Join us for XSquared youth in-person!
We are so excited to be meeting in person again safely*.

We will be meeting every Friday during government school terms from 7:00pm-9:30pm.

Everyday, wherever we look, we’re confronted with a world that is quick to take offence, quick to condemn, quick to criticise, to attack and to fight. In a world that’s broken by division and hatred, we want to be reminded of God’s call on us to love one another.


Series Resources

Please make use of these great guides for personal and groups study to help you get the most out of this series. These guides will be updated each week.


Series Outline

  • (27 September) Introduction
  • (4 October) Bear one another’s burdens
  • (11 October) Love one another, Outdo one another in showing honour, Live in Harmony with one another.
  • (18 October) Serve one another, Show hospitality to one another, Love one another.
  • (25 October) Bearing with one another, forgiving each other, teach and admonish one another.
  • (1 November) Confess sins to one another and pray for one another.

Dear RUC member,

This week the leadership of the Church have made the immensely difficult decision to cease the operation of our Hospitality Company, which will unfortunately result in the retrenchment of the hospitality staff.

This company has been at the heart of our events management and catering operation, hosting events for Church ministry, community organisations as well as external corporate events.

An operation of this scale has necessarily required its own contingent of staff, of which we currently have six full-time staff and two part-time staff. This contingent of staff manage events and catering on a spectrum from small church functions, the Street Cafe, right through to large corporate events.

Whilst our Church has been proud to offer a quality service across this spectrum, it has come at a cost.

In 2019 RUC subsidised the work of the Hospitality Company to the value of R124 000. Indeed the history of this operation indicates that the scale of activities is insufficient to cover the personnel and other costs. While external corporate event bookings do go a long way to covering costs, these external bookings will always be limited, due to the priority of competing internal ministry needs.

The cost is not only financial: the complexity of this kind of operation has made it very challenging for our staff. An inordinate amount of time has been spent with staff, Deacons and Church Council in trying to adequately manage this service.

We commend our hospitality staff for their perseverance and hard work in sustaining this operation despite its various challenges. Our decision to close the operation has no bearing on the work ethic of our staff. Our hospitality staff, from top to bottom, work long hours, seven days a week.

Ultimately though, the model is unsustainable, both from an economic and operational point of view.


This has been brought into blunt focus this year, due to the Coronavirus. As you are all aware there have not been any gatherings, whether religious or corporate, since March. As a result, the Hospitality Company has suffered a loss of over R600 000 to date.

There is little optimism that this will change for the remainder of 2020, which means that RUC could end up funding a loss of over R1 million by the end of the year.

At our Townhall Meeting on 1 July this year I spoke about the ‘Clarifying & Catalysing’ effect of the Coronavirus. It has become apparent that indeed this season has clarified for us as a Church leadership that we have to cease this operation and focus on our core ministries.


Whilst the mechanics of this decision are clear to us, the burden of the decision rests heavily on us as the beloved staff have served us so well over the years.

We are all so grateful to Yvette and her professional team for serving us so excellently, and representing a true spirit of hospitality to our Church and all the clients of the Hospitality Company.

The staff will of course be receiving appropriate remuneration as part of the separation package, but we would like to open a channel for you to donate towards an additional gift for this group. Should you wish to contribute towards a farewell gift you can make an EFT into our bank account with the reference ‘Hospitality’ (or by using the online donation form below)

I urge you all to be in prayer for these staff members. As a Church we are seeking to help find alternative employment for them, so please pray for these opportunities to open. If you have employment opportunities for them please contact us.

Regards

Richard van Lieshout


Donation to the Hospitality Staff

Dear Rosebank Union Church,

Next week Sunday we will be starting a new Teaching Series called ‘Coming Back Stronger’. It’s a series through the Old Testament book of Ezra, which we believe has particular relevance to our lives in these strange times.

This little-studied book of the Bible tells the story of the return from exile of the people of God, and how they sought to re-establish themselves in the land of Israel.

After seventy years of isolation God sovereignly orchestrated human events to allow the people to return, but even then the process was painfully slow- it took decades for the story to play out!

When I first heard this story it resonated so much with what I was experiencing during lockdown. Initially lockdown seemed like a temporary disruption, but it quickly became evident that this season of ‘exile’ would be a long one.

The good news is that eventually we too will return ‘home’, to a rhythm of life a lot more like the ‘normal’ we were used to. This Coronavirus season will end. But even then, the return journey may be painfully slow.

