Homily: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon us…

..For he has anointed us to bring good news to the afflicted, to proclaim liberty to captives, to bring new sight to the blind, to set the down trodden free, and proclaim the Lords favour … “ Luke 4: 16-19 

Friends I want to share three messages with you today- the first being the importance of the Word of God, the second being the importance of the Power of the Holy Spirit and the thirdy a reflection on the mission that we have to bring good news to others.

I hope you were uplifted by tonight’s Gospel reading of Jesus announcing his mission, by echoing the words of Isaiah 61. It is a key piece of Scripture. I saw this Gospel being played out in modern day Nazareth a few years ago on a study tour to the Holy Land. In the centre of Nazareth they have reconstructed for educational purposes , a village complete with real people in period costume , animals, buildings and crops, depicting life as in the time of Jesus, giving insight into the context of his messages.

As part of the educational program, it was explained to us how shortly after Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan and spent a 40 day retreat up in the hills, he returned to his home town of Nazareth – an obscure Jewish community planted in Gentile territory. We were taken to a re-creation of the synagogue where Jesus would have worshipped. An actor representing Jesus then came into the synagogue, picked up the scroll of Isaiah and proclaimed this liberating scripture with power and gusto. There was acclamation all around. However he then went on and explained that this Gospel was not just about the Jewish people, this message was meant for all people, especially the Gentiles that lived in that area. Some people in the crowd were unhappy with this and demanded that he be ejected. Jesus headed off down to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee where he started gathering disciples and commencing his ministry of preaching and healing to all.

This re- enactment experience had a powerful impact upon me. It touched my soul. And it continues to inspire me today to a ministry of compassion to others. What we have heard in the scripture today is really Jesus manifesto – what his whole purpose is about – a mission statement for all Christians to embrace, particularly in this year of Mercy.

Jesus didn’t come to build churches schools or hospitals. He came to initiate a mindset of transforming mission. The church enables the mission, but the missionary outcome of transformed lives always has to be our focus. Pope Francis echoes this approach every day.

This scriptural story can be an inspiration for us all, because the Spirit of the Lord is available to all of us, to help us deal with any challenge in life. We were all anointed with holy oil at our baptism and confirmation, to be people who bring good news to people, and help the afflicted, to help people see the love of God in us.

This is spiritual power in these words of Jesus. Of course, many other scriptural passages that can give us inspiration too. Our first reading told us how in the time of Ezra, the people listened all day to the Word of God which was translated by him into practical application . Our Archbishop Mark is a scripture scholar and is always encouraging us to to be nourished by scripture. We can feed on the Word of God like daily bread. It truly can give us life. Indeed if we are not receiving some daily scriptural input we could be spiritually undernourished. I’ll give you a brief personal example of how I respond to this. Some of you would know that my current ministry is to provide pastoral care to war veterans and their families through the ministry called Veterans Care, This scripture passage inspires us to do what we do. We have a ministry team of young service people who go out and engage with veterans and their families, and share good news with them. We remind them that they are loved and can be healed and restored to wholeness; that they can be liberated from the behaviours and addictions that might limit them. It is not easy work. Many veterans now have significant disabilities and dysfunctional family situations, and humanly we could be discouraged from thinking we could achieve much at all.

But I know the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit will lift us and guide us in ways that will help us to help those in need. Every morning, I pray the Prayer of the Church and reflect on the scriptures of the day. I then send out to my pastoral team on Facebook, a message from one of the scriptural texts for the day. I keep reminding them that this ministry, indeed any ministry, needs to be spiritually and scripturally based. We can do very little without the power of the Holy Spirit, and to get in touch with the Holy Spirit we need to be inspired by the word of God. And of course the result is that day by day we see God at work in healing the lives of the needy, and sustaining us in commitment.

