Minister

philipRev Philip Liebelt came to St John’s as minister in November 2014. A South Australian, Philip studied there and was ordained in 1990. Previously he had been a teacher, a specialist in Drama, teaching in country and city, public and private schools, including two years as Principal of a Christian School at Kerang in Victoria. Philip has had ministerial placements in city and country Uniting Churches, mainly in Victoria, although his first placement was in Canberra. He has also had two regional education positions.

He came to Elsternwick, after 7 years as Presbytery Minister: Mission and Education in the Presbytery of Gippsland.
Philip has a passion for community development, education and helping churches explore new ways of being church. One of his primary tools in ministry is storytelling.  Whilst he tells stories of all types, he has particular experience as a Biblical Storyteller: since 1998 he has told 90 minutes of stories from Luke’s gospel; for 12 years he was national co-ordinator of the Network of Biblical Storytellers Australia; he has had a study book published using storytelling to explore parables in Luke’s gospel; and his M.Ed. thesis was on Biblical Storytelling as a transformational pedagogy of Faith Education in a Post-Literate age.

Minister’s Message

“24 hours in the Life of Jesus” (Mark 1:21-39)

On recent Sundays we have heard the story from Mark’s gospel of an extraordinary day in Jesus’ life early in his ministry as recorded in that gospel. As we consider it, we need to keep in mind that Mark is concerned to introduce Jesus as the Son of God and to summarise the key elements of his ministry – calling followers/disciples, healing the sick, driving out evil spirits and preaching the good news.

On this day, Jesus goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath with the disciples he has at this point – possibly only Simon, Andrew, James and John. Remember that Jesus was a Jew and observed appropriate worship practices. There he teaches, and people are amazed that he does so with an authority they are not used to amongst even their religious leaders.

There is a there a man with an evil spirit who recognises that Jesus is the Holy one of God, and for that reason fears that he has come to destroy the evil spirit. Jesus bids him silent and commands the evil spirit out. This is another act of authority the people are not used to, and so his fame begins to spread.

Jesus and the disciples then go to Simon and Andrew’s house, where the former’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Jesus heals her and she serves them. I am inclined to think that this is about releasing her to again use her gift of service, rather than Jesus doing it so that he can be waited upon.

Once sunset comes, and the Sabbath ends, allowing the Jews to resume their normal lives, “the whole city” gathers around the house with their sick and those with evil spirits (which may include what today would be diagnosed as mental illnesses.) Even if Capernaum was not a large town, that seems to us extraordinary. How has this happened? No doubt most if not all the “well” ones would have been in the synagogue earlier and experienced what Jesus had done and said. In Middle Eastern communities news travels fast, and everyone knows each others’ business.

They have all brought their sick for healing because of what Jesus did in the synagogue, and he cured “many”. You get the feeling this would have gone late into the night. We might imagine Jesus needing a rest after this, and if it was us, to have a “sleep in” next day.

But we read that next morning, before sunrise, he goes out to a deserted place to pray. This becomes a regular activity in Jesus’ ministry. One senses it is how he regains his strength, and receives guidance from God, as we might when we pray. The disciples come seeking him – wonder how long it took to find him? “Everyone is looking for him.” They want more of the same as the day before. But Jesus is thinking ahead. “No, we are going to neighbouring towns to proclaim the message there. That is what I have come to do.”

We probably cannot imagine ourselves having a day anywhere as exhausting as this. The key to this is Jesus’ drawing strength etc through his prayer life. If we commit all we do to God in prayer, we might be amazed by what we are able to achieve for God’s Kingdom.
Philip