate time of need.

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
Lay member of the Dominican Order
[provided by Barbara Ferguson reflecting on our inability to meet in fellowship]

The Sanctuary

It could be said that God’s foot is so vast
That this entire earth is but a
field on His
toe,

and all the forests in this world
came from the same root of just
a single hair
of His.

What then is not a sanctuary?
Where can I not kneel
and pray at a shrine
made holy by His
presence?

Rector, 10 May 2020
A Mother’s Day like no other… is not something that you’d hear advertising the special celebration for the second Sunday in May this year. A day when you can’t hug your grandmother. A day when you can’t spend in the company of the extended family. A day when giving a kiss on the cheek is strictly forbidden. The absence of the usual affection amplifies the strong bond between mother and child, the devoted and the dependant, the protector and the helpless. All demonstrated in the simple gesture of touch. The absence of which is a sharp note of discord from the once normal intimacy.
Yet, for many, Mother’s Day is but a pointed reminder of the already vacant hole that has been left by relationship breakdown, or by relationship void. The child that grows up without a mother (due to drug addiction, or divorce, or a life tragically cut short) is all too acutely aware of the pain that is ever-present. Or the flip-side, a mother that grieves the loss of a child (due to accident, or given up in adoption, or lost in an early termination of life). The preciousness of life is made all too real by the absence of life. The inestimable treasure bound in intimate association between mother and child that has been ripped apart, leaves a wound that never heals.
It is in the context of absence, isolation and especially grief, that we come to appreciate the invaluable impact that mothers have on us. More, this lens of adversity points us to the greater reality of the love that a mother has for a child. So it is right and proper for us to thank God for the mothers in our midst, and their tireless devotion, tenderness and care.
Yet, even in its most pure and undefiled form, the love that a mother has for a child is but a distorted reflection of the love that has been poured out upon us, by God, in the death and resurrection of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. When we grasp the magnitude of God’s love for us, through simple dependent trust, then we, ourselves, become channels for this greater love to be expressed in this world. So, especially, this day, we express our love for and to our Mums. Mums, we hope you have a wonderful, very different Mother’s Day.

Rector, 3 May 2020
Good news for the good news. As we face an existential crisis the likes of which haven’t been seen since the world wars of the last century, there is good news for the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. As reported by Sebastian Shehadi and Miriam Partington, in the NewStatesman, 27 April, “recent data shows that others may be engaging more with religion since lockdown. The fact that Bible app downloads shot up in March globally is one indication of this. The top English-language Bible on Google Play and App Store was installed almost two million times, the highest amount ever recorded for March, according to Appfigures. Similarly, one of the UK’s largest online Christian bookstores, Eden has seen physical Bible sales rise by 55 per cent in April, while Google searches for 'prayer' and 'Christianity' have skyrocketed.” Good news that many lost souls are wanting to find the good news.
However, this must be tempered with a couple of touch points of reality. First, the ‘buy-in’ is low (a simple click of the mouse). Walking into a church building requires a much higher level of commitment. One view on YouTube is very different to a person present in a pew. So we shouldn’t count our online chickens before they’ve e-hatched. Second, there is the ir-reality of the screen in front of you. The preacher can be muted with a simple press of the remote control. Whilst the consequences of muting a preacher may not seem significant, in their-reality of the online world. There are much more serious ramifications for ignoring the voice of God in the real world.
However, this should not detract from the good news of our current situation. As our earthly comforts are stripped from us, there is a window of opportunity to hold out the word of life, the source of genuine hope and the good news that our Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified Messiah, is now raised as Lord of all. May God work in us and through us for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for the salvation of many souls.

Rector, 26 April 2020
The silent tsunami assassinates without prejudice. Age, gender, race, economic prosperity (or lack thereof) make no difference to this virus. It is an equal opportunity executioner.  Whilst the exterminator exams individual immune systems, there is a concurrent examination of our society, of all societies, in its omnipresent existence. From health systems, to welfare structures, economic policy to social relationships – a gigantic spotlight has been shone upon them all.
Yet, under this spotlight, there have been some moments of joy and hope – Captain Tom Moore, a 99-year-old, sought to raise £1000 for the N.H.S by doing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. He has now raised over £26 million. Australians are saving $38 million per day because 5000 poker machine venues across the country were shut down. Petrol consumption has gone through the floor (and thus limited greenhouse emissions globally).
Best of all, though, is that brightest ray of hope can be seen clearest in the darkest of times. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ turns the tables on the greatest exterminator of all – death itself. So, this St Mark’s Day, may we be inspired by the witness of Mark the Evangelist, because God has given to us the gospel of Jesus Christ so we can take this saving message to the world.

The Most Revd Dr Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney - April 2020
Sydney Anglicans website: Prayer during COVID-19

Rector, 19 April 2020
So many cities, seemingly unassailable, having stood for centuries, yet now, have become the opposite to places of security and safety. The most populous cities have become the most dangerous (New York, London, Barcelona, Milan). Safety in numbers no longer applies. Our city of Sydney has been brought to a standstill by a silent assassin, that can strike at any time.

Whilst our cities have had their vulnerabilities exposed, the opposite is true for God’s city, Zion. The Sons of Korah boldly declare: “Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. … As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God, which God will establish forever.” (Psalm 48.1-2, 8 ESV)

The death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, transformed these earthly declarations to be prophecies pointing us to the heavenly reality. As the preacher to the Hebrews declares: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12.22-23 ESV) So let us rejoice in our unassailable heavenly city, and pray for our fellow Sydney-siders to turn to the founder of this indestructible fortress – our Lord Jesus Christ.

