Monthly Archives: May 2020

31 May – As if God

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1 Peter 4:1-11
Psalm 104
John 20:19-23

In a sentence
God ‘ends’ sin by refusing to pass it on; our calling is to do the same

Breaking open the Scriptures is never a straightforward process.

As we open the book, sometimes we find things which are difficult because it is clear what the text says and means, and we don’t like what it means! Other times we struggle even to follow the text because, from this distance, the flow of thought and character of the references or illustrations the writers use are so alien to us.

Something of this latter is perhaps what we strike in our passage today from 1 Peter. Peter writes of the suffering which indicates that we are finished with sin, of the time lost in pursuing things which don’t really matter, of the nearness of the end and of the possibility of living and acting as if we ourselves were the God of grace. And he moves from the one to another in such a way that it reads a little like a grab-bag of throwaway ideas not quite clearly following on, one from another.

Yet these are a constellation of reflections from a central light – the light of what God has done for Peter’s community in the person of Jesus, and what they might then expect for themselves, and what they owe each other.

‘Whoever suffers in the flesh has finished with sin’, Peter writes, not as a general observation about the relationship between sin and suffering but with direct reference to Jesus. Suffering, in itself, is not the reason we are finished with sin – as if we earn forgiveness and wholeness through suffering. Suffering is the way we put sin behind us, the form such a putting-away will take. Jesus on the cross – God on the cross – is sin stopped. Sin is rendered powerless by its inability – in Jesus – to force the reaction of sin in the other. Sin is a virus jumping from one to another in these reactions. Yet Jesus ‘absorbs’ the fear and brokenness of those around him, rendering sin without power beyond what suffering it might mean for Jesus himself. The matter of the conflict between God and God’s people ends with him.

To refuse to respond to human brokenness by causing yet more brokenness is to set sin and its power behind us. The destruction sin brings stops with Jesus because he refuses to participate in the faulty dynamic of power which nailed him to the cross; Jesus refuses to respond in the terms in which he is attacked.

In this way, though his time is cut short, it is time spent oriented towards God and the full possibilities of life in God. It is towards such an experience of time’s possibilities that Peter calls us: you have already spent enough time doing what ‘the Gentiles’ like to do. Do, rather, what is really creative, what will really fill the times; do what is life, richer in every way than the death which will bring it to a close.

For this is the ‘end’ of all things of which Peter write (4.7) – the goal of creation which has been glimpsed in Jesus and now is a possibility for those touched by him. Creation turned in on itself and its own designs is creation without a goal, moving in cycles of fear and destruction, of mere life and death. This is creation without a purpose other than to continue at whatever cost.

To live as if the end were near is – Peter surprises us – to become ‘as if God’. ‘Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength God supplies’ (4.11). In this way we are ‘stewards of the manifold grace of God’. A steward is one who apportions within the household – on behalf of the master – the appropriate share of the wealth of the house. The Greek word here for ‘steward’ is oikonomos – from which we have our word ‘economy’. In God’ household – in God’s economy, God’s grace is the currency, and God is the effect. Peter does not call his people merely to continue in suffering because that in itself has value. The value is in the gift which ‘absorbing’ sin might bring – the presence of God’s peace-making in the midst of a violent world. Peter calls us to do and speak as if God, apportioning God’s grace to whomever we encounter.

This letter has continually turned our attention away from what we might think is going on in and around us, to see what was going on in and around Jesus. With that in mind, Peter then turns us back to our own time and place with the invitation to respond not merely to direct experience without Jesus, but to what is happening as a sharing in what happened with Jesus.

Jesus himself spoke and acted as the presence of God’s grace to those he encountered – both to the poor in spirit who received him as a blessing and to those proud in spirit who found his God too strange.

Enabled by the Spirit God gives to and make Jesus present among us again, God’s life with us takes the shape of Jesus’ own,

By the power of that Spirit, then, become the presence of God to those among whom God has placed you, with whatever joy or suffering this brings.

Only then does brokenness begin to recede behind us as we begin to move towards God’s end for us: life in love, together in Christ.

