Some Good News
When I first heard the news of a “cautious relaxation” of Coronavirus restrictions I turned straight to Bon and said, “The neighbours’ kids will have a party on Monday night”. And yup they had a party. A small one that was all over by 10pm. The young people today are so…respectful! I know what I did at their age!
 
So now we can meet as 10 people? What does that mean for us as Church? Not as much as we might like. The instructions are that we still need to maintain social distancing (i.e. keeping 1.5 meters from each other and no more than 1 person per 4 square meters). So it isn’t a green light for us to start up growth groups or Hub groups again.
 
But I have a few ideas for you (I’m sure you have more):
  1. Hospitality! The wonderful practice of Christian hospitality. Eating together with others in our homes. We can do that again. Please think of those who you know who must be lonely at this time.
  2. We can meet in small clusters, maybe a few families together to watch St Matthew’s Everywhere together.
  3. Or maybe the same thing with Growth Groups or Hub groups. We could meet in 3 or 4s and then all Zoom together.
 Be mindful that some still may not feel comfortable meeting with others yet. Caution is understandable in the midst of a global pandemic. There are still so many vulnerable people in our community and only the Lord knows the undoubted twists and turns, steps forward and back until this is over. Let’s give thanks for how God has spared us the worst of it so far and enjoy the moments with others we can have now. 
Wise Generosity
“Almost every Christian I know has been taken advantage of at some point.”

That was something I recently heard during a discussion about how Christians can be seen as “soft targets” for people preying on the generosity of others. That statement resonated with me because I have experienced it as being true. I can make a long list of faithful Christians who have been taken advantage of (myself included) because of a willingness to love others in costly ways.  This is part of our DNA.  As Christians, we are called to lovingly consider others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2). It’s a wonderful part of our discipleship, but knowing that, some people can be willing to prey on it. We can be seen as a “soft target” or an “easy mark”.
 
During this time of increased need, the requests for help will rightly increase. So how do we balance faithfully and sacrificially loving others with making sure we aren’t taken advantage of in ways we weren’t expecting?

When Jesus sends out his disciples he says “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard” (Matt 10:16-17a).   There is a small zoo’s worth of animals in this brief teaching. Let’s break it down…
Principle 1: Recognize You are Like Sheep Amongst Wolves

As Jesus sends his disciples out into the world, he tells them they are like sheep amongst wolves. Wolves prey on sheep. Sheep are soft targets for wolves. Jesus’s disciples could be easy prey for persecution, ill treatment and abuse as they go out into the world.

This is theology in practice. The Bible tells us that all people are sinful and broken. Sometimes that sinfulness will manifest in taking advantage of others. That would be true of us too, if not for the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. No human is good in their nature. And as the disciples go into the world, Jesus tells them to think of themselves as sheep amongst wolves. Hence Jesus says, “Be on your guard” (v17b). Don’t be naïvely walking around thinking that no harm will come to you by the hands of others. You are like sheep amongst wolves.
Principle 2: Therefore, be Shrewd as Snakes, Innocent as Doves

Given that Jesus disciples are like sheep amongst wolves he tells them to be “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves”.

Snakes aren’t normally viewed positively in the Bible! But Jesus isn’t saying his disciples are to take on the negative aspects of what snakes might symbolize in other passages (like Genesis 3). Rather Jesus is saying take on one of the attributes that snakes typically have in nature… shrewdness.  Shrewd means being astute, having sharp and wise judgment. Snakes are far from gullible, and not easily tricked or taken advantage of. Perhaps our cultures equivalent would be to say, “be cunning as a fox”. Jesus tells his disciples to not be easy prey for wolves looking to harm or take advantage of you… be shrewd as snakes.

This doesn’t mean be cold, or deeply suspicious of everyone and avoid people. Jesus goes on to combine the wisdom of a snake (or fox if you like) with the innocence of a dove. Doves are thought of as innocent, harmless and listed amongst the “clean” animals in the Old Testament.

As his disciples go into the world, they are to be wise (and avoid traps set for them by those that would do them harm) and at the same time be innocent like doves (blamelessly serving Jesus).  The wisdom of the snake and the harmless innocence of the dove are to be combined in the Christian. Snake-like wisdom does not equal dishonesty, and dove-like innocence does not equal gullibility.

