Monthly Archives: November 2018

MtE Update – November 30 2018

  1. This Sunday December 2 there will be a congregational meeting to receive the proposed budget for 2019 and for another info update on the buildings project.
  2. Hotham Mission has launched its Christmas appeal; you can donate online here (you indicate that it’s for the Christmas appeal on the second page…) or via the envelopes available in the church.
  3. St John’s Essendon is hosting the launch of the Christmas Bowl this year, with a program of Christmas music and carols from around the world; date, time and program details are here (download).
  4. For those interested in doing some preparation to hearing the readings for this coming Sunday December 2, see the commentary links here.

November 30 – The Apostle Andrew

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Andrew, apostle

The disciple Andrew was the first called of the twelve apostles. Andrew belonged to Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the brother of Simon Peter and his father’s name was John. He appears more often in the Gospel of John than in Matthew, Mark and Luke. His name is Greek, and he is given no Hebraic or Aramaic name.

Andrew’s call to be an apostle took place through three different stages. Andrew we are told had been a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. He then seems to have left Galilee to travel with others to Bethany, near the Jordan, when he heard of John the Baptist. He became a follower of John. It was at this point that he encountered Jesus and when John said that Jesus was the Lamb of God, Andrew decided to leave John and follow Jesus. He first went to tell his brother, Simon Peter, that he had found the Messiah.

It would seem that Andrew accompanied Jesus when he returned to Galilee, where Andrew and Peter resumed their old vocation as fishermen. Andrew at this time received his second call. This seems to have happened after John the Baptist was cast into prison. Andrew and his brother, along with James and John, also brothers, were now called on to forsake their occupation as “fishers of fish” and become “fishers of men”.

The final part of Andrew’s call was when he was called to be one of the twelve Apostles. Andrew along with Peter, James and John seemed to form a group closer to Jesus than the others.

Andrew in all the times we meet him is introducing people to Jesus. As already noted he introduces Peter to Jesus; at the feeding of the five thousand by the Sea of Galilee, the attention of Jesus was drawn to the lad with five barley loaves and two fishes by Andrew; he introduces the Greeks to Jesus after Philip speaks to him. Andrew’s role was to bring people to Jesus.

After the death of Jesus Andrew is said to have preached in many areas to the north of Palestine. Out of this work, tradition says that the Patriarchate of Constantinople grew.

Tradition tells us that Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea. Although early tradition stated that he was bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified; later tradition said that he had been crucified on a cross of the form called crux decussata. This is the shape of the saltire on the Scottish flag. It is now known as the Saint Andrew’s Cross.

The relics of Andrew were discovered in Constantinople in the time of Justinian, and part of his cross is now in St. Peter’s, Rome. It is said that his arm was transferred to Scotland by St. Regulus. Many of his body parts are said to be found scattered across Europe.

He became a patron saint of many places including Ukraine, Romania, Russia, Greece and Scotland. His patron day is November 30th.

Peter Welsh

Christmas 2018 at Mark the Evangelist

Christmas 2015 Reflection ImageYour are most welcome to join us at our Christmas celebrations this year!

Sunday December 23 (Advent 4 morning worship): a service of Advent carols and readings with Eucharist, 10am.

Christmas Eve (afternoon and evening): (we have Christmas Eve services at Mark the Evangelist, but commend the Christmas Eve services at St Mary’s Anglican Church – the 4pm “Kids’ Christmas” and the 11.30pm Christmas Eve Midnight Mass)

Christmas Day: Worship with Eucharist, 9.30am

Normal services will continue, 10am, on December 30 and throughout January

25 November – The difference between a story and a book

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Reign of Christ

Ruth 4:13-22
Psalm 126
John 18:33-37

In a sentence:
God makes of our stories a book, of our words a Word

Our Prime Minister advised this week that Australians are concerned about population: ‘The roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full. The schools are taking no more enrolments… They are saying: enough, enough, enough.’ Hearing ‘loud and clear’ what the people have said, the PM indicated that, to ease the strain, he would move to cut immigration to Australia.

Now, this was an economic assessment. It has to be admitted that pulpits are generally places which manifest economic incompetence and, were I to attempt to analyse what the PM said in economic terms, I would demonstrate that this pulpit is no different in that respect!