The significance of the story of Ezra is that whilst the period of isolation was long, and the return journey slow, God sovereignly used that time to shape the people in such a way that they would come back stronger. The book details people being shaped in resilience, purity, devotion to God’s word, worship and community.

It is our hope that as we journey through Ezra we will be shaped in the same way, ready to come back stronger, in our personal lives, families, community and as a Church.

When will we be meeting again?

Speaking of coming back as a Church, we have deliberately been taking our time to process the ruling allowing for religious gatherings of up to 50 people during Lockdown level three.

Whilst I was initially excited at the opportunity to be in gathered worship again, I quickly realised that our responsibility towards the health of our members, as well as our responsibility to the wider community, meant that we should wait and discern before making any attempt to return.

In some ways the decision to wait is made easier for a Church the size of RUC simply because there is no logistical way that we could fairly accommodate the approx 1000 people who attend a Sunday service.

Circumstances change so quickly these days that we feel it appropriate on a number of levels, to wait, and we ask for your patience and understanding in this.

Church Online Platform

This concession to religious communities also came at the same time as the launch of our new online Church platform (what we call ChurchAtHome 3.0), which we hoped would take us as far as we could go in terms of providing an opportunity for engagement with our Sunday services.

I have spoken much about the ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ interactions that we experience during gathered worship on a Sunday. At the beginning of lockdown the priority was to bring the ‘macro’ interactions online, such as worship, prayer and preaching.

Our priority in this latest iteration of ChurchAtHome is around engagement with the ‘micro’ interactions that take place during gathered worship, the weighty accumulation of all the little engagements you would experience on a Sunday.

The friendly hello from a parking volunteer, the nod of acknowledgement from a passer-by on their way into Church, the warm greeting at the door, the casual conversation in the pews waiting for the service to begin, the catch-up with friends over coffee after the service, the reassuring words of comfort or prayer before departing.

There’s no way we can replicate all of that online, but our new platform at least goes some way towards experiencing these interactions.

If you haven’t tried gathering around our live online services at 9:30 on a Sunday (8:30 for Kids Church) please give it a try, just log on here: golive.ruc.org.za.

What else is happening?

There are a few other ways that we are hoping to continue building our Church community during lockdown:

  • Prayer meetings: It has been so encouraging to me to see how the gathering for prayer has also become the primary fellowship platform for our Church. The best part for sure is the breakout room time, where people get to meet others, connect and pray.
  • ‘First Mondays’: a monthly webinar series dealing with practical topics related to life in this Coronavirus season. We kicked it off on 1 June with Dr Nat Schluter, who helped us think theologically and pastorally about the Coronavirus. If you haven’t yet watched it go visit our YouTube channel for the replay, it is well worth your time (and share it with others!). Next up in the series we have Jane Kratz, chair of Biblical Counselling Africa, who will speak on the topic of fear and anxiety in this season.
  • Fathom’ course: an online learning opportunity around the wider subject of the Gospel, on our brand new online learning portal. Click here for an overview of the course. It’s a four week course that you can do in your own time!

—-

One of the most moving moments in the book of Ezra occurs in chapter 3 (spoiler alert!):

All the people gave a loud shout as they praised the Lord when the temple of the Lord was established. Many of the priests, the Levites, and the leaders  – older people who had seen with their own eyes the former temple while it was still established – were weeping loudly, and many others raised their voice in a joyous shout. People were unable to tell the difference between he sound of joyous shouting and the sound of the people?s weeping, for the people were shouting so loudly that the sound was heard a long way off”

Ezra 3:12-13

I find that to be such a poignant picture of life at this time: a peculiar mixture of godly grief with faith-fueled hope. Most of the time they are so intermingled we can’t tell the difference between the two!

It certainly is creating the perfect conditions of heart, allowing us to be shaped by God so that we will come back stronger.

Waiting expectantly with you,

Richard

We are live in an unprecedented time in the history of the Church. Ordinarily, on Good Friday, tens of thousands of churches representing millions of people would be remembering the death of Jesus through the sacrament of Holy Communion. Now, in 2020, most of these churches will be empty.

Of course, we will still be celebrating what the death of Jesus meant for us by participating in worship, prayer & the Word through ChurchAtHome! But what about #CommunionAtHome? Is this something we can practice in our own homes, without the presence of clergy or without the gathering of other Christians?

In order to answer this question it will be helpful to refresh our understanding of the sacrament of Holy Communion.