Sunday Worship at MtE – 31 May 2020

The worship service for Sunday 31 May 2020 can be viewed by clicking on the image below. Other worship services can be found in the list below or at the MtE YouTube channel

MtE Update – 29 May 2020

  1. While the relaxing of restrictions on social gatherings now makes a form of gathered worship service possible, the cleaning and spacing requirements are presently onerous and the church council has not yet considered the logistics for a return to ‘normal’ services at MtE. Some of the Synod’s advice in relation to this is available from the Synod eNews postings in this and the last few weeks’ MtE Updates. For the next couple of weeks (at least) Sunday services at MtE will continue to be delivered online. Church Council will consider what we might be able to do in response to the easing of restrictions at the next council meeting, June 4.
  2. Our second quarter study groups continue online for as long as we need to before going back to face-to-face. The studies are an introduction to modern scholarly readings of the Old Testament using online an video and transcript resource — lots of new things to discover! The two groups presently comprise 20 people from 6(!)  congregations. It’s not too late to join in — see here for more information.
  3. Latest Synod eNews (May 28) is here.
  4. This week May 31 / Pentecost we continue our 1 Peter series, looking at 4.1-11; we are a couple of weeks behind where the lectionary is now with 1 Peter. The psalm and the gospel for the Sunday will be as set in the Lectionary, and some background can be found here
  5. A brief account of ministry of the saint(s) commemorated this Sunday can be found here. May 27 – John Calvin.

24 May – Do not fear

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Easter 7

1 Peter 3:8-22
Psalm 68
John 17:1-11

In a sentence
Fear causes us to act in ways which reduce us and those around us

A quick reading of Peter’s first letter gives the sense that it is his advice to his church as to how it might respond to the difficulties it is experiencing as a community which doesn’t quite fit within its wider social and political context. The advice would seem to be something like this: ‘make yourself a small target by living a life which all will recognise as upright’.

Yet, as we noted last week, Peter’s is not a passive-aggressive survival strategy. In fact, it is the way Peter proposes they behave which attracted the ire of the wider community in the first place: their good behaviour and actions within the wider community are the problem so far as that wider community is concerned.

The life to which Peter calls his community is, then, not a response to the difficulty they are having with their neighbours; it is the cause of their difficulty. Unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, a humble mind, not repaying evil for evil but repaying with a blessing – these are not a solution but the problem. His moral instruction, then, is not something new they should adopt to fend off their persecutors. He calls them to stay the course, to continue in the way they have been going. Peter’s advice is, Do not stop being a problem!

This may be difficult to see because the ethic Peter calls for looks like the kind of thing all communities value, to some greater or lesser degree. Where are humility, sympathy and tenderness not valued? But if humility and sympathy and tender hearts are what all communities commend, then we get the impression that there might be in Peter’s community ‘too much’ tenderness and humility and sympathy.

Certainly such traits as these can be badly distorted, but unhealthy humility is neither what Peter demands nor likely to be offensive to those who oppose his congregation.

We get a clue as to what might be at the heart of the matter in the middle of today’s passage: ‘Do not fear what they fear’. Fear is a great motivator for us. We behave at least as much according to what we fear – what we seek to avoid – as according to what we hope to gain or give.

The reference to ‘fear’ in verse 14 is matched with the word ‘sanctify’ in the following verse. What we fear is what we sanctify. Our fears indicate to us what is most sacred to us: our fears create and call upon the gods. This is as much the case for the Christians as it is the non-Christian neighbours. We confuse the matter if we imagine that for Christians we no longer fear God but love God. In the Scriptures, fear is not a matter of shaking in our boots but a matter of what is most honoured in our lives, what it is we imagine will secure us against the many things which seem to threaten us. Peter says here, then, do not honour what they honour, do not consider sacred would they consider sacred; rather, sanctify Jesus as Lord.

Peter illustrates this with Jesus’ own way. Here is one who does not fear what most of us fear, who willingly submits to God alone, even if that leads to death by crucifixion. Here the crucifixion is not about some economy of salvation which makes it possible for God to love us again; it is about knowing what is truly sacred in the world, what is to be sanctified, and what not.

In Jesus we see a life of humility and sympathy and unity of spirit, of love for the other, of tenderness – a life which submits to those who fear the wrong things but does not submit to the fearsome things themselves. Jesus submits to the powers and institutions and fears in place around him, but without himself fearing anything they might take from him, even should they seem to win in the end. In this way, the cross is itself the victory of Jesus, whatever might have happened on Easter day.

