Artist’s impression of Castle Towers after development
The Hills are set for massive change, in lots of ways.
The train line, so long promised, is being built. The forecast is for 100 000 people to be moving in in the next 20 years or so.
And one of the stations will be down the road from the church where I serve, St Paul’s Castle Hill. Literally down the road – less than 1km away. It will incorporated into a massive redevelopment of Castle Towers, a shopping centre that is already huge.
This story, from today’s local paper, states that the completed redevelopment will mean a floor space of 173,683 sq m., and bring an estimated 2500 extra jobs into the region.
The redeveloped Castle Towers from Old Northern Rd.
The challenge before us a church is thinking into the future – what do all of these developments mean for St Paul’s? And how can we make the most of them for the future? We are working hard at these questions right now.
In a Christian community, everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship.
… Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), Life Together , tr. Daniel W. Bloesch & James H. Burtness, Fortress Press, 2004, p. 95-96 (see the book)
Body, therefore, affirms the biblical tradition of a positive attitude toward physicality as a condition for experiencing life in its fullness, but also assimilates, subsumes, and transcends the role of the physical in the public domain of earthly life.
Hence it would be appropriate to conceive of the raised body as a form or mode of existence of the whole person including every level of intersubjective communicative experience that guarantees both the continuity of personal identity and an enhanced experience of community which facilitates intimate union with God in Christ and with differentiated “others” who also share this union.
If the marriage bond, e.g., ceases at death, this is also not because the the resurrection body offers any “less,” but because interpersonal union is assimilated and subsumed into a “more” that absorbs exclusivity but “adds” a hitherto unimagined death.
Such mutuality of union and respect for difference, however, presupposes a “pattern of existence controlled and directed by the Holy Spirit“, and a mode of existence designed by God for the new environment of the eschatological new creation.
(emphasis his, paragraph spacing mine)
Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 2000), 1279.
Every Christian community must know that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the community.
Life Together, 96
Last Sunday was an amazing experience at church. 400 or so people from church gathered for a meeting in the afternoon. These people are volunteers for the Carols by Candlelight event that St Paul’s is hosting next Sunday.
As the meeting came to a close, a couple of cracks of thunder, the heavens opened, and hail the size of golf balls pounded the site. Everyone gathered outside to watch their vehicles in the carpark get their own golf-ball like dimples. (It was over in 10 minutes, and the sun came out!).
The same storm killed the power, not only of St Paul’s, but of all of Castle Hill. All of our electric amps and keyboards, powerpoint screens and microphones were rendered useless. So, as 5pm church approached, our musos rose to the challenge. They ditched the songs they had been rehearsing all afternoon, and worked out songs that they could lead with just acoustic guitars and pianos, and that enough people would know how to sing without words on a screen. They pulled it off beautifully. Pray-ers, bible readers and the preacher rediscovered the lost art of voice projection, and the congregation cooperated by moving seats to reduce the range.
The ante was upped for the 7pm service. At about 6.15, we realised that light in the building was fading fast. Again, people sprang into action, finding and setting up candles on the stage. The noise was stripped right back, but the singing was fired right up. The candles flickered, punctuating the night as the preacher wandered the stage speaking God’s word into the darkness.
And the text for the day?
For you were once darkness, but now you are a light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:8-9.
God is awesome, and it was great to see the fruit of His Spirit as people bound together to serve each other and to praise His holy name. Unforgettable.
A reflection on Phil 2:1-4 from Carson:
‘…Paul asks us if there have been times in our lives when as believers we have sensed God close to us; when we’ve been aware of his love in tremendous, scarcely describable ways; when we have revelled in the sense of belonging to the fellowship of God’s people; when we’ve received wonderful encouragemnt as a ‘benefit’ of the fact that we are Christians. This is, quite bluntly, an appeal to experience.
But if these facets of normal Christian living have been part your experience, you must recongnise that a great deal of that experience has come about because other Christians have mediated God’s grace to you. They have loved you, cherished you, encouraged you, made you feel part of the partnership of the redeemed. What this means for you as a Christian is that you owe the same to others. And if you recognise this point and live by it you will excite the apostle’s joy: ‘…then [he writes] make my joy complete by being like-minded [i.e. adopting the same stance as those who have ministered to you, having the same love [i.e. as that shown to you], being one in spirit and purpose [i.e. the entire church is to reflect this same precious, Christ-honouring, God-fearing, self-denying, other-edifiying stance]’.
And in case this is not cast in terms that are sufficiently practical, Paul spells his point out: ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (2:3-4).’
D.A.Carson, Basics for Believers (Leicester: IVP, 1995), 57-8.
Some thought provoking comments from a book I’ve just got hold of called ‘Total Church’:
“The church, then, is not something additional or optional. It is at the very heart of God’s purposes. Jesus came to create a people who would model what it means to live under his rule. It would be a glorious outpost of the kingdom of God: an embassy of heaven. This is where the world can see what it means to be truly human.
Our identity as human beings is found in community, Our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community. And our mission takes place through communities of light. Christianity is ‘total church’.
If you warm to this vision of Christian community then start where you are. Sell the vision by modelling the vision. Don’t become a pain to your exisiting congregation, telling them everything they are doing is wrong. Become a blessing by offering hosptitality, shopwing practical care, dropping in on people. Create around you a group of Christians who will share their lives and encourage one another in the faith.
You might start with your home group. Often home groups are little more than a meeting. Make yours a community by acting like a community. You don’t have to mount a campaign for change – just get on with it and make community infectious. Create asomething that other people want to be a part of. And think about whether you could establish a context in which people in your church can hang out together and invite unbeleiving friends: something like a regular cafe night, an open home or football practice.”
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church: A radical reshaping around gospel and community (Nottingham: IVP, 2007), 48.