Jesus is the ultimate example of this. With wisdom he sees into people hearts and discerns hidden motives. With shrewdness he consistently avoids the traps set by the Pharisees (Mark 8:1110:212:13).  Yet at the same time is innocent and keeps serving God and others without blame.
Practicalities: Wise Generosity

So, what might being wise (like a snake) and innocent (like a dove) look like when it comes to helping people during Covid-19? Well every situation is different. This brief article can’t tell you what to do or not do in every circumstance. But here are some ideas to help us think wisely. None of these are rules. Just ideas to help us think the issue through:
  • Don’t aim to be generous. Aim to be wisely generous. Help the person without being taken advantage of in ways you didn’t see coming.
  • Avoid giving people cash, instead pay the bill. If someone comes asking for help to pay a bill, consider not giving them the money but instead ask for the bill and pay the bill directly. Cash can be used to feed addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling. Cash doesn’t help an addict and your generosity may turn out to do more harm than good.
  • Give to trusted organizations who generously help people but have well practiced checks and balances to make sure that the funds are used wisely.
  • Give to the St Matthews Benevolent Fund. St Matthew’s has a fund that is used to help our church family in need and the fund is governed by wise Christians from within St Matt’s (Email hello@stmatthews.com.au to find out more).
 
What Does Jesus Call a Sheep, Crossed with Dove, Crossed with a Snake?

Answer:  A Disciple


This article is not about avoiding the cost of loving others. Loving others always costs. And as Christians we are called to sacrificially care for others in costly ways. It’s a wonderful part of following Jesus. Rather, this is about how to do that wisely without being taken advantage of in ways we didn’t see coming.

To navigate this space during a time of increased need like Covid-19, we will do well to look at how Jesus instructs us to combine the attributes of 3 animals. Like a strange creature from one of my kid’s Pokémon cards, we Christians are to think of ourselves as vulnerable sheep amongst wolves, while combining the wisdom of a snake with the innocence of a dove. This will help us be wisely generous during Covid-19 to His glory, without being taken advantage of.
 
In Christ,
Mike Horgan
Practical Generosity
 St Alban's and St Patrick's Anglican Parishes are working together to provide meals and non-perishable grocery packs to people in need during this time of difficulty. People in need are able to collect meals or pre-packed hampers from St Patrick's on Beaufort St, Mt Lawley.

In addition, meals are being prepared in bulk in the St Alban's kitchen (by a now out-of-work professional chef) to be frozen and distributed as needed.  Assistance with meal preparation, donation of food, grocery, pantry and other essential items would be most welcome.

If you would like to help out with this valuable work in any way, send an email to hello@stmatthews.com.au for more information.
Messages from our Mission Partners
Ros in the time of Covid-19

Greetings from Budapest! Compared to many other countries in this region, Hungary has fared quite well during the current pandemic.  I am safe and healthy, but finding the isolation quite tough. 

Since our many events planned for this time are cancelled, the ACSI Europe team has focused our time and energy on designing a new online platform for schools to use that will help them to plan for ongoing improvements, and to partner with other schools.  We have also been doing our best to maintain personal communication with schools, and are continuing to develop our online professional development courses. 

Our team has adapted well to online collaboration, using a combination of shared documents and frequent zoom meetings, but we (like everyone else) long for the day when we can work face to face again.  The ICSB campus remains closed, with students learning online. This transition has gone as well as could be expected but it has placed a huge strain on teachers. 

I had planned to return to Australia to visit family, friends and churches in June and July but this is now looking unlikely.  Postponing to October-November is a possibility that I am considering, though it may have to be delayed even further.  Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support during this challenging time.

Click on the image to watch B's April Video.  Use the password Br---ME.  As with many of our gospel partners, please do not forward this video to anyone, or post it anywhere online.
Ministry Opportunities
In this season there are new ministry opportunities and needs for our Church family. We are particularly in need of people with technology skills such as video production, editing, websites or other areas that might help to connect us at this time. We are also in need of equipment for those things if you are able to lend it.
 
As ministries to our church family begin in a whole range of new ways, we would love to hear from you how you think you might serve. If you can serve or even if you have an idea for serving, email us at hello@stmatthews.com.au or call 
(08) 9381 2640. 
How can we help?
As a church, St Matthew's is looking to ways we can care for all in need during this time. If you find yourself in need physically, spiritually, or socially, please reach out to us. Email us at hello@stmatthews.com.au or call (08) 9381 2640. 
For the most up to date information, please check our website www.stmatthews.com.au
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