Peter calls his community – and us – to the same humility before those who hold power over us, without submitting to the powers which might cause our overlords to be ungracious and without hope.

In this way, what is truly of God in the world – the human creature made in the image of God – is honoured, even if that human creature is subject to all sorts of dehumanising powers and perhaps even becomes an agent for the dehumanising of others.

This is no easy thing. Peter does not give the answer we seek when we ask the question about dealing with evil in the world. There is here no strategy for alleviating the suffering of his community, although that suffering is radically reinterpreted. Peter reminds them that they suffer because there is a conflict in the world – a conflict between the God from whom all things come and to whom all things will return, and those gods which have us in their grip because we fear death, or fear the loss of some lovely thing, or fear just having to get up in the morning and face the day.

There is a lot we will do when we are afraid. Much of it is hidden in the fabric of our economies and political systems. And it is likely that an awareness of this and a refusal to participate is what causes disruption for Peter’s community: they won’t share any longer in the injustice inherent in the common life of the city. They refuse to participate in dehumanising practices – financial, or relational, or political. And the nuisance value of this will sometimes be very high for the powers that be.

But being a nuisance is not the point. If Peter’s people are refugees and aliens in their own community, it is ultimately for the sake of those who persecute them. To continue to be a problem is to continue to model a true peace, and to make it possible. Only humility, sympathy and love for one another can bring true humility, sympathy and love for one another. And it is scarcely the case that we have too much of these things.

Jesus suffered, Peter says, as God’s stirring nuisance, to bring us to God. We ought not to be surprised, then that we are called to do the same, so that all might see how fear only reduces us, and how only love will expand us.

Let us, then, live lives which conform not to the fears of the world but the freedom of Jesus in the love of God.

Sunday Worship at MtE – 24 May 2020

The worship service for Sunday 24 May 2020 can be viewed by clicking on the image below. Other worship services can be found in the list below or at the MtE YouTube channel

September 1 – George Brown & John Thomas

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.

George Brown & John Thomas, Christian pioneers

George Brown

The Rev Cecil Gribble, a former General Secretary of Methodist Overseas Missions wrote this about George Brown:

In the long history of Methodist Missions in the Pacific there is no figure more striking nor personality more colourful than that of the pioneer missionary and administrator, Dr George Brown.

 George Brown (1835-1917) was born in Barnard Castle in County Durham in north east England. His mother died when he was only five. When his father remarried young George did not get on well with his stepmother so as a teenager he left home and his father arranged an apprenticeship for him at the seaport of Sunderland. George left this work without his father or employer’s permission and ran away to sea travelling in the Mediterranean to Canada and then on to New Zealand. There he went to the home of his aunt and uncle, Rev. Thomas and Mrs Sarah Buddle. They were Methodist missionaries working amongst the Maori people. As George Brown shared in the life of the Buddle family (with their nine children) and attended Church he experienced the grace of God and became a follower of Jesus Christ. He applied to the Auckland gathering of Methodist ministers to become a minister and to serve as a missionary. Brown was accepted though not unanimously. It was necessary then for him to find a wife. He had met Sarah Lydia Wallis whose parents were also Methodist missionaries in New Zealand. George asked Lydia to marry him and enter a life of missionary service with him. She agreed.

George and Lydia went to serve in Samoa at a time of tribal fighting and much lawlessness. There was also tension between the two churches – the Congregational Church established by the London Missionary Society and the Methodist Church established by the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Both organisations had been active in Tonga and Samoa. A decision was taken in the Mission Headquarters in London that the Wesleyans would work in Tonga and the LMS in Samoa. The only problem was the Samoan Methodists refused to be directed by London. So the Wesleyans felt that they had no option but to go and nurture those who refused to forsake Methodism. Whilst George Brown had good personal relationships with the LMS missionaries in the field, the Congregationalists made complaints about him and his work to the Methodist Mission Board in Australia. So Brown not only had to deal with the violence and heathen practices he was encountering amongst the Samoan people, he had to write lengthy reports defending himself and his work to the home Board.