How the Virus Stole Easter, Kristin Bothur - 13 April 2020
(via Barbara Ferguson)

Twas late in ‘19 when the virus began
Bringing chaos and fear to all people, each land.

People were sick, hospitals full,
Doctors overwhelmed, no one in school.

As winter gave way to the promise of spring,
The virus raged on, touching peasant and king.

People hid in their homes from the enemy unseen.
They YouTubed and Zoomed, social-distanced, and cleaned.

April approached and churches were closed.
“There won’t be an Easter,” the world supposed.

“There won’t be church services, and egg hunts are out.
No reason for new dresses when we can’t go about.”

Holy Week started, as bleak as the rest.
The world was focused on masks and on tests.

“Easter can’t happen this year,” it proclaimed.
“Online and at home, it just won’t be the same.”

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the days came and went.
The virus pressed on; it just would not relent.

The world woke Sunday and nothing had changed.
The virus still menaced, the people, estranged.

“Pooh pooh to the saints,” the world was grumbling.
“They’re finding out now that no Easter is coming.

“They’re just waking up! We know just what they’ll do!
Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
And then all the saints will all cry boo-hoo.

“That noise,” said the world, “will be something to hear.”
So it paused and the world put a hand to its ear.

And it did hear a sound coming through all the skies.
It started down low, then it started to rise.

But the sound wasn’t depressed.
Why, this sound was triumphant!
It couldn’t be so!
But it grew with abundance!

The world stared around, popping its eyes.
Then it shook! What it saw was a shocking surprise!

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,
Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all!

It hadn’t stopped Easter from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the world with its life quite stuck in quarantine Stood puzzling and puzzling.
“Just how can it be?”

“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,
It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.
“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And what happened then?
Well....the story’s not done.
What will YOU do?
Will you share with that one
Or two or more people needing hope in this night?
Will you share the source of your life in this fight?

The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,
And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,
As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.

May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.
May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.
May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection,
May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.
May 2020 be known as the year of survival,
But not only that - Let it start a revival

Rector - 12 April 2020
This year has been a year of transformation - none of which we had any idea about at the start of the year. Our language has changed - 'virus crisis', 'social distancing', 'flattening the curve', to name a few. Our patterns of relationship have fundamentally changed. The workplace, social venues, education all have radically changed. The reason for this transformation beyond our imaginings is because of the silent killer that is beyond our worst nightmares. This struggle between life and death, between hope and despair is so very real. The transformations in this struggle will leave an indelible imprint on us all.

And yet, all these transformations give us a window into the one transformation that is irreversible - the resurrection of all Lord Jesus Christ. As we look to Good Friday and Easter Day, Jesus' transformation through death itself, to a life beyond the grave provide a transcendent reality that is beyond our incredible state of flux. To put it another way, our resurrection hope is a shining light into our current darkness, that will guide us through.

Our online services will continue for this Good Friday and Easter Day (and beyond). We'll let you know when we've uploaded the online services to our YouTube channel, via email. Our 'Weekly Worship Resources” webpage:
http://www.southhurstville.anglican.asn.au/newsletters.html is the best place to go.

Rector - 5 April 2020
Often when we reflect upon the accounts of Genesis and Exodus, there is a certain incredulity that we have. A flood that covers the whole earth? A series of plagues that destroy Egypt? And yet, this year we have experienced events of Biblical proportions. A pandemic that is destroying hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives, across continents. A predicted global recession as an aftershock to the pandemic. Bushfires that ravaged our country earlier this year.  Yet, just like the times of Genesis and Exodus, God is at work. God saved Noah and his family through the flood. God delivered Israel through slavery in the Passover event. So too, God has saved us through the death of his Son. Therefore, we need not fear death, for our great shepherd will lead us home.

This season of Lent will be remembered for years to come, like no other. For unlike previous years, where Christians willing gave up worldly possessions and comforts in order to turn back to Christ, this year, all our pride, all worldly security and comforts have been stripped away. Furthermore, the walls of individualism, materialism, and hedonism are crashing down in an unprecedented manner. During this time of testing, we are purified in our faith, and we long for a place where there is no more crying, no more suffering, no more pain. As we look forward to our Holy Week, we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!”.

Our online services will continue for this Sunday (Palm Sunday). Then through Good Friday and Easter day (and beyond). We'll let you know when we've uploaded the online services to our YouTube channel, via email.

Rector - 29 March 2020
This week, the words of the Lord’s prayer have been ringing in my ears - “Lead us not into the time of trial, but deliver us from evil”. They have heightened impact today. As our layers of security and comfort are stripped back, there is an underlying test that we face – are we willing to trust God, without these securities and comforts around us? What kind of faith do I have? This time of trial, is also a time where we will grow in our faith. For we can draw tremendous strength knowing that God will care for us, and that, even in the face of death, we have a sure and certain hope in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the same time, it is horrifying to see citizens lining up at Centrelink, like we haven’t seen since the depression. It is horrifying to consider the callousness of some infected that have scant regard for government regulations. In our current existential crisis. we cry out in our prayers – “deliver us from evil”. May God answer our prayers at this time. And not just our prayers for ourselves, but for our neighbours, friends, family, civic & political leaders, and for our world. May we long for a world free from all sickness and disease, and for the freedom that we will have to serve our Lord Jesus Christ in his heavenly kingdom. Come Lord Jesus.

Pandemic - 11 March 2020
(via Bridget McKern)

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Centre down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar

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