The origin of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper as some call it (1 Corinthians 11:20) goes right back to Jesus. Each of the synoptic Gospels records the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night that he was betrayed (Matt. 26:26–30; Mark 14:22–26; Luke 22:19–20):

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives

Matthew 26:26-30

The significance of the symbolism in this event is connected to the occasion of this meal, which was the Passover festival (Matthew 26:17). This important celebration commemorated the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, through the last of the ten plagues (Exodus 12).

It was on this last night in Egypt that the angel of death killed the firstborn male from every household (including livestock!), except for those in God’s covenant community, who identified themselves by painting the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorposts. God commanded that on this last night a special meal be made to commemorate this event, a meal which included unleavened bread.

When Jesus then took bread and a cup on the night of the Passover, and connected it to his coming death, he redefined the elements of this sacred meal! He would become the passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)!

What that means for us is that our ‘participation’ (1 Corinthians 10:16) in the ‘body’ (bread) and ‘blood’ (cup) of communion symbolically identifies us with those who have now finally, and fully, been saved from eternal death!


This leads us to an important principle that we hold to. We believe that Communion is for those who identify Jesus as their Saviour.

Just as the blood painted on the doorposts identified the Israelites as God’s covenant people, so our participation in drinking the cup (and eating the bread) identifies us as the ones who are members of God’s New Covenant (Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20). That is: it is one of the ways that we symbolically identify ourselves as Christians!

Note: participating in Holy Communion does not make us Christians, it simply makes visible, or identifies, declares, demonstrates, that we already are Christians!

The apostle Paul would later say that those who partake in the body/bread of communion are those who ‘discern the body’, that is, those who already recognise Jesus as their sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:29).

This is why Augustine called the sacraments ‘visible words’, meaning that the simple act of eating and drinking in the Communion meal is a declaration of our belief. The means of our salvation will always and only be by grace alone through faith alone!

This has direct implications for #CommunionAtHome.

If we were at Church we would emphasise and stress this point: Communion is for believers! Don’t take this lightly in the less formal environment of your homes!

It also means that parents need to be discerning of their children participating in communion. We have provided additional communication for parents on this, but the bottom-line is that anyone can participate, so long as they themselves would identify as Christians, and ‘discern the body’ of Jesus (symbolically) in the bread, and similarly his blood with the cup.


Since there is such significance to Holy Communion, which perhaps makes it better suited to celebrating at Church, why then are we inviting you to participate at home?

The answer again goes back to the occasion of Jesus’ last supper, the Passover. Here God commanded this to be a sacred feast to be kept “throughout your generations, as a statute forever” (Exodus 12:14). Again, Jesus adds to this in his re-interpretation of Passover (and the institution of Holy Communion) by saying we are to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

This is one of the reasons God gave us this particular ordinance as an observance, simply as a reminder of what Christ has done. This is not so much because we are in danger of forgetting, but we are in danger of distancing ourselves from the central event of Jesus’ sacrifice to the point where it no longer functions as the controlling centre of our lives!

We don’t know how long lockdown will last, or how long we will be restricted from gathering. We take seriously Jesus’ instruction to ‘remember’, and realise that as believers we should never move far from refreshing ourselves with the truth of the sacrifice of Jesus!

There is a second reason why we believe it’s significant to participate in communion at this time.

After affirming Jesus’ command for us to remember his sacrifice through this meal Paul adds: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

This means that there is a ‘proclamation’ or ‘preaching’ element to communion: it communicates something! It communicates the gospel in ‘visible words’ to those around us.

For now that may only include members of our immediate household, some of whom may not yet be followers of Jesus. Don’t underestimate the ‘preaching’ effect that your participation in Communion may have!

And let’s not forget the effect that our combined proclamation under such extraordinary circumstances may have on a watching world. Perhaps more than ever the world needs to see people ‘participating’ in the hope of Jesus!

One more thing: sometimes we as Christians need this ‘preaching’ of the gospel more than anyone else! In these days of fear, doubt, uncertainty and the threat of hopelessness, we need to remind ourselves, ‘preach to ourselves’, the certainty of the victory of Jesus! The ordinance of Communion not only communicates to the world, but also to our own hearts, and provides much needed assurance.


How will this all work?

Since the elements and the procedure are normally all laid out for you at Church, what must you prepare in order to participate in CommunionAtHome?

Richard will explain more about how we will partake during the live communion event, for now all you need to do is get the elements ready. Some simple bread or crackers, along with any form of juice (preferably red!), is all you need.

We look forward to proclaiming the death of Jesus with you in this powerful way tomorrow!