The Browns left Samoa after fifteen years of faithful work. That pioneering ministry which developed leaders and was involved in peacemaking is still recognised in Samoa today with one of the Church Schools being named the George Brown Junior High School. Well before he left Samoa George Brown had a dream of what he called the ‘new mission’. The islands of New Britain and New Ireland in New Guinea had received no missionary. George Brown pleaded with the Mission Board to let him lead a party to take the Good News to these dangerous cannibalistic people. The Board agreed and George Brown set about raising money for the venture. He had been impressed by the way the LMS had used converts from established areas to take the Good News to new fields. Tahitians went to the Cook Islands, Cook Islanders went to Samoa and so on. So George Brown recruited some Samoans. He decided to recruit also from Fiji to complete his team. The story of Brown’s visit to Fiji has often been told but it should be repeated for each new generation.

George Brown went to Fiji to recruit workers for the ‘New Mission’ when a quarter of the population had been decimated in a measles epidemic. He went to the Training Institution and spoke to the assembled students about the dangers, the illness and the possibility of dying away from home. Brown was about to call for volunteers when the Principal, the Rev. Joseph Waterhouse, suggested that they go to their homes, talk with loved ones and pray about the possibility of a call from God. ‘Then’, he said, ‘we can meet again in the morning to take your answer then’. When the students met again in the morning the whole 83 expressed their willingness to go. It was an amazing sight and a testimony to the power of the Gospel in Fiji. Six of the married students and three single men were selected to go. That, however, was not the end of the matter! George Brown and the volunteers were summoned to Government House where the Administrator reminded the group that they were now British subjects and no missionary had any right to compel them to go to any place where they did not wish to go. He also outlined the dangerous nature of the task that was being undertaken. Then one of the Fijians, Aminio Baledrokadroka, spoke up for the group. He thanked His Honour for his advice but assured him that Mr Brown had told them of all the dangers and the Rev. Waterhouse had told them clearly that they were free to go or free to remain. Aminio then concluded with these stirring words:

But sir, we have fully considered this matter in our hearts; no one has pressed us in any way; we have given ourselves up to do God’s work, and our mind today, sir, is to go with Mr Brown  If we die, we die; if we live we live.

Many of them died!

George Brown and his party established their base in the Duke of York Islands off the coast of New Britain. When the mission ship returned to Australia George Brown knew that he had to stay with his Pacific island friends who had come with him on this New Mission. They had arrived on 15 August 1875and gradually built the trust of the people. Some of the chiefs agreed to have teachers. Little by little the people came to learn of the God of love who wanted them to live at peace with their neighbours. In 1878 on New Ireland some of the people said that before the lotu (the Gospel) came to them they were always at war but now they were almost forgetting how to fight. Any sense of satisfaction in the progress of the mission was shattered when on 6 April 1878 four of the Fijian workers – a minister, a young man helping him and two teachers were murdered, then the bodies dismembered, distributed and eaten. Their widows and children were terrified. The Chief involved sent the word that others in the party, traders in the area and George Brown himself would be next.

George Brown had to face the most difficult decision in his life. The traders were determined to mount a punitive expedition. The Fijian and Samoan teachers were determined to avenge the murder of their colleagues. George Brown was uncertain if his participation would put the new mission at risk or if non-participation would put the lives of the staff and his own family at risk. In the end he decided to join the punitive expedition when people were shot, houses were burned, coconut trees were cut down and gardens were destroyed. Of course there was no police force, no army. New Britain was a frontier community without the rule of law. The decision to participate would haunt Brown for years. He sent a full report to the Mission Board where his actions were hotly debated. In subsequent years he would have to face the Board in an attempt to explain his course of action.

The Blanche Bay Affair as it was known, was reported and discussed in the press in Sydney and well beyond. George Brown’s actions would also be debated in the New South Wales Conference and later in the General Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australasia. What concerned Brown so much was that people spoke out of the comfort of their situation without comprehending the dangers that Brown and others had faced. Brown also went to Fiji to the colonial headquarters of the High Commissioner of the Western Pacific. Even though the Chief Justice was keen to try Brown and even gaol him, the High Commission indicated that ‘yours is not such a case as ought to be prosecuted’. So Brown was free to go.

Despite all the heated debates and arguments it was clear that George Brown still had the confidence of the Church. Some years after he and Lydia had returned to Australia he was elected General Secretary for Missions in 1887. In 1891 he was elected President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in New South Wales and Queensland. In 1913 he was elected President General of the Methodist Church in Australasia.