My response to the PM’s announcement, however, was not to its economics but to its devastating blandness. There is here no sense of a bigger picture, no sense of movement to a goal, no sense of history. There is apparently nowhere to go, nothing in which we are involved beyond what is already before us – or, more to the point, what is behind us. What we look forward to, or perhaps can really only expect, is an intensification of ourselves and what we have already achieved – even safer streets, even better healthcare, even quicker transit, more accessible and better tailored entertainment on a faster broadband network and, of course, longer battery life in our smart phones. These are the kinds of things our politicians promise us because, to be frank, they amount to about as much as we can imagine it is worth being promised. The kingdom has largely come and what remains to arrive approaches in the increments which come with the passage of time in a stable society.

That is to say, history is for us chronos – the tick-tock of a clock, the accumulation of events and achievements. The old Greeks knew that the god Chronos ate his children, and we new Greeks know just as well that we will be consumed. Our politics – our life together – is directed towards being consumed later rather than earlier, while we hope that – when our time comes – Time’s bite proves to be quick and his teeth sharp. In the meantime, we work so that time ticks over quietly – less traffic, more space – in a world in which there is nothing to see except what can be seen.

But time and history – what we are doing in the world – can be imagined differently. We see this in our readings from Ruth if we take care to note the distinction between the book of Ruth and the story of Ruth.

The story of Ruth is the sum of all she ever did. The story of Ruth more or less comes to its end with the birth of Obed. Most tellings of a person’s story would end in that way, be they comedy or tragedy: the achievement or tragedy of the protagonist is the end of her story. This is time and history as the sequence of events – ‘What Ruth did’ and ‘What Ruth did next.’ In the end, Chronos catches up, and Ruth does no more.

By contrast, the book of Ruth is the ‘value’ of the story. The story of Ruth becomes the book of Ruth with the addition of a few verses running on past her to David: ‘[and Obed] became the father of Jesse, [who became] the father of David…’ So far as the story of Ruth goes, these verses are unnecessary. Ruth and Boaz don’t know what happens next. David is their descendent but not their story. Things going as they usually do –especially then – people tend to have descendants; there is nothing new to see here.

The book of Ruth, however, places her beautiful but also quite normal and self-contained story within the larger context of David who – in his brilliance and brokenness – becomes a sign of God’s presence to the world. The book of Ruth requires her story but also moves beyond it or, more the point, re-casts it. Story becomes book, words become Word, time truly becomes history – a movement not merely from necessary beginning to inevitable end but from divine inception to surprising consummation.

As a society, we today know only our story; we do not know our book. We know time but not history. We have our gods but not God.

The church, of course, is not much different most of the time. If there is anything to be said for the church, it is not that our story is any better but that we expect our story – with the story of the world – to become a book. We expect to be surprised at what the plot actually turned out to be, at how inception found its way to completion.

For we hold that, while we spend our lives writing our story, God is writing a book. Growing in Christian faith is about recognising more deeply that our lives in this world are the stuff of God. These lives in themselves are not God but they carry a plot which is beyond our sense and yet which could not be carried forward without us.

This is the case whether we lives which appear worthy or unworthy of such extraordinary purpose. We noted last week that it cannot be the righteousness of Ruth and Boaz which saw them the forebears of the great king; the king was always coming, regardless. And there is plenty of human failure in the Scriptures – not least king David himself – which nevertheless becomes the vehicle of divine blessing.

But if we believe that our lives are the stuff of God – the means by which God becomes God for us and redeems us – why would we not live as if it were so?

Why would we not pray for our enemies for the sake of the book – for the sake of where history will end – rather than crush them for the sake of our own passing story? Why keep for ourselves what could be given, to link stories which will finally be bound together anyway? Migrant visas come to mind, as well as loose change dropped into a beggar’s cup. Why eat and drink mere bread and wine when it might be God himself by which we are nourished? Why would we not choose to breathe and move through Spirit instead of mere air?

In such ways we sign that our stories are more than we can yet see, that we trust in One who declares,

Where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people…

We trust in this One because when the promise is kept, we find ourselves caught up no longer in a bland hi‑story of a kingdom already come but in the advent of God’s anointed king.

This would be a story worth living.

Step out, then, not for more of our yesterday but for God’s tomorrow.

