Toorak Uniting Church

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A Message in Stone

Mark 13: 1 8
Rev. Ian Parton
19 November 2000

"What massive - what large stones !!!" the disciples exclaimed as they left the temple with Jesus, in the reading we have just heard.

And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.         (Mark 13.vv. 1-8).

And those of you who have been to Jerusalem - as Anne and I have - will have seen some of those stones from Herod’s temple now arranged in the Western or Wailing Wall.

And if you have visited Turkey and Greece nearby you would also have seen similar massive stones and wondered how they were ever lifted in the first place.

But because we have seen those stones in ruin and heard the disciples’ words again - we take to heart even more Jesus words – "Not one stone will be left upon another".

Just also in the sense of history - this temple had been built in 19/20BC and was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD - never to be rebuilt - about 90 years.

And we come into Toorak Church this year celebrating 125 years - so we are in front!!!!

In my three years as Assistant Minister in Toorak Church I had plenty of time to study the stones of this church building - living on the premises - and to see the stones/bricks built into the Hall complex in 1961.

My subsequent experiences with stones in church buildings has not been so positive.

We went from Toorak to Bairnsdale - an 1880s brick building - where we strengthened the tie rods across the nave of the church - to stop the walls falling outwards and added a new porch/office complex which became very useful. Sadly since we have left Bairnsdale the congregation decided to move house to new premises and the church has now become a Restaurant and the added Front Complex - Take Away Fish and Chips!!!!

Our last parish was in Glen Waverley where another Porch was added - but with building re-arrangement after the coming of the Uniting Church that whole complex was demolished - but a very worthwhile new facility has been constructed.

Jesus reminder about the Temporary nature of what seemed to be permanent stones - would seem to be linked to a reminder to people that their origins of worship had been in a tent which moved with them when they were nomads, and that although after David had established Jerusalem as Capital, and his son Solomon actually built the first Temple - both gratefully remembered by the people - the reminder was that the physical fades as David and Solomon had passed on - and as we physically know ourselves and as I do in coming here this morning NOT as the 26 year old of 40 years ago.

BUT I LOOK HERE THIS MORNING..and I see the physical reminders - the stones and the Ormond Window - for which to me just coming to Toorak from Ormond College I knew about Francis Ormond and his influence.

BUT THE INFLUENCE ON ME, HERE WAS MORE - AS THE BIBLE MENTIONS ELSEWHERE "THE LIVING STONES." - and I mention some now.

FIRST of course Rev. Dr Alan Watson as my boss - but my guide and support. He encouraged me and expected me to show initiative and to develop my resources. As on one occasion I noticed the preaching plan we had for next few months had me taking an evening service - and that was to be Broadcast by 3XY - a regular practice in those days. I said to him, "Hey I'm the one rostered to take the 3XY service - is that OK.???" He said "Yes, Certainly!!!! I'll stay home and listen!!!" Which he did - but commended me afterwards.

And on another occasion he went away on holiday - and Miss Helen Murdoch died- who I had visited but not really taken in her family connections - and began to make preparations for her funeral here in the church.

But when Dame Elizabeth Murdoch made an appointment to see me and to help with preparations - I realised I was in deeper than perhaps was wise. But I decided I was that far in - we went ahead - Dame Elizabeth was marvellous - I think Rupert and a few other members of the family were there and it was very healthily reported in the Press. I feared that I might have gone a little too far in not informing the boss - but he returned quite relaxed from holiday and said, "I see you have had Miss Murdoch’s funeral. Good on you!"

Down near these front seats - we had a Gas Heater which used to give out Gas as well as Heat. And I remember one Sunday morning one of the worshippers near the front - succumbed and passed out, but Big Tall Sir Robert Knox just walked across picked the lady up and carried her out of the church for revival in the fresh air.

And Captain Jowett used to sit in the second front row and always gave the impression he had slept through the service - but would tackle you afterwards and say, "Ian remember that second point you made!!" and I would struggle to try and remember what I had said.

And then the Ladies Afternoon Fellowship - of which my mother-in law to be Bonnie Donaldson was at one time the President - they gave very worthwhile support to a number of church causes - of course the Annie Todd Kindergarten but also the Sisterhood - a home for Unmarried Mothers. Apparently it was mentioned to the Fellowship one afternoon that the new young assistant didn't know what the Sisterhood was and did. Mrs Watson gave the reply – "I would hope that he didn't!!!!!."

And Education - Sunday School - Miss Alexander - Miss Allie - was our Guide. I remember her saying words of wisdom at one time – "The children get a mystery illness, which affects their concentration at this time of the year it’s called SPRING!"

And speaking of Education - there was St. Catherine’s - where Dr Watson would go often to speak at Morning Assembly - but some mornings he would have a distraction and I would get a phone call at 8am to say I had better get around and apologise for him and speak at Assembly. And I remember my first Assembly and some trepidation and being greeted by the principal Miss Davis - and the extra word from her dog on the platform:- Boodle welcomes you too!!

