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Your church is too small


Deep darkness is punctuated by the flash of a thousand cameras; rumbling bass rattles through my bones. Throughout the arena I can hear the burbling, surging, building crescendo of music ready to erupt—and then, with a synthesizer burst, lights erupt throughout the stadium, only to be extinguished just as quickly.1 (more…)

In the footsteps of Ezekiel

Life, Sola Panel

Ezekiel: Michelangelo

When a man was called by God to be a prophet in Israel, he could be pretty sure he wasn’t in for an easy life. Jeremiah, marked out as a traitor by his own people, thrown into a cistern and waiting for his nose to slip beneath the mud (Jer 38:1-28). Ezekiel, his life a bizarre acted parable of Jerusalem’s fate, lying on one side for months on end and cooking his food over excrement (Ezek 4:1-17). Hosea, commanded by God to marry and be reconciled to an adulterous wife, to picture God’s relationship with his unfaithful people (Hos 1:2-11, 3:1-5).

All those words of judgement, all that rejection, all that sacrifice! I sometimes think how glad I am that God didn’t make me an Old Testament prophet.1  (more…)

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Bible 101

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

In the first century, a fight broke out between rabbis at the Jewish Council of Jamnia. The issue? Should Ecclesiastes be removed from the generally accepted books of the Old Testament. (more…)

Are holidays Christian?

Life, Pastoral Ministry, Thought, Sola Panel

flickr: andrewmalone

There’s a certain amount of discomfort in Christian circles when it comes to annual leave and long service leave – or any kind of holiday, for that matter. The workaholics and type-A personalities amongst us (I’m putting my hand up now) can be even more uncomfortable about taking holidays. Perhaps they’re right. (more…)

Matters of interest


O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
… who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved. (Ps 15:1-2a, 5)

According to Psalm 15, a holy person does not put his money out at interest. Look at it again. See? That’s what it says. (more…)

Mercy? Me?


The game begins with the two combatants facing each other, holding hands, their fingers interlocked. When the word is given, they start twisting and writhing like contortionists, each trying to gain leverage over the other until their fingers are so agonised that one is forced to concede, “Mercy!” The winner graciously releases his grip, and the round is complete. In primary school, we called the game ‘Mercy’—but our grasp on the concept was as tortuous as the game itself. (more…)

WordWatch: Filthy lucre

Word Watch

There was a time when if you wanted to speak disparagingly of money you would call it ‘filthy lucre’. It was, for as long as I can remember, a whimsical expression. If a friend accepted a new job at higher pay you might, for example, make a flippant remark about his going for the ‘filthy lucre’. (more…)

The danger of overseas travel



My desk is currently cluttered with various currencies, my passport, boarding passes and luggage tags. Yes, it’s time for an overseas trip—which, in my job, happens reasonably regularly.

I guess going to new places, crossing continents and meeting new people all sounds exciting—and, in some ways, it is. But the reality of international ‘business’ travel is that it is tiring, expensive and often lonely. And now I can add one more disadvantage to the list: it’s dangerous! I’m not talking about terrorism or volcanic cloud-induced engine failure; the airline regulators and happy-go-lucky security people seem to have that under control. No, the greatest danger I think I face in my travel is much more spiritual: it’s the danger of greed and discontent.


Temptation and the garden

Life, Sola Panel


All our temptations are garden temptations.

I don’t usually talk much about gardening when I lead Bible studies, but recently during our study on Genesis 3, I asked, “What does the Garden of Eden show us about God?”

The answer? God is abundantly generous. He didn’t give Adam and Eve a dry loaf and a cup of water; he gave them a beautiful garden brimming with varied, wonderful fruitful plants to eat and enjoy (Gen 2:9).

And what was God’s word to the people he’d made? “Eat! Eat freely from every tree in the garden!”1 There was only one tree they weren’t to eat from, and that was “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:16-17). In other words, the only thing they weren’t to do was to rip God’s authority away from him, and decide good and evil for themselves.

But that’s not the way Eve saw it.


Your most important ordinances?

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel


Think about your denomination for a moment. What are the most important pieces of legislation governing your denomination’s assembly and churches?

We call them ordinances. Not the “ordinances of the Lord which are sure and altogether righteous” (Ps 19:9, NIV); ‘ordinances’ is our fancy Anglican name for the rules that govern our denomination. Every earthly organization (and that’s what denominations are) has to have some sort of rules by which to function.

Now the latest printed edition I had of the Acts, Ordinance and Regulations of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney ran to over 450 pages, and listed 47 ordinances, not to mention several Acts of Parliament and various regulations.

What do you think are the most important ordinances governing your denomination? See if you can write down your selections before reading on.


Neither panic nor paralysis (Sandy Grant blogs from the Sydney Anglican Synod)

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

For better or worse, the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, along with Moore Theological College, is seen as one of the most conservative and influential dioceses in the Anglican world. And many friends outside our area like to know what’s going on.

For this reason, Sola Panel will be running an extra post reporting on Synod (= our denominational ‘parliament’) for the five days we sit over the next two weeks.

Our first day of sitting was yesterday, and it featured mainly set pieces to get things rolling:

  • the presidential address from our Archbishop, Peter Jensen;
  • a fascinating ACL dinner break interview with Alfred Olwa, Dean of Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology, Mukono, Uganda;
  • the Synod service sermon from Rev Paul Harrington, Rector, Holy Trinity, Adelaide (an evangelical bastion in the heart of the Australian “city of churches”—churches which are now often literally or spiritually empty).

Here are some highlights …


Sometimes the costly choice is to stay

Everyday Ministry


I’ve just spent a week in a country I doubt you’d want to live in; I don’t think I would. It’s a country wracked by multi-level poverty, which makes it a difficult place to visit and an even more difficult place to live. (NB: for the security of the people involved, I’ve deliberately omitted the name of the country.) The economic poverty is apparent on every street corner: buildings and infrastructure are run-down, food is scarce and expensive, and essential services are hard to access. But perhaps more pressing is the overwhelming social poverty—expressed in a lack of relationships, constant mistrust and suspicion, and the reality that you are being ‘watched’.


A rich man’s identity discovered?



Ever since I first came into contact with the rich fool of Luke 12, I’ve been intrigued by the stupidities of his personality. He is a man so rich that he can even afford to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. This is a strange piece of non-thriftiness that a friend from a farming background assured me is still not unknown in rural Australia—something which I witnessed, in modified English form, for myself just the other day. (Well okay, watching Grand Designs on the telly may not count as ‘witnessing’, but let’s just say that there are enough rich fools about for any of us to recognize the type.)