MtE Update – November 23 2018

  1. On Sunday December 2 there will be a congregational meeting to receive the proposed budget for 2019 and for another info update on the buildings project.
  2. Safe Church Training at 11.30 on THIS SUNDAY 25 November. It’s not too late to sign up – let Ann or Craig know. The workshop will last for 2 hours. This is a valuable opportunity to acknowledge the importance of striving to be a Safe Church in our community and how each one of us is an important part of our success.  We will be providing sandwiches to sustain us during the training. A facilitator from the Safe Church unit at Synod will be there to lead the workshop. Please speak to Ann if you have any questions at all. If this date does not suit you, other congregations will be arranging workshops for which you could register.  Ann Wilkinson can help you discover those.
  3. We’ll conclude our short series on Ruth this Sunday, the festival of the  Reign of Christ. The reading for this coming Sunday November 18 will be Ruth 3.1-13, although it is whole of the Ruth-Boaz drama which will be our theme; some commentary from Howard Wallace on this text can be found here. (This was actually the set OT reading for November 11; we’ll hear it alongside Psalm 126 and this week’s set gospel, John 18.33-37). 

Other things potentially of interest


The Christmas Bowl 2018

Each year Mark the Evangelist encourages its members and others to contribute to the Christmas Bowl, an annual appeal run by Act for Peace which raises funds for various national and international relief projects.

For an introduction to the focus of the appeal this year, click on the video below. The Christmas Bowl’s own home page is here. To contribute to the appeal, go directly to the appeal’s donation page.

Introduction to the Christmas Bowl Appeal 2018

18 November – Naomi, Ruth and Boaz: Glorious Ordinary

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Pentecost 26

Ruth 3:1-13
Psalm 46
Mark 13:1-8

In a sentence:
In the midst of all that goes on in the world, God is also ‘going on’

Something which is not immediately obvious in the story of Ruth, and yet becomes increasingly pressing once we notice it, is that God is pretty much absent from the story.

God is invoked for blessing, is blamed for Naomi’s tragedy, and is praised and thanked at the end but is not active in the story in a way which is typical of the other biblical historical narratives: God doesn’t say anything or do anything (the allusions to such action in 1.6 and 4.14 notwithstanding).

God’s part in the story is less as protagonist than as ‘context’. God is a frame within which the players in the drama do their thing, to which they refer, upon which they rest: God is the space within which Ruth and Boaz and Naomi live and move and have their being.

The effect of this is to render what actually happens in the story less important than it might first seem, or at least to shift how the action is important. Today we have heard something of what led to the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. But for the time to read it, we might have heard the whole book – for the whole of the story leads to the marriage and the birth of Obed and to the link this has to one of the very great stories of the Old Testament – the story of David. Yet if God is more context than agent in the story, then the purpose of narrating Ruth’s marriage to Boaz and the birth of their son becomes less clear.

If God were portrayed as directly active in the book, then the story would be more clearly one of the blessing of God on everyone still standing at the end, for whatever reason the blessing might have been given. This is perhaps the typical reading: Ruth and Boaz are blessed because their devotion and loyalty is something good.

But God is very much in the background. In fact, the story would be just as charming, and perhaps even easier to read and enjoy, were God not referred to at all. This suggests that the link between what the people do in the story and God’s own interest in these people is less direct than is often presumed.

It is possible to imagine that our generally very charitable assessment of the characters in the story rests on the basis of an assumption that God is responding to the situation of those characters – the tragic Naomi, the loyal Ruth and the righteous Boaz. A little more cynically, it does not take much imagination to recast Naomi as the embittered schemer, Ruth as gullible – or perhaps even as seductress – and Boaz as a good-hearted old fogy who suddenly finds he can’t believe his luck. We are far enough away culturally from the historical context that we cannot be at all confident that we understand what is really going on between Ruth and her mother-in-law, or between Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor, or in the negotiations for Naomi’s plot of land.

The question is, does the lesson of the book as a whole change if Naomi, Ruth and Boaz are rather more morally ambiguous figures? The climax of the story would seem to be the birth of the child, and the link of the story to David. But the point cannot be that Ruth’s loyalty and openness to the God of Israel ‘earned’ her this connection to David, or even brought David forth. This is because David had six other great grandparents whose stories we do not know. We have no guarantee, and might well imagine that it could never have been given, that the story of each great grandmother and great grandfather of David was just as virtuous as we’ve been given to imagine that Ruth and Boaz were. We’ve no guarantee that they, too, are rewarded for their goodness with a link to David.

