A sermon given on the 150th Anniversary of the Bourke Street Methodist Church.
John Eagar has told of Edward Eagar, the converted convict who became a founding father of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Australia.
Rev Eric Clancy told the story of the 150 years of this Bourke St Church. It has been through many renewals and new beginnings. The last 30 years of the nineteenth century saw it as one of the strongest Methodist Churches in Sydney. Then from 1904 it was a suburban mission running people's entertainment and a benevolent society to help the poor. From 1911 it ran after-church films until World War 1. It also conducted a free kindergarten for local residents. For many years, even with declining membership, it saw the ordination of Methodist ministers. It was a large church, capable a huge crowds. It was a solid church with a great history.
In 1974 Wesley Mission decided under Rev Dr Alan Walker to build a new centre for the homeless here. Don Wright and Eric Clancey's book on "The Methodists" indicates we built a six story building behind the church. But we did something more imaginative than that. We built below the church, through the church, and above the church, not touching the heritage protected exterior, and re-instating the interior balcony. The pipe organ was sold to the Uniting Church in Wollongong. A seven storey residential, day centre and treatment centre for Sydney's homeless people now grows up through the old building and from here a marvellous ministry in community housing, alcohol rehabilitation and community restoration takes place now in about thirty different buildings, farms and units.
It was my task as Superintendent to finish this building, open it, aid Rev Noreen Towers in designing the program in it, give it a name, and then settle down for the hard task of paying for it. Rev Colin Wood served us wonderfully over twentyone years to make this place a first rate centre of care.
The name was easy. I had felt it unjust that all the other founding fathers of the Methodist Church had memorials named after them, Edward Eagar had no memorial. Eric Clancy told me it was because the church was embarrassed about Edward Eagar's convict origins, and because in the long case in London, he lived with a young woman who became his wife, while back in Sydney, Mrs Eagar had moved in with William Charles Wentworth in Macquarie St. I knew Edward Eagar was an important man in Australian history. He was our first non-Government lawyer. He was an example of an emancipated convict who made good. He was the person who won for all Australians, trial by jury, the right to hold office after completing a sentence for a crime, and helped in gaining votes for all men. His also aided the Methodist Church, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Sydney Benevolent Society, missions to overseas countries and to Aborigines and many community activities. So we gave this his name.
The paying for Edward Eagar Lodge was not easy. The overruns on the costs of building, led to heated discussions with Kell and Rigby, the builders. Eventually we agreeed. Senator Margaret Guilfoyle opened the building, July 15th 1979. It had cost $1.9 million. It took years of work to raise that money to pay for this building, and the debt almost made all our other work impossible and crippled the Mission.
Edward Eagar Lodge is a centre for helping people become new. We are in the people recycling business! Australia is becoming inundated with a layer of junk. Even in the Simpson Desert, the most remote, inhospitable part of Australia, there are plastic bags blowing in the wind and empty beer cans. We are also doing it internationally, polluting the air with fluorocarbons and insecticides in the outer ozone area, creating problems for the future. In outer space more than 14,000 spent rocket and satellite pieces are moving around in endless orbit. Almost every seabed of the world has layers of junk. In every fresh water stream on earth flows effluent from our pesticides. Waste human, domestic, industrial is one of mankind's largest problems.
People pay a high price collecting things: things they drive, store, keep, buy and build. Things which in a few short years will also become junk. Acquiring, keeping and paying for possessions causes many people to suffer a wide range of stress related illnesses. We need to hear that clear word from Jesus: "Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions."
Many people need to be recycled. Their lives ought to be remade and renewed. One of the glories of the gospel is that you can become a brand new person. You can recycle your life and have a brand new life in Jesus Christ. Those of us who are Christians have traded in our old lives and have a new life in return from God. God can make you different, working from the inside out. He reconciles you with His people. He gives you a new life, a new beginning. He enables you to be recycled! What a thought! Trade in the old. Become brand new again!
Paul wrote to the Ephesians encouraging them to start new lives, to get rid of their old lives with their habits, attitudes, and immorality, and take instead new lives with new attitudes and behaviour patterns. That emphasis upon personal morality, of living sanctified lives, is not very popular today.