These people have all become part of the influences on my life and ministry and yours too in Toorak Church

BUT BACK TO THE TEMPLE..........

The Jewish emphasis was on the view from Temple to the world - and it was quite a view from its high position on the Rock . . . BUT TODAY . . . the view is in reverse. FROM THE MOUNT OF OLIVES TO JERUSALEM but today you don’t see the temple you see the Golden Dome of the Muslim Mosque. I have often though how marvellous it would be to take an Historical Deck Chair and Binoculars and to sit on the Mount of Olives and look into Jerusalem and view the events of the years. See David establish Jerusalem as Central City - Solomon his son build the first temple - its first destruction by the Babylonians - then its rebuilding - another destruction - then 20BC Herod’s construction and the Roman devastation in 70AD - subsequent Muslim invasions - the Crusaders - the first World War - the 1965 War - and the Israeli/Arab hostility to today and today’s stones.

A Kaleidoscope of Change - but as we know - CHANGE IS ONE OF THE FACTS OF LIFE.

WHICH SAYS TO US - AS ONE POET DESCRIBES – "Any good that I might do - let me do it now because I may not pass this way again." BUT AS WE ALSO KNOW - THE GOOD INFLUENCE REMAINS.

But let me give you one other name - one other influence.

MACRAE

John Macrae was minister here in earlier days - His son Donald - a minister - was born in the Toorak manse - Donald was proud of that and often talked about it. I knew Donald well at Melbourne Uni and when he was minister in Sale and we were in Bairnsdale - one of the most positive people you could meet was Donald Macrae - he was great to work with.

And now his Son Alistair is Moderator of the Synod of the Uniting Church in Victoria and we worshipped here with you and Alistair at the end of May this year. Alistair will make a very positive contribution to the UC as Moderator.

My appointment to Toorak in 1959 was just that - AN APPOINTMENT - other possibilities included Omeo!!!! but I am thankful that I came here and of course have come under the Influence - including meeting my wife Anne, the Youth Group Secretary (PFA)

The invitation to Geelong College for our last settlement was just that a CALL AND AN INVITATION .... AND ALTHOUGH I HAVE BEEN RETIRED FOR 3 YEARS ..I am also grateful that what I was called there for - as the Principal described it - TO BE A CHRISTIAN PRESENCE - has been able to be continued. I have had 2 weddings in recent weeks and 8 set for March next year. It is great that these young people desire a Christian rather than a Civil ceremony - and there is a sense of fun as well as feeling wanted.

As with the wedding earlier this year - which was set for a Saturday during the AFL finals - but you don’t worry too much about that - it’s an occupational hazard - and there are Friday night finals. But we had set a Rehearsal and signing of papers for the Friday night. And my wife’s team was rostered to play on the Friday night. I tried to change the Rehearsal - but there were a number of people involved - and it wasn’t possible - but the Bride came up with the idea that if I went up to Melbourne - stood in the MCC members queue with Anne to get a seat - marked my seat - came out - met the Bridegroom - drove back to Geelong - did the Rehearsal and then he would drive me back. So yes!!! We did all that! We queued. I got my allocated seat. I left at 4pm - walked over the bridge to the Botanic Gardens - the Bridegroom picked me up in his BMW - we did the Rehearsal - back to Melbourne - they dropped me at the Hilton - I walked down to the G and my seat - 5 minutes into the first Quarter and the Scores were one goal each.

IT is my privilege to be someone useful for God ... to do something positive ... to be a LIVING STONE.

JUST ONE FURTHER EXAMPLE.

THE PARALYIC GAMES ... a story contained in one of our church papers which I related to the Congregation at Barwon Heads UC last Sunday - where I take the service once a month - and you will see the Barwon Heads UC Building for perhaps 2 and a half seconds in Seachange tonight.

The whole of the Cambodian Basketball team at the Paralympics were Amputees as a result of Land Mines in Cambodia. Dreadful when you think of it - but what spirit!!! and an enthusiastic smiling photograph, but one of the Basketballers, one of the Landmine victims has begun a Craft Shop where he trains other amputees to make wheel chairs at the "Centre of the Dove" in Phnom Penh - and he also takes a role as an Activist to push those countries that have not signed a Mine Ban Treaty.

A POSITIVE STORY IF EVER YOU HAVE HEARD ONE.

AS WE ALSO SEEK TO BECOME AS LIVING STONES AS YOU DO AS PART OF THE CONTINUING STORY OF THE TOORAK CHURCH AND AS WE ALL DO AS WE APPROACH CHRISTMAS AND WE GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR HIS LOVE TO US SHOWN SO CLEARLY IN JESUS CHRIST.

© Rev. Ian Parton, 2000


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