“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
The quote above is from Saint Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonica, but it could have been lifted from Norman Vincent Peale’s, “Power of Positive Thinking”.
I find these words annoying. I think I’m a pretty positive guy most of the time, but I’ve had a tough week. One of my children isn’t speaking to me. The war on Gaza has resumed in full force. I’m struggling to keep our beloved campsite, Binacrombi, going, and I’ve just lost my job running the boxing program at the PCYC.
I’m still in shock about the PCYC. I’ve been putting in at least two nights per week there for the last couple of months and I felt we were really building something of value. It seems that the upper management has changed strategy and has leased the gym to a third party. My services are no longer required.
Yes, it’s been a hard week, and the last thing I need is Krusty the Clown cycling in and telling me to turn my frown upside-down! OK, it’s Saint Paul and not Krusty. Even so, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” sounds rather glib today. What would you know, Paul?
This letter to the church in Thessalonica was probably the first piece of Christian Scripture published. If the New Testament had been written as a blog, these lines would have been from the first post. Paul was a relatively young man at this stage. He’d just had his awesome Damascus Road experience. No wonder he felt positive.
I start to think along these lines and then I remember another very similar passage from Saint Paul:
“Rejoice in the Lord always: Again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:4-6)
These words come from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, which was most likely the last letter Paul ever wrote. He was in prison when he wrote to the Philippians, anticipating his imminent execution, and quite possibly chained to a soldier as he wrote. Even so, Paul had somehow maintained his positivity!
These two passages are like bookends, bracketing the whole life and work of Saint Paul between two outbursts of joy. And it’s not as if Paul’s interim experience was a series of parties. As he wrote to the church in Corinth:
“Five times I received the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure…” (2 Corinthians 11:24-29)
I feel I’ve been on a similar path since I started following Jesus, though I’m a long way behind Paul. I was almost drowned off Manus Island, mobbed and almost killed by angry settlers outside Ashkelon Prison in Israel. I’ve been in areas where mortar shells have been landing, missiles fired and bombs going off (in Syria), and I’ve certainly had my fair share of ‘false brothers’ and sleepless nights. None of these things makes me want to rejoice though. What was it with Paul?
Paul kept his eye on the big picture. He firmly believed that Jesus was going to return and straighten everything out. Indeed, it seems that the worse things got, the more strongly he believed it. That changes your perspective on everything.
Yes, there are terrible things happening in Gaza at the moment, yet the Lord is at hand and the day is coming when “He will judge between the nations and settle their disputes. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4)
Yes, we struggle to hold on to our jobs, to pay our bills, and to keep our families together, but the Lord is at hand and the day will soon be here when “the wolf will lie down with the lamb … and the lion will eat straw like the ox. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11)
This week brings us to the third Sunday in Advent – a day traditionally celebrated as the ‘Sunday of ‘Joy’. This joy is built on hope (the theme of the first Sunday in Advent). It’s not about ‘always looking on the bright side of life’. The joy Paul speaks of is built on the conviction that very soon things will get a whole lot better. Jesus will return. Justice will come. Every tear will be wiped away.
It’s hard to keep the fire of hope burning. We fall on tough times, the fire smoulders, hope fails, and joy evaporates. Even so, Paul is praying for us:
“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Our Sunday Eucharist
Last Sunday was a National Day of action for Palestine, and we took the opportunity to display some banners forwarded to us by the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN).
The banners carried messages such as “End the Genocide in Gaza” and “Cease Fire Now”. Mark updated us on the situation in Israel/Palestine, leading to a fruitful group discussion. It’s all in the video below, along with plenty of spirited commentary on the Biblical texts.
This Sunday I’ll have both Karyn Hemming and Andrew Logan on the panel with me, and hope to have another pre-recorded contribution from our brother in Sweden, Father Ola. Join us from midday at www.thesundayeucharist.com, or connect . through Facebook , YouTube, Twitter, LinkedInor Streamyard.
