In trying to work out the timing of Jesus’ return, many people turn to Old Testament prophecy, the book of Revelation or even world events. Perhaps an easier approach would be to refer to the things that Jesus said about the topic. However, in Matthew 24:29-35, it has to be said that a wide variety of views abound. Some of what Jesus said requires careful thought. He was not one to contradict Himself! Even more than that, it’s good to remember that just as Jesus has proved right with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., so His words can be taken as being rock-solid. Through the confusion of various interpretations and theories, it is good to know that the guarantee of His return is His own promise!
After two attempts at holding a service to mark the retirement of Mrs Jean Spicer as organist at Bendigo (St John’s) Presbyterian Church (with both of these attempts postponed due to last minute lockdowns), finally it has happened!
On Sunday December 12, 2021 the congregation met to give thanks and praise to our God for almost 70 years of faithful and appreciated service over the years accompanying the praise of God at regular Sunday worship, weddings, funerals, Sunday School anniversaries and other events for both congregation and choir.
The service featured Jean’s three favourite hymns, ‘Immortal invisible’, ‘To God be the glory’ and ‘The day Thou gavest’, speeches of thanks to Jean, the presentation of a special certificate made by Elder Andrew Kerr on behalf of Session, and a gift of flowers presented by Mrs Averil Harris, Secretary of the Board. Rev Philip Burns preached the sermon on Luke 19:11-27, titled, ‘God’s people have got talent! (or, ‘a call to multiply your minas’) and a shared covid-friendly lunch was held in the hall afterward as part of the celebrations.
Jean commenced her long stint as organist for St John’s after the retirement of the previous organist, sometime after June 1953, aged 16 years of age, having been thrust into the job at the suggestion of her father. During the years of her service, Jean has not only seen seven Ministers come and go (the 8th is still there), but also a number of different organs, the St John’s congregation go into Union and then re-form again, buying back its previous building. One of the highlights of Jean’s time was playing for the re-opening service at St John’s in the afternoon of October 15, 1985 with about 450 people attending in the church and by video into the hall. She did have a break from the organ during the time of the birth of each of her four children and ‘retired’ on other occasions, but continued to keep playing as required. But this time, retirement is official, and Jean’s husband Ted, will finally be able to have her sit next to him during services at St John’s where they have been members for these many years.
The Church family at Bendigo gives great thanks to God for the blessings received through Jean’s faithful service and were glad to honour her faithful contribution to the worship of His great Name.
One of the keys to understanding all that Jesus said in Matthew 24 and 25, is to carefully locate the time reference that Jesus is referring to. In Matthew 24:15-28, it’s faily clear that the bulk of what Jesus said relates to the fall of Jerusalem in 70A.D. – something that the disciples of Jesus would need to be prepared for. But, it’s not all just in the past. The scenes that Jesus describes around those events, can be understood as being predictive of the events that will also usher in the end of the age and Jesus’ return!
When the disciples of Jesus once asked Him some questions as they stood near the Temple, they could never have known that the answers Jesus gave them were answers that would echo down the corridors of time for thousands of years. But this is the case with the ‘Olivet Discourse’ recorded for us in Matthew’s gospel chapters 24 and 25. And so, in Matthew 24:1-14, the scene is set. The disciples are there. Jesus is there. And the questions focus upon the end of the age and the signs of His coming. But the answers are a little more complex, reminding us that the Lord Jesus is also our great Prophet who declares to us the truth that we might not fear but be busy with His gospel.
It’s worth remembering that the name of the month of January comes from the Roman god, Janus, who is often pictured as having two faces – one looking back to the past and the other looking ahead to the future. At the start of a new year it’s always good to start off with that kind of attitude. Paul certainly had that attitude during his life and it’s nowhere as clear as in Philippians 3:12-21. The apostle was single-minded about purusing a goal of ‘knowing Christ’ and he certainly had his eyes set on a future prize in relation to that prize, constantly checking himself so that he did not live for lesser things and miss out. At the start of the new year, take a leaf from the Apostle’s book!
‘There’s no Christmas without Christ!’ If only that were so. Sadly, there’s lots of Christmases without Christ, and as Christmas comes and goes again, it’s possible that many fall for the trap of living as though, the trimmings count more than the reality. The Apostle Peter knew little about the Christmas story, but what he did know about Jesus he learned through first hand experience – and in the text of 2 Peter 1:16-21, Peter reflects on his time on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus. It must have been amazing to see and witness. A place where Peter saw the majesty and glory of Jesus. But even then, after having that experience, Peter said there was something even ‘more sure’ than what he’d seen and heard. It was the Scriptures. These testify to the One who came for us to be our Saviour.
One of the strong emphases of Scripture when it comes to the return of Jesus, is the important question of ‘how we live’ in the light of His coming. As Paul concludes his letter to the Church at Thesalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28, this emphasis can be clearly seen. While Paul has established the fact of Jesus’ return, especially the unknown hour of that return, he does not finish the letter without calling God’s people back to living in the world, with their feet on earth, so to speak. And as he closes the letter, he does so with some practical instructions, so that the time we have while we wait for Jesus to come in spent the right way – in living for Him and not for lesser things.
In line with the new Victorian Government regulations that came into effect this morning, we’re pleased to announce that all are welcome to any of worship services and events regardless of vaccination status. Masks are again mandatory, however.
This message was preached for the occasion of the celebration of the contribution of our organist, Mrs Jean Spicer, for nearly 70 years, something that is a great witness to the faithfulness of the Lord and the faithfulness He calls His people to. The central message of the parable Jesus told in Luke 19:11-27, is just that – faithfulness. Each of us are given gifts of grace by God that he exepcts us to use in the furthering of His Kingdom. Even Jesus was called upon to be faithful and it is by His faithfulness that we are richly rewarded. (The hymns chosen today are Jean’s favourites!)