• Service times

    Services times are:

    Saturday night 7:30 pm for our Chinese/English service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

    Sunday 10 am for our English language service (Senior Pastor Jeff Whittaker).

    Sunday 11:30 am for our Chinese (Mandarin) language service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

  • Contact details…

    Physical and postal address:
    4 Inverary Avenue,
    Epsom,
    Auckland 1023,
    NEW ZEALAND.

    Email:
    epsombaptist@gmail.com

    Telephone:
    (0064 9) 6306010

    Contacts:
    Rev. Jeff Whittaker
    Pastor Daniel Choi

  • Church Officers…

    Church Treasurer: Ann Guan

    Church Secretary: Margaret Whittaker

    Church Deacons: Anne Bartley, Ian de Stigter, Kristy Choi, Willa Hui, Donglan Zhang and Alfred Zhou.

Thirty pieces of silver…

The image of ‘thirty pieces of silver’ has established itself in Christian, and indeed in Western, lore as a byword for betrayal, for selling out. Coming from the Easter story of Judas offering to betray Jesus, it’s interesting to find that the image was not new at that point. A little research on the internet throws up numerous discussions about the thirty pieces of silver, and what they signified already in the time of the New Testament writers.

judas-brought-again-the-thirty-pieces-of-silver-to-the-chief-priests-and-elders

And so, one finds discussion on the thirty pieces of silver that Zechariah – in a difficult piece of prophetic writing (Zechariah chapter 11) – suggests is the dismissive value that the leaders of Judah put on God’s shepherding care. There is the reference in Matthew 27 to Jeremiah’s purchase of a field for this amount (although the Old Testament precedent cannot be found), the price being linked to that required to redeem someone (presumably from slavery). And then there is the statement in Exodus 21: 32 of 30 shekels as being the value of a slave. [Of course, it is not certain that ‘pieces’ are ‘shekels.’ Nevertheless, there does seem to be a significant usage of thirty units of money.]

Now, this is probably familiar material to many of you. But I want to push things a little further. The original events of Easter were set around the annual Passover festival, when Israel gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate God’s rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. So, what are Israel’s leaders doing paying a slave price – whoever may be considered to have been bought – in the midst of a celebration of rescue from slavery? Does not this expose them to self-condemnation?

In fact, I think this points out that judgment does not fall on any of us because we fall short of standards we know nothing about. I think that we all stand with Israel’s leaders, and are found to be sinners because self-interest over-rules a commitment to higher principles that we openly espouse.

Thank God that all this sin, for all of us sinners, was taken to the cross by Jesus Christ and its condemnatory power destroyed there.

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Shrove Tuesday…

Last Tuesday, that is a week ago, was Shrove Tuesday. The word ‘shrove’ is the past participle of the verb ‘to shrive,’ meaning ‘to forgive.’ Traditionally, on Shrove Tuesday one went to confession, and had one’s sins ‘shriven’ before the season of Lent began the following day (Ash Wednesday). Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday, from the (Northern Hemisphere) custom of celebrating with pancakes before fasting began with Lent. (At times, the fasting was more than optional as food supplies ran out in late Winter, and one had to wait for Spring for food to come back into availability.) The custom of celebrating with feasting on Shrove Tuesday has given us the words Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday) and Carnival (from Latin words meaning ‘to leave behind meat’). This all  paints the picture of preparing for a season of scarce food – thus fasting – through both spiritual preparation (confession with absolution) and a last celebration with feasting.

Now, we celebrate Mardi Gras and carnivals. But the going without of Lent has largely been abandoned. I believe that the result of this separation of old traditions is that the celebration of Shrove Tuesday has lost its moorings, and inevitably has moved into Bacchanalian excess because there is nothing to check it or hold it back. With no season of self-denial, we take for granted our right to festivity and indulgence which, paradoxically, increasingly fails to satisfy. All the major religions know that seasons of self-denial cultivate appreciation for the appropriate indulgence in the good things in life. So, come back to the discipline of Lent. See how much more satisfying life can be when life’s blessings are really appreciated after a season of denying them to oneself.

Redeeming Halloween…

There is no doubt that Halloween has been commercialised, an opportunity having been seen to sell all sorts of spooky merchandise. And so we have children wandering the streets dressed as ghosts, ghouls, witches, even superheroes, trick-and-treating. (In New Zealand, it must be said, the children actually only go treating. If you ask for the trick instead, most kids are at a loss to comprehend what it is that you have asked of them.) Because of a perceived link with occultism in these activities, many churches have responded by arranging light parties. These celebrations of the light (as opposed to the perceived darkness of Halloween) are presented as healthy alternatives to the more sinister trick-and-treating. But I wonder if they don’t miss the point.

Halloween – All Hallows Eve and thus the evening before All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd), was a celebration located by the Catholic Church on this date to replace the Celtic festival of Samhain (Summer’s End) celebrated on the evening before Celtic New Year. A main focus of Samhain was to appease the spirits of the dead so that the next year would be untroubled by evil spirits or bad luck. Halloween, together with All Saints and All Souls Days, still addressed this concern over the dead, but by moving the focus from fear to thankfulness for the lives of those who have gone before us. Thus, All Saints Day gives us opportunity to thank God for Christian believers who have passed on to glory, while All Souls Day enables us to thank God for those others who chose not to identify themselves as Christians, and yet for whom we are grateful for the influence they had on us while alive.

I wonder if the concern of many of our churches to have nothing to do with Halloween is also linked with a rising sentimentality about death and heaven that is espoused by many Christians, even as the topics of death and dying are avoided as much as possible. Could it be that the silliness exhibited by trick-and -treating represents people trying to grapple with the dark side of life – death and the afterlife – because the churches don’t. (The same criticism could be made about the endless fascination with vampire novels and movies.) I think it is time for us to redeem the festivals of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. [Below is a brochure we created to give out from Epsom Baptist Church to the supervisors of trick-and-treaters, while we blessed the kids with cup-cakes.]