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Bible Talks

Centenary of the Chancel, Transepts and pipe organ. ()

Rev. Mark HarrisRev. Mark Harris, July 26, 2014
Part of the Centenary series, preached at a Special event service

Sermon on occasion of the Centenary of the Chancel, Transepts and pipe organ.
(Thanks to Rev Geoff Foley and Howard Brockington for some of the historical information used in this talk.)
Isn’t this a magnificent building?
We are so blessed that back in the 1890’s Major General Sir Charles Rosenthal, a leading NSW architect, came up with this awesome design.

We are also blessed by the VISION shown by the local congregation of the time to build such a structure.

If you haven’t had a look at the display of historical photos at the back of the church, please make sure you do after the service. It’s well worth the look!
Thank you to Rev Geoff Foley, president of the Historical society,
And to my Associate Priest Rev Alan Shaw for putting this display together.

Now it’s time for a bit of background to appreciate how significant the building of this church is.

The first Anglican services in Lismore were held in 1844 in a house in Victoria St.
By the 1860’s services were held in the then courthouse on the Crokee ground.

By the 1870’s the first timber church was built, and Lismore had a voting population of around 500 people.

Not many people, compared to the 46,000 Lismorians today.

At that time Lismore was going through a period of growth, and was increasingly seeing itself as a place of importance.

It considered itself as the “Queen City of the North”
And many people moved into the area for farming.
Dairy farming was particularly prevalent as the wooded areas had been opened up through the timber industry.
Did you know that the land occupied by SCU used to be a dairy farm not that long ago?!

There was a serious depression throughout Australia in the early 1890’s as the result of a very significant drought.
Almost NO building work was taking place in the whole country.

But by the late 1890’s this had changed,
The economy picked up, and there was great confidence in the future of Lismore.

There was a strong community spirit,
With a Dramatic Society, A Philharmonic society,
Brass and Pipe bands.
And a yearly musical festival,

WHY did our predecessors decide to build such a magnificent church?

For the people in 1904 and indeed throughout the ages, church is about community.
And the design of a building and the value invested in that building,
Shows part of who God is, to that community.

If God IS God,
The creator and redeemer of Humanity,
Then How much we’re willing to invest in a place to worship God can reflect how much we VALUE God.

And the Style of the building can display something of the AWE and MAJESTY of God.

When we walk into this church we can feel quite small compared to the size of the building,
In the same way, in the presence of the ALMIGHTY we ARE small!

When we walk into this church we see architectural beauty,
In the same way, God is beautiful in the splendour of his holiness.

When we enter we have the stained glass windows with Christian symbolism and with saints of old in them to remind us, as we look heavenward, of the truth of the Gospel message. And our hope of heaven.
And of course we have the music.
Although we need a bit more info before we can talk about the Organ.
So, from 1904 until 1913, the church finished where the front row of pews are.
You can still detect a slight change in the colour of the bricks as you look up the wall at that point.
If you turn to your service sheets, and open them out, you can see the church prior to 1914 on the back cover and the church as it is today on the front cover side by side.
What a difference!
Until 1913, the church was only the beginning of the grand design.
After all, People could only do what they could afford at the time.
But in 1913 the foundation stone was laid for the Chancel and transepts.
By the 7 August 1914, we have the rest of this part of the church built, and a wonderful Pipe organ installed.
Why a pipe organ?
It’s certainly not the instrument of choice for most people to play or listen to today.
It has to do with the picture of God we gather to worship.
Nothing really makes sound come alive in a space as large as this other than a pipe organ.
It just works!
And the organ music is designed to fill us with AWE and wonder as we praise God our creator and sustainer.
It helps us to humble ourselves in the presence of God.
Contemporary church structures generally don’t tend to present this aspect of God’s character at all.
I suspect that is partly due to the cost of magnificent structures such as this.
Imagine you’re in that congregation back in the early 1900’s, and you’re about to commit to building THIS church.
The cost seems small in today’s dollars,
Only 2000 pounds, for the Nave where most of you are sitting
2500 pounds for the Chancel and transepts,
And 842 pounds for the Organ

That’s about $11,000
But … back then wages were very small,
In 1907 the basic family wage was about 2 pounds a week! That’s $4.40 a week! (http://worksite.actu.org.au/the-harvester-judgement-and-australias-minimum-wage/)

So this building represents 2500 weeks work for a family.
Or 50 years of a families income!
And that cost didn’t include the Belltower and Bells!

This building was a serious investment!
And when you also consider that working conditions to get that 2 pounds a week were often atrocious, and to get that 2 pounds you had to work for 60 hours a week.
You begin to understand the extent of that investment!

I don’t think you’d get much change from $7M to construct this church today

Let me tell you, I can imagine the reception I’d receive if I came to the congregation tomorrow and said,

“Hi everyone,
I’ve just committed to put us in debt for $7M
Make sure you dig deep when the offertory comes around!
And keep doing that for the next 50 years!”

What drives people to make such a sacrifice?

I think it has to do with a deep, deep love of God,
A deep desire to show how much we VALUE God in our lives,
and a deep desire to show the community just HOW valuable God is.

For all of the beauty and grandeur of this building,
It’s still just a building.

King Solomon had it right in our OT reading
“Even heaven the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!”

But King Solomon knew what he was doing.
That Temple was to be a place of focus,
A place for believers to gather,
A place to remember that God is interested in us,

A place of Worship is all about God, and his people,
It’s not primarily about the building at all, but what it represents

The Church is actually the people of God who gather together to Worship him,
and who show the world just how loving, holy and awesome God is.

Our reading from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us that followers of Jesus:
‘are members of the household of God,
Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone’.

We are built together spiritually into a dwelling – place for God.

That’s why Christians gather each Sunday in this beautiful church.
To worship God together,
to grow in our Christian faith,
So that WE can become a beautiful dwelling for God,
As we get transformed from our worst selves, into the best we can be with God’s help.

And also so that we can show the community,
How much God loves everyone and how much God wants everyone to be saved.

Jesus, God in the flesh, came into this world to die for the sins of the world,
So that all can be forgiven, and like Jesus be resurrected from the dead to live with God forever.

My prayer for all of us here today,
Indeed for our whole community,
Is that we would be like the wise man from our Gospel reading- Who built his house on the rock.
Let’s be wise people who hear the words of Jesus as recorded in the bible,
And ACT on them.
And live our lives in a way that pleases Jesus.

May we continue to invest wisely and generously into our community today, in a way that honours God, as our predecessors did 100 years ago.

May we all put OUR faith and trust in Jesus, as we gather in this magnificent building to worship him.


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