Christmas 2019

Every Christmas and Easter, one of my duties as State Leader for Tasmanian Baptists is to write a short reflection for the Mercury Newspaper.

There is much to like about Christmas —the office parties and gift giving; the decorations and carol singing; the good cheer and even the family gatherings if we are fortunate enough.

Some people today would be surprised to know that most of this comes from our Judeo-Christian past. Even though many have moved away from church and belief, and there are increasing numbers of people calling themselves non-religious, Christmas remains a deeply religious season. It seems that while our minds can’t make sense of it rationally, and we would be quick to deny it, there are times when we experience something resembling faith. It may not be belief, so much, but something deep and profound. Maybe there is something spiritual about Christmas after all? Continue reading “Christmas 2019”

The Challenge of Grace

At Hobart Baptist Church we are just about to the end of series titled ‘Challenging Church.’  Over the past few months we’ve focussed on some of the ways the church is being challenged in our society.

Candles and Cross
Jesus called his disciples to be the
“light of the world”

Not only are the rapid changes bringing disorientation but there are many that are loudly proposing that the church is irrelevant and has no place in today’s world. This calls for increasing courage and reliance on the Holy Spirit to enable us to stand and face these challenges.
But in addition to these challenges, the church itself is in turn called to be a challenge to the world. Jesus called his disciples to be the “light of the world” – a people living an alternative to the world, grounded in faith and repentance where we acknowledge . . .
Read More >>>

Grace Washes

There are times when I lose sight of how much God loves me and how wonderful his grace is. Don’t you? When I do, I sometimes read again one of my favourite authors Robert Farrar Capon.
For many years an American Episcopal priest who later turned author, Capon wrote over 20 books. His favourite theme was the grace of God and once wrote, “My life is a witness to vulgar grace–a grace that amazes as it offends.” By describing God’s grace as “vulgar”, Capon was trying to illustrate that God’s grace is something we struggle to really understand and fully accept. When Paul writes, “Nothing separates us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38) we hesitate over the “nothing” and wonder if there is a breaking point where God will say that’s enough and give up on us. We struggle to believe that God doesn’t, and will never, hold any IOUs against us.

She washes the mud off with water: Sin is the mud,
the mother is acting like Jesus, and grace is the water

In a lovely illustration that you’ve probably heard before, Capon tells of the love of a mother whose child comes home covered in mud. What does she do? She washes the mud off without spending a moment wondering whether she should ask the child if he or she wants to continue live with the mud all over them. As a mother who loves her child, she just washes it off, and will continue to wash it off saying, “This is my son, and I will stick with him.”

The point is that sin is just like mud.

The point is that sin is just like mud. We’re covered in it but Jesus washes it away. That is how God’s grace works. Sin is no longer a problem for God, neither when I first believed nor today. Sin is finished business dealt with on the cross, and the grace is good for all my life. Sin, Capon suggests, is now a “permanent irrelevancy”.
Even as I write those words I can some of you reading saying, “but… but…!” But there are no “buts.” As Capon writes, “This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”
One of the mistakes Christians easily make is to think that although we are saved by grace, once we are saved then things change and we now need to earn God’s acceptance by sticking to the rules. But it is not true. I need God’s grace today as much as I did the day I first believed.
It’s not that sin doesn’t matter, it matters greatly. It’s just that God’s grace and forgiveness is so much greater that nothing (not even my own sin) can separate me from the love of God. Now that is worth remembering, and often!
Stephen L Baxter