Monday, 24 March 2014

Going to the country

While we have some access to the internet I thought I'd write a quick post to let you know what we're up to this week.

For one week of the year we have what's called College mission, where teams of students from college go out to various churches around the city (or even further away), to partner with the church in sharing the good news about Jesus and serving the community around them.  Our team was partnered with Gunnedah Anglican Church. 

Gunnedah is a country town in NSW, of about 8,000 people, an hour's drive from Tamworth (or if you don't know where that is, it's also 4 hours from Newcastle and 5 or 6 hours from Sydney).  We are being billeted with church members living in and around Gunnedah.  J and I, along with two other guys from our team, are staying with a couple who live ten minutes from the church, south of the centre, in an area that feels "out of town" because you drive through a 100 kilometres per hour speed zone to get there. 

This week we are involved in church services, playgroup, community visiting, scripture classes, outreach events for men and women, door knocking, training sessions, youth group and nursing home services.  So far we are very thankful for the welcome we have received, getting to know our hosts and the much needed rain in this dry part of the country (not to mention the cooling effect it has had on the weather!).

Please pray for us as we partner with the church serve the community here in Gunnedah. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Bible reading practice

I’m reading the Bible in chapel this week at college.*  That might sound a bit ho-hum, but I’m actually really looking forward to it.  I’ve often enjoyed listening to the Bible read at college because it is read so well.  I think it’s something that you don’t realise you were missing until you hear it.  It is definitely more than someone realising on the day that they were rostered to read the Bible and quickly finding it in the Bible, then stumbling over the words as they read it out loud in a monotone. 

Part of the preparation for Bible reading at college is to attend Bible reading practice with Greg, the lecturer who organises the chapel services and rosters.  I love the passion he has for good Bible reading so it’s a joy to hear his spiel about it even a second time (I also went last year when I was rostered on to read the Bible in women’s chapel).  Here are some of the things he said about reading the Bible in public. 

Reading the Bible in chapel or in church is really important, in fact it is (or should be) central to the whole church service/meeting.  While we would sincerely hope that every sermon you hear is God’s word, we can definitely be sure that the Bible reading is God’s word.  So it’s important that we prepare the reading so that we can read well and not create any barriers to hearing and understanding God’s word because of the way we read.  We want to read in a way that brings forth the meaning of the passage.  The way we can ensure that we’re doing this is to make sure that we ourselves understand the passage so that we  bring the meaning out in the way that we read it.

Greg talked about three ways that we can bring out the meaning in the passage: emphasis, pace, and feeling.

It’s important to emphasise the right word in a sentence or phrase because it can really impact the way that the reading is understood.  Emphasis is best used when the passage introduces new information or suggests a contrast.  If this is done badly it can change the whole meaning of the passage, so it’s important that you understand the passage before reading it publically. 

If we spoke at the same speed all the time the people would stop listening and simply tune out.  And why not?  It’s boring to listen to!  But if we change the pace of our speech we can help to keep people engaged and  emphasise what is important.  Last week I even heard someone use pace to describe how the disciples ran to the empty tomb after Jesus was resurrected.  It really helped to capture the mood excitement and urgency as he spoke faster. 

This is about the emotional vibe of the passage and is conveyed by the tone in your voice.  Greg said that often people worry that they will be overacting by conveying the feeling of the passage, but the chances of this are very small.  It’s more likely that we won’t act enough.  Examples of this are speaking joyfully when reading a Psalm of praise, sadly when reading about repentance, or strongly/angrily when reading about God’s judgement of sin. 

I’ve tried to incorporate these things into my reading when I read the Bible at church and I really think it has helped.  I’ve noticed that I’m much more easily engaged with the Bible reading at college chapel because it is read well and I hope I’ve been able to bring this to church as well.  I hope this has also been helpful for you in making you a better Bible reader.


*since writing this I’ve discovered that Friday chapel has been cancelled because of graduation the night before, and therefore I won’t be reading the Bible at chapel this week. 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

When weeds look attractive

A few weeks ago I noticed that the vine in our backyard had started flowering.  The flowers were pretty little white things with a beautiful scent that reminded me of stephanotis.  So I did some research and decide that it must be stephanotis and I was quite please because the websites I looked at said it was really hard to grow, and because it reminded me a bit of home.  My Oma has some growing at her house and the smell reminds me of there.  Here’s a photo of stephanotis.

Photo from:

Yesterday our neighbour overheard J and I talking outside about the vine and warned me that it could be a cruel vine, well known by local councils to be a weed and a big nuisance.  He told me to look out for big pods growing on the vine and just kill it if that happens.  I told him that I thought it was a stephanotis but promised that I would keep an eye on it for the pods. 

So I thought I’d better do a bit of research about this cruel vine that I’d never heard of before.  I found this website.  I’d seen those pods before when we did a working bee last year in our college community spaces.  Someone thought they were choko, but the seeds inside behaved exactly like the website said.  The vine out the back did seem to fit the description in the website.  My heart started sinking a bit. 

Then I checked again at pictures of a stephanotis.  Of course, I remembered now that they had waxy, rounded leaves, and large clusters of long stemmed flowers.  My vine wasn’t like that…


So now I feel stupid for nurturing a weed.  I’d been trying to train it to run along the bamboo fence we have between us and the neighbour.  I’d been hoping to take a cutting to grow a new plant for somewhere else, but wary knowing that stephanotis was hard to propagate.  No wonder it had been growing so well without any help!

It makes me think of sin.  Sin is our rebellion against God our creator by living our lives our own way.  It is rejection of God and his words.  Sometimes sin can look attractive.  Sometimes it can look like it’s not doing any harm.  But it chokes the life out of us.  Unchecked it can grow and grow, without us even really noticing. 

This weed, that I thought was pretty, will remind me that sin is deceptive.  It will remind me to identify and root out the sin in my life.  And it will remind me that nurturing sin does not bring life.