What we are called to do, every day!
We had our church AGM on Sunday. Now you may think that would be a pretty boring thing to do. In some ways it is and in some ways it isn’t. Reviewing where you are and where you want to be are pretty important things to do, whether you are an individual or a company or a church!
I think the one thing about churches is that they can so easily become all about us, all about the care of us, all about what is happening to us. Yet Jesus was very clear, it was all about caring for the other, and particularly the poor and marginalised, the least of us, who can be found anywhere.
In keeping with that it is a privilege to serve the people at the Wembley Downs Uniting Church, an intentional Christian community that looks beyond its border out into the wider world. A community that does not just meet for some cultural reason or out of habit or because we are friends, but one that wants to make a difference in the world. Reviewing the past year means seeing what we, a bunch of disparate people of different ages, at different stages of life, have been able to do for others. What we do and have done isn’t earth shattering but rather an act of keeping faith to the call of Jesus.
And this is where the rubber hits the road. Following the Jesus way is not easy. We are just ordinary people, with the same foibles, same desires and the same limitations as everyone else.
That is our paradox, we yearn to be perfect, love perfectly, forgive perfectly and yet we end up doing all the things we said we wouldn’t do. We can act in noble, selfless ways, then retreat to selfish and individual ways. We can seek justice for the poor, then live like kings compared to almost everyone else on the planet or we can want to protect the planet then behave as though our resources are limitless.
Especially me, because sometimes pastors make the worst Christians!
This is who I am, this is who we really are. We need to acknowledge and accept this reality. And through acknowledging it make choices about which road we will follow.
And if it is the road of Jesus, then we must follow it together, forgiving ourselves and others along the way for being human. God is not worried about the human part, God is worried about the trying part. We are called to try to transform life around us, and if we fail we are to try again. For God is with us on the journey, a creative presence bringing forth new life out of darkness and despair.
So when people ask what the characteristics of a church should be I can think of nothing more suitable than what Michael Morewood said a few years ago, based on the teachings and example of Jesus.
- To constantly affirm the presence of the sacred in people’s lives.
- To proclaim in speech and action that human loving and decency are intimately connected with the sacred.
- To be gracious, welcoming and generous to all.
- To take risks, and be prepared to be unorthodox if compassion calls for it. For this is what Jesus did.
- To seek what is common ground, not in terms of a religious package of beliefs but in terms of our human experience of God.
- To look outward, beyond one’s own religious community and concerns. To look especially to the concerns of social and environmental justice and ecumenism.
- To act against evil and not tolerate behaviour that is clearly contrary to the Spirit of love. Even and especially by our government.
- To trust that the spirit of God works in the body of the faithful and all need to be heard.
As a church we aim high and accept that the journey we are on is long and never ending. We do hope that every day and every year we might nudge that little bit closer to the new heaven and new earth Jesus could see.
For it is the ordinary people who will change the world.