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved

Acts 2:46-47

#Acts246 #LiftTheSail #ChurchAtHome #CommunionAtHome


Children & Communion

Our Children’s department has put together a great document on Children and Communion. Please read this to help you to disciple your children around the topic of Communion

Dear Rosebank Union Church,

This morning we all work up to the reality of a completely new way of living.

Last night as I listened to the president speak I was deeply moved by the concern shown for our fellow citizens, as well as for our economy. I was also encouraged by the call to pray!

Just like everyone else, we at the Church have been thinking, working and praying hard about what this new way of living means for us.

Last week our efforts were focused on creating an online platform for us to still gather for meaningful worship on a Sunday. I’m so proud of what our team created, and also so pleased at the response from you, the Church! Our estimates show that we had at least the same number of people worshipping online this past Sunday as we would on a normal Sunday, if not more!

Thank you for gathering in worship on Sunday, and I want to encourage you to continue meeting together for worship (in your own homes now, of course!). We will have the same online platform available, and will continue in our series. We will record from the RUC ‘studio’ one last time this week, and from next week be recording in our homes.

Our focus this week, and our call to action to you, is to pray!

I heard a story just this morning of farmers in rural America where there’s lots of snow. In times of a severe snowstorm the farmer would tie a rope from the door of his house to the door of their barn, to enable them to navigate from the house to the barn during times of heavy snow.

I initially thought that was pretty crazy! Surely the farmer would know how to navigate to his own barn after all the years of living on the farm, even in a snowstorm?

The reality of the story is that sometimes a sudden change of circumstances can be so disorienting, even though the surroundings are familiar.

That got me thinking: this morning we all woke up to a drastic change of circumstances, a heavy snowstorm, if you like. And despite the familiarity of still being in our own homes, the rapid change in circumstances has the potential to be completely disorienting. We need a rope!

That simple rope, is a daily commitment to the Scriptures and to prayer.

I realise that for some of you in the centre of this complex reality this ‘rope’ may seem so simplistic. Perhaps you are thinking more about action plans and contingencies.

That’s absolutely valid and true, but if we think for a second that we can get through this with our own clever thinking and plans, and without casting ourselves fully on God, we’re deluded. And we will find ourselves lost and disoriented in the snow pretty soon.

Rosebank Union let’s do this, let’s pray!


Here are three ways you can escalate your prayer starting this week:

246 Prayer:

Set an alarm on your phone for 2:46pm every day. When that alarm goes, pray right where you are, in the middle of whatever you’re doing, for your family, friends, business, church, country & world. Whatever. Just pray!

Why 246 Prayer? Because one of our theme verses for this period is Acts 2:46 – we want to be a church that continues to meet daily in our homes.


Prayer Portal:

Send us your prayer requests using the prayer portal on our #Liftthesail web page. Be as detailed as you would like, or as anonymous as you like. People at RUC are going to get sick, and we want to say: we love you, we’re ready to help you, and we want to pray for you!


Join our very first online prayer meeting!

I’ve got to say, I’m a little excited about this! Wednesday night, 25 march, 7pm, we’re going to have a good ‘ol prayer meeting, but obviously in our homes.

We’ll be using Facebook live, so simply join the #Liftthesail Facebook group , log in at 7pm tomorrow night, and pray with us!


I want to end by reminding you of what we learned from the Scriptures this past Sunday:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

(Ephesians 5:1-2)

We prayed from Romans 5 that God’s love would be poured into our hearts through his Holy Spirit. The purpose of that prayer wasn’t just to experience a feeling, but to accept His love so that we could walk in it i.e. live in it!

And you know what? Perfect loves casts out fear (1 John 4:18). So live in His love, and walk in kindness and love to others at this time.

See you on Wednesday in my lounge for prayer. All 1000 of you 😉

God Bless

Richard

Dear Rosebank Union Church,

On Sunday I experienced the joy and privilege of being inducted at RUC. It was indeed a very special day for us, but in some ways, I was more looking forward to our first ‘normal’ Sunday together. Little did I know that it would be quite a while before that would happen!

Despite the various views on the precautionary measures taken by our government regarding the CoronaVirus, the church’s leadership agrees that it makes sense to be conservative early, in an attempt to curb the spread of this disease. As a Church we certainly don’t want to contribute to the propagation of a damaging disease on our community.

Therefore we will be abiding by the government restrictions placed on public gatherings, which will have an immediate impact on our Church gatherings, until such time as these restrictions are lifted.

This means:

  • The AGM scheduled for 18 March has been postponed.
  • All weekly Youth and Children’s activities are suspended.
  • Other weekly gatherings at the Church will be suspended.
  • We will no longer be meeting for worship on Sundays on our premises.