During his years as General Secretary for Missions he was deeply involved in the preparation for, and then went with the original party to establish a mission in the islands at the eastern end of Papua New Guinea. That group led by Dr W. Bromilow and those who succeeded them, established a Church which today is known as the Papuan Islands Region of the United Church in Papua New Guinea. George Brown was similarly involved in 1902 in commencing the work in the Western Solomon Islands led by the Rev. John Goldie and which today forms the Bougainville Region of the UCPNG and the United Church in the Solomon Islands. Under his leadership, Miss Hannah Dudley went to Fiji to commence work among the families of the Indian labourers who had come to work in the cane fields of Fiji. Today it is the Indian Division of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma. George Brown not only kept pushing the boundaries of mission work geographically. He attempted, over several years to reconcile the divided Church in Tonga but was unsuccessful. He was a strong advocate for single women to serve as missionaries and to give leadership in the Church. He also promoted the establishment of a trained indigenous ministry and the involvement of indigenous lay people in the meetings and running of the Church. In Australia he advocated for the Union of the three branches of Methodism and for the wider Union of Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches.

Even with all he did within the life of the Church it would be a mistake to think that his interests were confined to that. He was a linguist, speaking several Pacific Island languages. He was an amateur anthropologist collecting a vast number of artefacts. His wish was that his collection should remain intact. After several locations in England it is today in the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka in Japan. George Brown recognised the value of photography and a collection of his photos is in the Australian Museum. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Divinity by McGill University in Canada.

A wonderful book, Pacific Missionary George Brown 1835-1917 Wesleyan Methodist Church by Margaret Reeson tells much more about this remarkable man and his wife. As it says on the cover of that book, after listing Brown’s many accomplishments, ‘He saw himself, at heart, a missionary’.

 Margaret Reeson

John Thomas

 The Rev. John Thomas (1797 – 1881) and his wife Sarah were sent by the Methodist Missionary Society in Great Britain to serve in Tonga. They were there from 1826 until 1850 and from 1856 until 1859. Even though John Thomas was not the first missionary to arrive in Tonga he is regarded by the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga as the Father of the Church.

John Thomas, the son of a blacksmith and a blacksmith himself, was very aware of his academic limitations. He wrote of himself in his personal journal,

my own rough and knotty mind . . . what a raw, weak and uncultivated wretch was I when I left our England.

 This self-deprecation appears quite frequently in his personal writing. Limited education he may have had, but he was an outstanding observer of life. He may not have had a sparkling personality, but he had great plodding persistence. Those qualities enabled him to write an amazing chronicle of the history of Tonga which covers a period prior to the arrival of European influences. He also records the establishment and growth of the Church.

He provides the genealogies of significant people, records the arrivals and departures of ships and geographical information about the Island group. It is evident that John Thomas had the confidence of the people for they shared their stories and beliefs with him.

While John and Sarah Thomas were in Sydney preparing to go to Tonga there was a lot of pressure put on him to remain in Sydney, to serve in one of the circuits there. He was, however, very clear in his own mind that the Mission Committee had appointed him to Tonga and to Tonga he would go. John and Sarah Thomas had tragedy in their lives when Mrs Thomas had a number of miscarriages. At last a son was born and named John. Nine years later tragedy struck again when the child died. Later when they returned to England, Mrs Thomas also died. When John remarried his new wife had a son but sadly that child too died when he was nine years of age. John Thomas lamented there was no one to pass his written material to. He thought he might destroy it. Fortunately, he did not and his History of Tonga is a goldmine of information for Tongan people and for students of Tongan history.

John Thomas was a very spiritual man and a number of stories have grown up around his life.  A Tongan preacher told the story of John Thomas landing on an island to share the gospel of Jesus. He knelt on the beach to pray. Even though the water lapped around him his trousers were not wet.

Some people would be critical of John Thomas because he was pivotal in many people forsaking their traditional gods and becoming followers of Jesus Christ. The value of that was indicated by a story written by John Thomas. A King was gravely ill and one of his sons was strangled to appease the gods and to facilitate his father’s recovery. Even though John Thomas worked relentlessly to bring change in Tonga and to have the people follow a new way, the way of Jesus, no one did more to record the beliefs and history and genealogy of the Tongan people. He believed that there would come a time when people would want to know their history and about their culture. When they did, John Thomas has recorded it for them.

