It’s been a long time since I updated this blog with a post about what I have been doing.
(Emm’s also been updating her blog)
So here goes…
Last week was probably the busiest and most stressful week of College for me so far.
The normal workload for College has been just manageable for me in the past few weeks. But last week I got a true picture of what it will often be like. I had an essay due in at the end of the week (today) and was preaching on Sunday (yesterday). The reality is that there will be plenty of weeks where essays and preaching collide.
It feels sometimes that if you keep pushing yourself for long enough then eventually your brain just says ‘no more!’
Even though I new I had more work to do than usual, I found that I managed to do even less. Everytime I sat down to study or practice my languages, I’d find some way to distract myself.
I think that I just needed a mental rest, the motivation to keep pushing hard at the work just wasn’t there.
Being conscious of preaching on Sunday, and not having completely finished my sermon preparation, also meant that whenever I sat down to read for class I felt that I should be using the time for sermon prep. Rather than being able to stick to a study programme, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I needed to be doing and when.
But that’s life, it’s not neat and tidy – packaged into manageable time units. I’ve got it much easier than people who are studying with families and young kids.
Life at College can be difficult, struggling to meet competing demands is never easy. And, as students, we add significantly to the pressure because we really want to be there, and we really want to work hard. There aren’t any slackers at College, everyone is conscious of the fact that we are for the sake of other Christians, and for the service of God.
The danger, probably the most common danger in any area of Christian life, is letting the work obscure our objective – which is to know God better.
Looking back at the week I can see God’s grace toward me.
The essay I was working on was for a subject called Congregational Ministry. I had to read a book called A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke. I found this reading to be really spiritually refreshing. It is a helpful and pastoral little book, originally presented as a seminar to beginning students of theology. It is all about the dangers faced by Theological Students – dangers of losing contact with the body of Christ, of intellectual elitism, and of having a learning that outstrips spiritual maturity.
Thielicke’s tone of voice is so warm and direct that it feels more like having a Grandfatherly chat. It was a blessing for me to read it, and made me aware of some of the things that I am finding challenging. Particularly the need to keep a real and deep personal relationship with God – reading the Bible and praying – and making sure that my spiritual life doesn’t become merely about teaching other people (what Thielicke calls ‘thinking in the 3rd person).
Without any intention on the part of any of the staff at St Philip’s, the passage that I was preaching on at Church was also the subject of our Old Testament Lectures for the week. (Genesis 4-11). This saved me so much time in preparation and John Woodhouse’s lecture even had quite a few hints towards how this section could be applied in a sermon. This was another great blessing from God.
As I prepared for the sermon, I was struck again by the scope of what God is doing in Christ. The world-wide cataclysm in the days of Noah – by which God wiped the earth clean of all the filth with which humanity had stained it – is nothing compared with the act of new creation and cleansing which he accomplished in Christ.
â€œTherefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.â€ (2Cor 5:17 HCSB)
I’ve been trying to have a good rest over the weekends. This often comes under pressure when we are busy, and particularly when I have to preach. The reality is that if you are going to work hard, you need to rest well (otherwise you do just sit and stare at the wall when you should be learning Hebrew). I don’t work from Friday night through to Saturday night – a genuine Jewish Sabbath! I should stress that this is not out of some theological belief that Christians shouldn’t work on a Saturday/Sunday. I do have views on that but they are more complex (maybe another post sometime 😉 )
I need to have a good rest, it is important as a way to love Emma, and it is a practical way to trust God with the future…
especially when you’re preaching on Sunday.
We went to a Friend’s wedding on Saturday with Naomi and Russell (my sister and brother-in-law). The wedding was in Camden (on the southern outskirts of Sydney) and we headed off early and had some lunch together before the ceremony. It was good to spend time with some of the family.
The wedding didn’t run too late and we were back by about 8pm. Emma and I went to bed pretty much straight away – we dragged the mattress out into the loungeroom and slept in front of the air-conditioner. I woke myself up every hour-or-so to listen to the scores in the cricket (Australia vs South Africa in the World Cup). With the extra hour of sleep from the Day-Light Savings change and the early bed time, I had a really good rest. The Cricket only added to my enjoyment.
Church on Sunday went well, I felt that the sermon came together well and was conscious of God’s word speaking. I’m a stuttering mouthpiece but he chooses to speak. This is no claim for my ability (remember Baalam’s Ass?) but I learn even when I’m preaching.
Sunday afternoon Emma and I both were studying – Emma for her Diploma of Biblical Studies exam, me writing my Essay. We went down to Starbucks and studied together there. It was nice to be working together. I finished the essay by the end of the afternoon and decided to go down to St Andrew’s Cathedral to the evening service there (St Philip’s doesn’t have anything in the evening). I have a close friend doing MTS there and it has been a while since we caught up.
One of the highlights of the weekend was singing together at the service. Sometime I get so used to our songs that my brain stops engaging with the words, worse I stop singing the words as prayers to God.
We were singing See Him Coming and it struck me that we were taking part in the great Heavenly Court from Daniel 7. We were among the crowd singing out our praise as “one like a Son of Man” approached the Ancient of Days to receive glory, and honour, and power over all the kingdoms of the earth. That’s the song we were singing – it is the highest expression of that emotion you experience watching your sporting team win. Cheering them on and thinking ‘they’re our boys!’
We were singing: He’s our Man! There he goes, on the clouds of heaven, to receive the crown from the Ancient of Days, and he’s going for us! as our representative! He’s Ours!
God blesses us with those moments, when the stress and frusterations build up and I’ve thoroughly taken my eye of what really matters. (Incidentally, that’s the essence of what Apocalytic Literature is about, I think)
Suddenly you See Him Coming on the Clouds of Glory.
Ah, that’s what reality really looks like…
â€œI continued watching in the night visions,
and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him.
He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom;
so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away,
and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.â€
(Dan 7:13-14 HCSB)