I look forward to sharing this Eucharist with you. 😊
Let me work your corner
Middleweight – $10/month (community mentoring)
- Enrol in the Fighting Fit training program
- Access member-only training videos
- Engage in the members-only forum
Super-Middleweight $50/month (remote mentoring)
- All of the above +
- One-on-one mentoring via email, phone, or Skype
Heavyweight – $100/month (in-person mentoring)
- All of the above +
- Training with Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy
Superheavyweight – $200/month (intensive in-person mentoring)
- All of the above +
- One weekend per month at Binacrombi Bush Camp.
Every dollar helps keep the wheels turning – the websites, the newsletters, the broadcasts, the boxing club and the bush camp. Sign up at Patreon.com.
- Saturday, December 16th – 11am boxing session @ Legends in Kensington.
- Sunday, December 17th– Our Eucharist from email@example.com (or through Facebook , YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or Streamyard).
- Monday, December 18th –A Free Julian Assange webinar – 6 to 7 pm. Register here or connect via Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn
- Saturday, December 23rd – my fight on the Gold Coast
You’ll notice that there are no boxing training sessions scheduled for next week. Apparently, the boxing room at Balmain PCYC always closes this time of year anyway. Either way, for the reasons I gave above, I won’t be going back. This is heart-breaking for me, especially as I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to all the wonderful people I trained with there. I thank God for each of them and I pray for each of them. I can only hope that we’ll touch gloves again soon at a fresh location.
That fresh location may well turn out to be Legends Gym in Kensington again. They’ve invited our team to train there again, and even to join them for their Christmas party! Indeed, Legends have shown themselves once again to have a real heart for the community.
You would think that government institutions (like PCYC’s) and churches could be counted on to put the needs of the community ahead of profit. Sadly, my experience has been the opposite. Large government and ecclesiastical institutions tend to be controlled by their bottom lines. It’s small businesses with inspired leadership teams like Legends that have the freedom to follow their vision and make a real difference!
Of course, I’ve got a fight coming up on Saturday, so I’ll need to find places to train this week. If you’re available to train with me, let me know. We’ll find a gym where we can train, and where I can put in sufficient rounds to be ready for next Saturday.
As I’ve said, I don’t expect anyone to come to the Gold Coast to watch my fight. I’m not sure if it’s being live broadcast but if it is, I will let you know in a separate email. Either way, the story about the fight has gone out on the newswire so I’m hoping for some good publicity. By God’s grace, this fight will lead to a contract for a series of paid fights that will get me back on my feet financially and help keep Binacrombi afloat as well. The issue is in God’s hands. I will give it everything I’ve got.
Speaking of men who give their all, we held a wonderful rally for our brother, Julian Assange, last weekend. I’ve created a post on www.fatherdave.com.au with videos of three of the speeches embedded – one from me, one from Julian’s dad, John, and one from our beloved brother, Tom Toby. Click here for my record of that great event.
As a follow-up to that rally, and to keep the momentum for Julian’s freedom going, we’ll be broadcasting a webinar this Monday evening between 6 and 7 pm (Sydney time) entitled, Free Julian Assange Now. The webinar will feature four people:
- John Shipton – Julian’s dad
- Adriana Navarro – one of Julian’s lawyers
- Con Pakavakis – chair of the Writers for Peace Committee
That’s enough from me today. As I’ve said, it’s been a hard week, and yet, at the same time, I’ve had my darling daughter, Imogen, up from Melbourne this week and it’s been wonderful to spend more time with her. Perhaps living with joy is all about perspective and reminding ourselves of our blessings.
I had one friend who tried to discipline his thoughts in this regard by setting up a ‘positivity jar’. Every time he said something negative or had a negative thought, he’d put a coin in the jar. The problem though, he told me, was that his jar always seemed half empty. 🤣
May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
Your brother in the Good Fight,