Rev 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.
It is a precious gift to have someone remind you how special God thinks you are. Another precious gift is to know someone is praying for you – in the bad times, but also in the good ones too. How fortunate the church at Ephesus was, to have Paul doing both of these for them, as recorded in a significant letter he wrote to them. This letter was all the more important because it was written from prison. Many of us might be focussed on ourselves and our misfortune, in such a place, especially if you knew, as Paul did, that he had done nothing wrong.
In this letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that he is praying for them constantly and giving thanks for their faith. He reminds them that God has gifted them every spiritual blessing that the heavenly places have in store. That is a mind-blowing prospect. As you read on, remember that what Paul promises the Ephesians, is available to us also today.
In his first prayer in chapter 1, he prays that God will give them wisdom, hope and power. What a difference our lives would be if we got up each day thanking God in anticipation of these gifts being made real to us throughout that coming day. I love the clauses: “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to his great power.”
He goes on to say that that power was demonstrated when God raised Jesus from the dead. We can only image how much effort the powers of evil put into trying to keep Jesus dead, because of the implications of him rising from the dead. And of course, we know what happened. God’s power broke those shackles and raised Jesus from the dead. That is the might of the power God is willing to give us access to. It is so powerful that we hardly know what to do with it; remembering that God’s gifts are for the building up of our faith and the Church. The Greek word used for “power” is the root of the word for dynamite, and the one for “working” is from which we get out word “energy”.
In the second prayer, in chapter 3, he prays for another power, which would enable them to comprehend the height, breadth, length and depth of God’s love, which is actually beyond knowledge. Filled with that love, again, would make us different people if we could continually tap into it.
Woven through this letter is the concept of God’s gift of grace. Undeserved and unearned, yet freely given are the riches of God’s love and goodness. Another recurring theme related to this, is that this gift includes the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us. Paul reminds us of the promise that the early believers would be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Again so it may be with us.
This letter is such a rich and inspiring book, to give you much encouragement in your daily life, following Christ, and serving God. It reminds us we have all we need to do that by the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to take the time to read this book through in one sitting – it is only about half a dozen pages. Take it into your daily devotions and prayers, allowing it to fill every part of who you are and what you do.