Pastoral Letter 118

Dear Members of St. Andrew’s Uniting Church, Friends and Adherents,

Grace and peace to you all.

As I write this pastoral letter, Australians are heading to the polls to cast their votes for the Federal elections to choose who will govern our country. I hope we and all Australians cast their votes after discerning well. As we wait for the results, let’s continue to pray and seek God’s blessing and wisdom for those who will be elected, because regardless which party wins and assumes the responsibility of governing our country, they will need wisdom to steer the ship and help Australia move forward.

If you will not be able to join us at our face-to-face service, you can worship with us at home. Please light a candle and follow the attached Order of Service.

Be safe and well, continue to pray, remembering those who need care, support and love and let us know if any member of the congregation that you know of needs our help and prayers.

Here are some more prayer points for this week:

  1. Pray for the Federal elections and the government elected.
  2. Pray for Robyn Irwin, as she recovers from the fall she had last weekend, with broken nose and skin grafted hand.
  3. Pray for the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, the struggling and the stressed.
  4. Pray for world peace and ask for God’s blessings.
  5. Pray for the hope that God gives.

Please let me know if you or anyone else has prayer points.

Best Regards,



Open Heart and Open Home

Acts 16:6-15

How do we live a life that would fulfil the desire we have and to live that life according to the will of God?

The answer is found in the Acts passage today, as we look at Lydia and Paul. Our answer is found in the words said of Lydia: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and her household were baptized, she invited us to her home”.

Let us rejoice, for God opens our hearts!

Prior to the arrival of Paul and his companions to Philippi, Lydia and her friends did not know anything of Christ, or believe in Him and take Him as Lord, unless it was bestowed in their hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit.

Unless we realize that God came down to us to reveal Himself to us, any searching for Him will be in vain – it will be worthless.

But we can rejoice – for this lady and her household, even the entire province of Macedonia was not forgotten by God. God brought to her, alongside the river, someone whose words would tell of God’s attitude towards her, of His love, mercy and desire to make her His. That gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit would break through and open her heart to the message of His love; it would call her into a relationship with Him.

The prophet Ezekiel – looking forward hundreds of years to the coming of the messiah, prophesied:

I will gather you from the foreign nations and bring you home. I will sprinkle you with clean water, and you will be clean and acceptable to me. I will wash away everything that makes you unclean, and I will remove your disgusting idols. I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts, because I will put my Spirit in you and make you eager to obey my laws and teachings. 28 You will once again live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God”. (36:24-28)

That is what happened to Lydia as she heard the gospel, and the news Paul was called to bring to her and her people. She and her entire household would be cleansed from their sin, and they would know that they had become new creations, created to be God’s people.

Let us rejoice – for God has opened hearts of people, and become their God, even as He washes them clean – that they would be His people.

We see God working in the same way in the life of Paul. Paul was sworn to oppose God’s will for man, to work against people sharing Christ’s work in their lives. Yet God would open his heart and Paul too would be baptized.

That isn’t the only time God affects Paul’s heart. In this vision – in this vivid and credible experience, Paul knows a major change of direction is necessary – that God wants him in a different place. The words of the vision are incredible – the Macedonian man is using the title for the Holy Spirit here – he calls to Paul to be a Paraclete – Greek: παράκλητος, Latin: paracletus, means ‘advocate’ or ‘helper’. In Christianity, the term paraclete most commonly refers to the Holy Spirit. To quickly come alongside and lift those who are unable to stand on their own. To respond to their call for help. The vision begs for good news, and Paul sets aside everything to respond to God’s call.

God calls us alongside them as well, to be their paracletes. We are blessed to see God’s work, it is amazing, and it is so often just being there that we find ourselves in the midst of the work. For it is not Paul that opened Lydia’s heart – it is the Holy Spirit, working through Paul’s words.

Let us rejoice – for God opened Paul’s heart even as He opens our hearts to those who need the gospel.

We see this in action – this opening of man’s hearts, in the gospel lesson at the pool. The man had lain there for years, in pain, and suffering, without any assistance, unable to call upon any for help, He needed more than just a friend, he needed to be healed, to be made whole. Like Lydia – he didn’t know where to find the help – until the help came to Him.

The question Jesus asks him cuts right to the heart. No excuses, no distractions, no waiting for some other help. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus doesn’t lift him and help him get to the water. Jesus heals him, even as the man confesses, he has neither the strength, nor the help. The heart is opened, the words heard, the healing takes place.

That is what the cross is all about! Jesus doing what is necessary to heal our deepest hurts, our most troubling guilt and shame. The cross is about the scars of our failures, the sins that seem to be unstoppable. It is the answer to the prayer. We, the clay in the hands of the potter have been made new. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts, cleanses out the sin, and makes the heart whole and alive. We are welcome into the presence of our God, knowing He has marked us as His people – and invites us to dine, to commune with Him.

Let us rejoice – for God has indeed opened our hearts and healed them!

Our opened hearts know His peace!

Our open hearts are transformed – for even as we struggle with sin still, there will be a day when that too will end. When we will see God face to face and no one – nothing can prevent that – for God is our God, and we are His people.

For what God did in Lydia’s life – bringing to her the word and opening her ears to hear the good news, for what God does in Paul’s life, which resulted in Paul’s salvation and being there with the same news for Lydia’s household, and the healing He brought to the man poolside – He has done in our lives as well. Let’s hear this, through His word and sacraments, God has shown us – He is our God, and we are His people.

May our hearts be cleansed by God, and our minds rest in Christ Jesus, and may that rest be so peaceful that it is beyond understanding. For that is the Father’s gift to us as well!