He was truly the Father of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga.

by Rev John Mavor

MtE Update – 22 May 2020

  1. Our second quarter study groups are now underway, online for as long as we need to be before going back to face-to-face. The studies are an introduction to modern scholarly readings of the Old Testament using online an video and transcript resousrce — lots of new things to discover! It’s not too late to join in — see here for more information.
  2. Latest Synod eNews (May 21) is here.
  3. News from the Justice and International Mission Cluster (May 21)
  4. This week May 24 / Easter 7A we continue our 1 Peter series, looking at 3.8-22; this a couple of weeks behind where the lectionary is now with 1 Peter. Some background on part of this text is available here: 1 Peter 3:13-21; see also the By the Well podcast on this text
    Part of this text . The psalm and the gospel for the Sunday will be as set in the Lectionary, and some background can be found here
  5. A brief account of ministry of the saint(s) commemorated this Sunday can be found here: May 24 – John and Charles Wesley  

August 31 – Liyapidiny Marika O.A.M.

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.

20 – Liyapidiny Marika O.A.M., Christian pioneer

The Rev. Liyapidiny Marika was the first Yolngu woman (Aboriginal woman from the North East Arnhem region of Northern Territory) to be ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church in Australia.

She was born in 1945 at Yirrkala, then a Methodist Mission, into the Gumana family. There she grew up, married into the Marika family and raised three children. In 1970, she became a full time Health Worker among her own people. She devoted herself to this work and was awarded an O.A.M. in 1981 in recognition of her service. During these years, she was daily involved in the physical, mental and spiritual suffering of her people and her concern for their future welfare deepened.

At the same time, she was an Elder of the Yirrkala congregation and experienced God moving by the Holy Spirit in the lives of her people. This led her to resign her position as Health Worker in 1986 and begin training for the ordained ministry at Nungalinya College in Darwin. In September 1991 she was ordained as a Minister of the Word and took up placement in the Yirrkala Parish. As the first ordained Aboriginal woman, her ministry was not always accepted but she would say, “God called me, even though I am a woman, to do His Ministry.”

In her placement at Yirrkala, she worked hard, faithfully serving the people and reaching out with the message of God’s love to the whole community, even though at times she found the work difficult. Her gifts were recognised by the wider church and she provided leadership in Bible Studies, seminars and as a lecturer at Nungalinya College. Her insights through her teaching and preaching were well received and she was an inspiration to many people beyond her homeland.

She travelled widely and enjoyed fellowship with women of other cultures, sharing their joys and sorrows. In 1990 in Malaysia, she walked arm in arm with her Asian sisters teaching them her theme song “Bind us together, Lord”. Even though her Asian sisters knew no English, they learnt the song and its meaning as an expression of solidarity with their Yolngu sister. One of her greatest thrills was to travel to the Holy Land and retrace the steps of Jesus.

Throughout her ministry, she never ceased to give leadership and share love. She was a strong supporter of the role of women in leadership and in the ministry of the church, pioneering ordination for women among her own people. She died on 31st August 1998 having given herself unsparingly in service to her Lord and to her people.

Adapted from Northern Synod Memorial Minute October 1998.

August 31 – John Bunyan

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.

31 – John Bunyan, faithful servant

John Bunyan is best remembered for his allegorical novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress, but perhaps he should best be remembered as a fearless preacher.

Bunyan was born in November 1628 in Bedfordshire, England, at a time of religious unrest. Growing up, he had a reputation for enjoying life to the full, but he married a woman with a strong faith, and through her influence joined a local non-conformist church. The change from blasphemer to preacher intrigued the population of Bedford, and his preaching increased in popularity and power.

After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the meeting-houses of the non-conformists were closed by Act of Parliament, and preaching other than in authorized parish churches was forbidden. Bunyan, however, continued to preach throughout the countryside, and was arrested and gaoled for twelve years. It was while in prison that most of his books and articles were written.

Religious intolerance had meanwhile decreased, and after he was freed, he became a pastor, again spending much time preaching throughout the countryside. His boldness led him to be imprisoned for six months in 1675, and it was during this time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress

The spirit of God was so strong in Bunyan that he could not stop sharing the gospel no matter what the consequences. His boldness and confidence in God in all situations is reflected in his hymn “Who would true valour see” (TiS 561; AHB 467). John Bunyan’s life and works are remembered on 31st August.

Contributed by Ruth Slater

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