The wording of that last announcement is important! Whilst we will not be gathering in our hundreds on Sunday for worship, we will still be gathering in small communities across our city for united RUC-style and RUC-led worship! The Church that normally meets at Rosebank, will now be meeting in your home!

Our team has developed an online platform to easily enable small groups to gather and have a worship service in their homes. This will include all of the usual elements of an RUC worship service, including continuing with the preaching of our planned new sermon series, worship, prayer, scripture, community, and yes, even offering! The only part left up to you is the coffee…

Visit the platform

As we began planning for this extraordinary season in our Church we really started believing that this is an incredible opportunity for us, despite these challenging circumstances.

In a way we will be returning to the very roots of the Christian Church, which started by gathering in houses (Acts 2:46, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2 etc). The advancement of the Kingdom of Jesus started in homes, and continued in this way at least for the first generations of the Church’s expansion in the Roman world.

Make no mistake: Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, moves as powerfully in small groups as when we gather together more formally as a large congregation! In fact, we believe and are praying that we will experience a new, authentic and more intimate encounter with Jesus as we temporarily move to homes. In small groups we are immediately confronted with the need to actively participate in the worship; it’s much harder to be a ‘spectator’ in a small group! As awkward as this may initially be, we believe we are going to see Jesus work in profound ways in this time.

Our exhortation to you at this time is simply this: commit today to continue in worship this Sunday.

That means:

  • Think about who you will gather with. This could simply be with the people you’re living with, or perhaps gathering with a couple more. This may be a great opportunity to reach out to others and make intentional connections.
  • Think about what time you will gather. Part of the opportunity in this season is to meet at any convenient time, so long as it’s on a Sunday. There’s nothing inherently special about one particular day, but we do want to maintain some sense of unity within our individual gatherings.
  • Think about where you will gather.

We want to take great pains to emphasise the COVID-19 precautions for everyone in this time:

  • Do not attend any gathering if you are ill in any way.
  • Have no physical contact.
  • Frequently wash hands.
  • Refrain from touching your mouth.

These must be enforced by everyone, everywhere, in every situation!

At the induction service I shared the strong impression that our emphasis for the Church at this time is to ‘lift the sail’. The picture is that of this great ‘ship’ of Rosebank Union Church being open and ready for a particular and special move of God.

I certainly did not anticipate that this would coincide with a pandemic! However I have firmly come to believe that in our return to the basics and innocence of Church, our sails will be filled. Indeed I look forward to the day that we will all gather together again as the RUC family, and anticipate that being an explosive worship service!

Remember, in all things God is sovereign, He loves us, is with us, and intervenes on our behalf. Please pray with us for our Church, our members, our country and our global community at this time.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Love,

Richard.

One of the TV shows that has been causing a stir recently is the Disney+ series called “The Mandalorian”. It’s a spin-off of the Star Wars movies and tells the story of a bounty hunter who becomes personally attached to an asset he is hired to find (enter ‘Baby Yoda’). 

Probably my favourite character in the series is an endearing little guy named Kuiil (voice of Nick Nolte) who helps out the Mandalorian. Whenever the Mandalorian speaks with him and tries to change his mind on some course of action, his regular, discussion-ending response is, ‘I have spoken’. This little phrase seems to carry such authority. It dismisses opposition and firmly asserts that he is unmoving on his position. 

My wife and I have been trying to use this technique with our kids… with mixed results.

The phrase “I have spoken”, or variations of it, are found frequently in scripture. Scripture is full of accounts of God speaking. In creation, God speaks, and everything comes into being. God speaks to individuals like Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and Moses. God speaks to his chosen people through the prophets, and finally God speaks through Jesus who is called the ‘Word of God’. In the opening verses of Hebrews we are reminded that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”. 

The whole of Scripture is the inspired account of the fact that we have a personal God who speaks to us. J.I. Packer writes “God’s friendship with men and women begins and grows through speech: His to us in revelation [Scripture], and ours to Him in prayer and praise. Though I cannot see God, He and I can yet be personal friends, because in revelation He talks to me.”

God has spoken. His words carry unsurpassed authority. They are unchanging and steadfast and trustworthy. Jesus says that ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’ (Mat 24:35). So, if you want to hear from God, the place to start is scripture. God wants to speak to each of us, and the way he does that is through his word. 

God has spoken. He has spoken for our ultimate joy and his ultimate glory. Will you listen to him in 2020?

Click here to see some great resources for Bible Reading.