The point of the story then comes to be – or at least a point might be – that, as people go about doing what people do – grieving, promising, reaping and gleaning, scheming, seducing, marrying, giving birth – God gets on doing what God does. If it were the case that Naomi did scheme to manoeuvre Ruth into Boaz’ bed, that a simple Ruth just did what she was told and that Boaz then ran a ploy to secure her and her inheritance as his own – and then the baby was born – none of this change the context within which it all happened.

To put it differently, whatever seems to be going on in the world – for better and for worse – God also is ‘going on’ in the world. In the book of Ruth the lives of a few of us are given to us as the very life of God, the lifeblood of God. It is in and through these that God lives and moves and has his being.

This is the scandal of the incarnation: that our life could be the life of God. As we saw last week, the devotion of Ruth to Naomi – her ‘cleaving’ (1.14, AV) to Naomi – is how God is with us: where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge…

To speak of Jesus as both human and divine is not to say anything about the ‘stuff’ of which he was made, but to say that the life of God and the life of the world are properly bound together in this way. The life of God looks like the life of a human being, and the life of a human being is how God chooses to be.

This is not, however, a moral assessment; the point is not that only a ‘good’ human life is God’s lifeblood. For even Jesus is morally ambiguous; this is what the cross shows – that the life of God will not always look like the stuff of God, yet still it is.

This is the promise upon which we are to build our lives – that God makes us God’s own. This is the measure of us; there is nothing else upon which we rely to tell us who we are.

What we are and do is and is done in the God who, despite what little we can sometimes see and what little we sometimes see, brings forth from our lives the anointed one, the christ in its several guises – David the forerunner, Jesus the incarnate Son, and even the motley crew called, amazingly, Christ’s own Body. Sometimes it will look as if this happens because of us. Too often, we must confess, it will happen despite us but always and everywhere it is for us that God creates out of us, as if out of nothing (‘ex nihilo’…).

In God we have our beginning and in God we will find our end; in this way, God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.

This is Ruth’s story, and it is ours.

The story of Ruth declares to us: Do not be afraid; eat, drink, live and love – and God will take care of the rest.

MtE Update – November 16 2018

  1. This Sunday, following worship, there will be a congregational info session regarding progress on our buildings project; background papers have been circulated.
  2. On Sunday December 2 there will be another congregational meeting regarding progress on the buildings project.
  3. The latest Synod Justice and International Mission eNews (Nov 15) is here.
  4. Safe Church Training at 11.30 on 25 November

As you all now know, Church Council has undertaken to provide training in the form of a Safe Church Awareness Workshop which will be held on next Sunday 25 November.  The workshop will be at 11.30am after church and will last for 2 hours. The invitation is extended to all church members.  It is a valuable opportunity to acknowledge the importance of striving to be a Safe Church in our community and how each one of us is an important part of our success.  We will be providing sandwiches to sustain us during the training.

All local appointed leaders – those who are required to have a Working with Children Check – are required to attend such a workshop as are officiating ministers and employees.  The Workshop is designed to provide congregational members and leaders with knowledge and understanding of our Safe Church policy and procedures. Awareness raising training such as this is highly relevant to us all.

If this date does not suit you, other congregations will be arranging workshops for which you could register.  Ann Wilkinson can help you discover those.

 Please register by adding your name to the list which is on the notice board at the church. A facilitator from the Safe Church unit at Synod will be there to lead the workshop. Please speak to Ann if you have any questions at all.



Taking a lead from the lectionary, we’re spending three weeks (November 11, 18 and 25) on a short series from the Old Testament book of Ruth. This is a short book of only 4 chapters — try to read it through at least once over these few weeks! The reading for this coming Sunday November 18 will be Ruth 3.1-13, although it is whole of the Ruth-Boaz drama which will be our theme; some commentary from Howard Wallace on this text can be found here. (This was actually the set OT reading for November 11; we’ll hear it alongside Psalm 46 and this week’s set gospel, Mark 13:1-8). 


Other things potentially of interest

  1. Anja & Zlatna: Russian Caravan — Saturday 17 November, 6pm in the Primrose Potter Salon. We’re delighted to invite you all to our second concert for 2018 in the wonderful Local Heroes series at the fabulous Melbourne Recital Centre Salon. Journey through a land imbued with a fascinating and curious history. Russian Caravan features traditional and street songs, exploring dreams, nature and integral questions of existence. 