Friends there are many, many missions, any many, many needs in our community and it is my hope and prayer that each one of us here will continue to see that we have a particular role to play in Gods great mission. As we become aware of what Gods daily mission is for us, I just pray that we will call to mind that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, ready to empower us to bring hope, healing, and love to those around us. This mission that Jesus took up is our mission too. It is certainly my hope that all of us here will be aware more aware of the significance of the nourishment available in the Word of God, be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, and be people with a mindset of being missionaries that bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us.

Friends , The Spirit of the Lord is upon us … Let us rejoice and be glad.

February 2016: Update on Veterans Care Activities

Support for Veterans & their Families

We were hoping the Christmas/New year period would  be quiet but it has involved  a wide range of engagement and significant pastoral care interventions.  We have had numerous requests for assistance as well as the emergence of new and exciting possibilities.

Our Raison d’etre is providing spiritually-based pastoral care as well as education in holistic health, but we have also seen a number of families seeking assistance in crisis. We have been helping families and abused and abandoned by abberant veterans, including assistance in court actions. One family member responded, “I didn’t know how I could get through the court proceeding but knowing that you and Caitlin were there has given me hope.” (more…)

Homily – The Family

Luke 2:41 -52 “….Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and lived under their authority . He grew in wisdom and strength and God was pleased with him….”.

We come together today to celebrate the holy family of Jesus Mary and Joseph but also to celebrate the human families that we live in and the sacredness of family life.

We are mindful that not all families experience joy and peace at Christmas time, as some will be concerned about what s missing in their family experience. But drawing on the scriptures,  tradition and lived experience,  I would hope to encourage us all to promote and  enjoy family life. (more…)

Christmas Message

We wish you all have a joyous and happy Christmas , particularly remembering the reason for the season – that God became one of us in the person of Jesus.

The work of VCA in raising the health of the Veteran community is a compassionate ministry of love that is grounded in the love of God that inspires us to love our neighbours in distress. (more…)

Nov 2015: Update on Veterans Activities

This last quarter of the year has seen us involved in a wide range of engagement. It has also been a period where we have become aware of how wide and complex the needs of our veterans and their families are. We have had numerous requests for assistance as well as many people suggesting additional things that we could be involved in.

Our Raison d’etre has been to provide spiritually based pastoral care as well as education in holistic health. In working with veterans and their families we have tried to encourage people to take self-responsibility in building resilience in their lives once they are empowered with the information to do this. (more…)

Post Traumatic Healing & Growth – a Matter of life or Death

From the experiences of Chaplain Gary Stone

Synopsis: If we can better understand health and disease, and choose to be proactive in a holistic health programme, we can counter distress, develop resilience, and maintain wellbeing in the longer term. The experiences of life are great teachers Over many years as a Chaplain to the Royal Australian Regiment Association and as a member of the RSL , I have received too many notices of the death of veterans, dying in their 40s , 50s and 60s, mostly from cancer , but dying well before the age that they should have the lived to.

Like my other brethren in the veterans community, the early passing of these friends saddened me but I did not consider that much could be done about it. Additionally many of these men had struggled for many years with a plethora of other health issues stemming from their military service. (more…)

President’s Report Nov 2015

Written by President: Gary Stone

A little over a year ago at a Man Alive breakfast I shared the complex health challenges that faced many veterans and their families.

I explained that there had been neither formal church response to the situation nor any church funding likely, but that I was committed to introducing some spiritual response to the situation. Geoff Fry spoke up and said that he thought some people from the St Johns Wood The Gap parish would like to support a response. Rob Vicary added that some governance structures could be put in place along the lines of a tax-deductible charitable organisation and several others said they would like to make financial donations to this work.

From these humble beginnings we now have in place a tax deductible public benevolent institution that has over the past year provided educational awareness on veteran’s health to thousands of veterans and their families, as well as an individual pastoral care to hundreds with specific needs. We have developed a truly holistic team of members that include medical doctors, a psychologist, an exercise physiologist, two Catholic deacons, a reflexologist and remedial masseur, as well as a range of prayer supporters, financial supporters and people of goodwill who have helped out according to their gifts.