Since World War II, preachers have been talking about changing social patterns, economic injustice, and multicultural rights. It is time for a new call, back to a standard of personal sanctification and morality. We need to return ethics in business, politics, commerce and personal living. The Bible makes it clear the prophetic ministry is always based upon personal morality. If you want to say what the world should do, first you ought to be an example of it in your own life. Our personal lifestyle must be an example of integrity and quality. Paul set before us an interesting challenge.
1. REJECT THE GODLESS LIFE
Paul says Eph 4:17 "I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do." The Gentiles did not believe in the Jewish God. Paul says you must reject the godless life. Paul is giving us direct counselling. It is fashionable to be non directive and nonjudgemental. But Paul directs "you must no longer live as the Gentiles do." What troubles Paul about the godless is "the futility of their thinking for they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." Paul says if your mind is darkened, your thoughts are futile and this will effect how you behave.
2. A JESUS CHRIST THAT CAN REMOVE OUR GUILT.
Aware of our sin, we carry guilt until that is removed from us. Jesus Christ illuminates our sin, and removes it from us. His spotless life makes ours shabby by comparison. But His sinless death removes our sin and enables us to live like His spotless life. Jesus said: 16 "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ... 25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."
We would not be alone. He was giving us the Holy Spirit to counsel, comfort and encourage us. With the Holy Spirit within, our guilt is removed and our lives are enhanced by His grace and gifted by His Spirit that we might better serve. Only the Jesus Christ of the scriptures can remove our guilt.
3. A JESUS CHRIST THAT CAN DEFEAT OUR DEATH.
The consequences of sin is death. We know that without God's intervention we have no hope of eternal life. The combined weight of our good deeds can never outweigh the consequences of our alienation from Him. Death is inevitable. But Jesus Christ defeats death. 19 "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." Because He lives, we shall live also. Only the Jesus Christ of the scriptures can defeat our death.
Many do not realise what we are reaping, because they have been alienated from God, narrowed in mind, hardened of heart, and licentious in behaviour. This Church and ministry is today in the geographical centre of public licentiousness and we commend Rev Noreen Towers and our manager of Edward Eagar Lodge these many years, David Pocklington for their commitment to helping people in a bad way after the Sleaze Ball, held each October and in the aftermath of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
2. REMEMBER THE MATCHLESS LIFE.
Here is a male model for men who do not know whom to follow. There is a male model for confused teenagers. He is Jesus Christ. The greatest thing you can ever learn is the truth. The more you can understand what is true, the more your mind will be illuminated and the more you can be open minded. So make sure you start with the truth. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Paul tells us to remember what we learnt of Christ, what we heard about Him. 21 "Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus." Jesus Christ cared for people. He was not selfish. He cared for others. That is the basis of our ministry here.
3. RENEW YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE.
Notice how Paul puts it. v2224 Paul talks about putting off your old life and putting on your new life. In the early church people came to baptism wearing their old clothes which symbolised their old ways and habits. They put off their old garments and were baptised into Christ.
When they were raised up out of the water they put on new, white, clean garments as a symbol that they had put on a new lifestyle. So Paul writes: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."
"Put off your old self..." That is blunt. That is directive. Jesus Christ saved you. He died on the Cross for you. He did it for you and you can appropriate it for yourself. Then "..be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." They are the marks of your new life as a Christian truth, righteousness and holiness. You have a new mind, a new thought pattern, therefore you have new behaviour. Because Jesus Christ has cleansed you by His death upon the cross, He now equips and empowers you through the Holy Spirit to lead a new life that is true, upright and holy.
Can you see why you need to recycle your life, to get rid of the old life and its habits, desires and thoughts; a life that is alienated from God, narrowed in its thinking, hardened in its heart, licentious in its behaviour, and put on a new life that is like that of Jesus Christ, a life that is true, upright and holy?
That is the life Jesus Christ offers you. Recycle your old life and become a brand new person. Be acceptable to God, clean, holy and just. Accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord.
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