Old News

  1. Please see the invitation to the opening of the community space at the new 8th Day Baptist building.

11 November – Ruth, the Christ

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Pentecost 25

Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Mark 12:38-44

It has been said of the book of Ruth that ‘the whole world takes this story to its heart’ (Naomi Rosen). It is a gently beautiful story. Tragic in its beginnings, it moves through hope to restoration. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz – the chief protagonists in the story – are filled with recognisable humanity, and the emotion and integrity of their responses to the accidents of their lives are no small part of what gives the story its charm.

Why we have Ruth in the biblical collection might be guessed from some of its principal themes. Ruth’s ‘foreignness’ as a Moabite is strongly emphasised, possibly as a counter to movements against the foreigner in Israel, such as we find in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And there may be a lesson reinforcing the responsibility of family members to take up the cause of widows through re-marriage (‘levirate’ marriage responsibilities in which a man marries his brother’s widow). The story also serves as a prelude to the establishment of the kingship in Israel, with the last few verses identifying Ruth as the great grandmother of King David, whose story continues to unfold in the next biblical book. This last purpose is perhaps all the more provocative as it gives the very ‘Jewish’ David a very non-Jewish ancestry in a testimony to the startling freedom of God.

Whatever possible historical reason for the book or intentions of its authors, our reading of it over the next few weeks will be quite unhistorical, in usual sense of that word. We will cast the important aspects of the story as patterns for things yet to be fully revealed in the history of salvation and a long way from what could have been the intention of Ruth’s authors. This reflects the Bible’s ‘typological’ method, a patterning of one story or identity into another. A biblical ‘type,’ in this technical sense, is an event or identity which anticipates something yet to come – the ‘antitype’ (the Greek prefix ‘anti’ here meaning ‘in place of’ or ‘upon’). In this way the Bible links together events and persons which otherwise look quite different but are understood to embody the same reality, the same kinds of relationship or actions. Our question will be, In what ways might the story of Ruth, Boaz and Naomi be not simply hi/story and example but also reveal something of God in Christ?

Our focus today will be Ruth’s startling expression of devotion at the end of today’s reading:

‘Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’

This is an extraordinary promise; perhaps only the promises made in a wedding ceremony or implied in daring to bring a child into existence come close to it, although without exceeding it.

In fact, it is perhaps beyond any of us to make such an unconditional promise, fearless as it is – even reckless – and rising to contradict even death. Such is not the promise of a mortal but of a god. And here we uncover the first of our ‘unhistorical’, typological readings of this text: the word Ruth speaks to Naomi is the word God speaks to the world in the ministry of Jesus, the incarnate Son. For what else does God do in Jesus but demonstrate ‘where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God’? This is the shape of the Incarnation: Jesus is with us, as we are.

Ruth’s devotion, then, is a sign of the Christ, a ‘type’ or pattern of Christ. She – as he – is absolutely devoted to one who she is with. Reading the story typologically, however, takes us beyond seeing Ruth as simply giving a moral lesson in devotion or a call to acceptance of those who are different. These lessons are clear in the story but if Ruth’s words are what God expresses in the Incarnation, then the story puts to us that it is not Ruth (only) who is the surprising foreigner, but God.

This shifts the meaning of the ‘difference’ theme in the text. The foreignness of Ruth – or of anyone we reject as foreign here and now – is no longer a characteristic of her alone, with God beyond all our difference yet compelling us to accept what is different between us. The foreignness of those who are different to us is the foreignness of God, for it is God who is the true foreigner. The imperative to love our neighbours is an imperative to love God (which, by the way, reminds us of 1 John, with whom we’ve spent so much time this year).

In the Incarnation God commits to us fearlessly, even recklessly. This is not clear until God is revealed as the stranger, the one rejected as dangerously foreign – a revelation which must wait until even death itself is contradicted in the resurrection, and Jesus now holds a double strangeness – strangely persisting after death but still the same strange Jesus, calling us to the same repentance, the same strange vision of God-among-us.

Against our confidence that God fits – or should fit – our mode of thought, our way of being, our political aspirations, in Ruth the stranger becomes a sacrament of God.

This is why we gather each week around a table not our own, in response to an invitation we did not issue, to be fed – strangely – with the fruits of human alienation from each other and from God: the cross of a Moabite Christ.

We are so fed in order to become ourselves such strange food, foreigners devoted to those who live in alienation and grief, the unexpected possibility of reconciliation and peace.

Ruth’s word to Naomi is Jesus’ word to us, that it might become our word to those around us.

‘Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’

The gospel and the law are that it cannot properly be any other way.

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