In parallel lines of activity, we have been delivering pastoral support to people in need, we have been engaging with complementary government and non-government organisations in this space, and we have been building an organisation that can support this activity.

The most demanding activity emotionally is the provision of spiritually based pastoral care to individuals with complex body mind and soul disability. Whilst I have been able to give some time to do this work, and VCA member Deacon Peter Devenish Meares is also engaged in this part time , we have barely scratched the surface in this area and will only be able to give this appropriate attention once we have more professionally trained staff employed to undertake this work.  We hope to employ part time, VCA member Caitlin Proctor, in this area in the coming months. VCA member John Jordan is part way through his studies in psychology, and VCA member Paul Randall will be commencing a Certificate Four in Pastoral Care in 2016 with a view to working in this area in the future. I’m also conscious of the individual pastoral gestures of love and support that all our members have provided on occasion to people in need. Thank you to all who have helped another.

The greatest exponential benefit that we can provide has come through the promotion of our holistic health concepts to many groups and individuals in the veteran’s community.  There have been many continuing requests for presentations in this area and many thousands of people have heard the good news that we are preaching. Our website is now up and running thanks to Sandra Hammond and Rob Vicary , and this will provide an online opportunity for people to draw other educational information for their benefit.

We have had numerous invitations to participate in forums with other ex-service organisations where we are accepted as a complimentary supporting organisation in the veterans’ health space. No one else is providing the specific support we are, and equally we must realise that we are but one of many niche supporting activities in the complex and diverse framework providing support to veterans and their families.  It is worth noting that whilst there seem to be a range of organisations in the veteran’s space , our combined activities are still only reaching a very small percentage of the 100,000 veterans, as well as their family members, in our region . Moreover most support organisations are almost exclusively based in the central Brisbane Area with people in rural and regional areas getting very little proximate support to them. Following Jesus direction that we should seek out and save the lost sheep we need to be prepared to travel more and go to those remotely located.

Our organisational symbol is the Good Samaritan image of Simpson and the wounded soldier on the donkey , and just some of us have played the role of Simpson, assisting wounded soldiers, some of us have done the all too important work of the donkey in the administration support area , and I particularly want to thank our committee , but especially Geoff Fry and RobRSLCare Vicary for all the work that they’ve done to support this mission.

I am particularly mindful to and knowledge acknowledge and thank our major financial sponsors who have been RSL Care Queensland, the Knights of the Southern Cross, RSL Queensland and  the Samford RSL sub-branch. Additionally we must thank individual donors who have been generous but wish to remain anonymous.
One of the challenges that we have placed and will continue to struggle with is to remain realistic about the capacity we have to work in the veteran support area. Every day there are opportunities to be doing additional things to help those in need, but in doing so we can end up losing sight of the particular and unique vision and objectives we have, which are in providinKnights-of-the-southern-Crossg spiritually based pastoral care and education and in holistic health practices. I am very conscious that people will continue to suggest additional things that we could do, but as President I am mindful that our generous donors have committed their funds to supporting the specific activities we agreed on, in our formation documents and in getting status as a charitable organisation, and so please understand me when I keep calling us back to our agreed vision objectives and strategies.

Having a got ourselves established I would hope that the coming year will be one of consolidation and continuing to realise our foundational vision and objectives in raising the level of health in the veteran community.

 

Finally I think it important to make the point that this was and will continue to be an essentially spiritual activity, an activity led by the Holy Spirit and an activity carried out by individuals that are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We must thank God for the opportunity to serve him in this way and to continue to seek blessing in everything we do.

 

I am grateful for the privilege of service to this organisation as its President and then particularly mindful that this is and will continue to be a team effort. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.

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God’s words for Post Traumatic Healing and Growth

Through my study and own life experiences, I have found the following passages to be of comfort to me. I hope that they bring you comfort and reassurance as well.

Gary.

 

  • Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to determine what God’s will is – his good pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2
  • God has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7
  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and control your thoughts.   Colossians 3:15
  • Be still and know that I am God . Psalm 46:10

(more…)

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