Gathering is good
How do you describe your faith and what it looks like to others who have not a clue about what it really means to be a Christian in Australia in 2018, here in the Forest in the Northern Beaches?
Introducing the person of Jesus Christ, our relationship with GOD and the influence of the Holy Spirit on our lives would be a great way to start. The bible and the teachings of our faith in practice is another great start to the conversions surrounding the Christian faith. But some want to know why you bother, if you are free to do whatever you want on a Sunday, why would you go to church when “you seem so normal”.
Part of what I would say is that being a Christian values highly the understanding that we need to gather together. There are benefits to growing one’s spiritual life and the practice of the Christian faith by meeting together. As a group of people who gather through the week and most definitely on Sundays we recognise that we are in a relationship of commitment, loyalty and patience, bound by love inspired by the Almighty. We must be persistent. Humans not only benefit from routine in their own lives (turning up at least each Sunday). They also need to be able to rely on others. We are never the same group when someone is away. We are less than we might have been. It was always the case that together we are stronger.
The interaction with each other is highly valuable, no matter social status, race, colour, gender, age, ability, nor our depth of faith, our journey with sin and forgiveness, no matter our particular gifting/talents, or theological view point. In this our Uniting Church we come together from different traditions of the faith and for some, like my children this is their only experience of tradition.
We come with different life experiences, different abilities to access our Holy Scripture, different intellects, different abilities to reason, and different abilities to tap into our creativity, our sense of adventure into our ever deepening faith. We come together because there is power in Worship, Christians are unified in the practice and flow of liturgy, the blending of voices when speaking or singing our praise and thanksgiving to our Almighty GOD, or singing of our lament, calling out our cries for justice, for suffering to end. Yes for God’s purposes to be revealed.
There is power in the shared silence in front of our awesome GOD, the laughter when we see the funny side of being human together, the resolution to apologise corporately in confession for the injustice that groans through the lives of our common experience of humanity and the injustice that groans through the whole of creation.
There is power in our collective prayer and care for each other and our world, our hopefulness, our empathy, our seeking ways forward through difficulties, our want for peace for our whole world. We the followers of Jesus Christ standing together and wrestling with the things of despair, yet never allowing despair to have the last word. For we are fundamentally a people of hope, our history would speak to practices that are resilient yet flexible, committed to the truth yet able to listen to another’s experience of life. We are the people who love Jesus Christ, and seek His ways for it brings us closer to our Creator and closer to our brothers and sisters, closer to wholeness and the light, the illumination human beings seek.
This Forest Kirk congregation is one among many gathered Christian Churches who recognise that the deeper more satisfying life, a richer life, consists of the practice of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We evoke the courage in and among us to step out into the human struggle, to question the powers that be, to be patient with each other and be impatient with evil in all its guises (the masks of manipulation, mastery and domination of peoples and nature), so that our steps forward are in service and love. In the wider community love looks like justice. Because we gather together we have more of an ability to fight for social justice, whether that be:
- volunteering to help people who are stuck at home get to their appointments with doctors or do shopping.
- volunteering a Christmas gift to someone you have never met.
- volunteering in nursing homes, where residents can be lonely or devalued.
- volunteering to help with SRE in schools
- volunteering and training (CPE) to Pastoral Care for the vulnerable people (patients) and workers who will be in our new hospital.
- befriending “questionable” people, and looking out for the homeless, those who struggle with mental health issues, those who have disabilities, those who have the least.
- committing to sacrifice our livelihood for the sake of others, investing our time and money in schemes that have a more worthwhile goal than profitable bottom lines or mere possessions.
- volunteering to help support women and families in crisis after domestic violence
- volunteering time to pray for those in need, for healing for the suffering and for peace in this world.
- volunteering time to share your hope, and thanks and joy of life with someone who is shut in.
- ….and the list goes on and on.
I think it is a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice. There is true joy in inspiring and empowering others, especially “the least of these”, the precious and priceless heartbroken, rejected of the world!
In the vast spaces and deserts of this world, people are looking for hope. Hope moves forward taking steps towards justice, love and compassion . For these are the very places we meet our Christ, places that help us find our wholeness, that help us really heal, that help us really live. To be a Christian is to live boldly, honest and free. To step out of ourselves, in the name of LOVE in faith. A faith that seems as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping out because the GOD that sustains you does not answer to any human-made empire and yes this FAITH no empire, earthly or otherwise can take away.
Today I would agree that it’s not easy telling folks that going to church is a great thing to do. The verbal slap-downs, the thoughtless unreasonable words or cynicism can really put you off sharing the faith you’ve spent your life growing. It is hard to share our precious faith in a hostile dismissive environment. I’m totally with you … but what happens if we don’t share? What will happen within a couple of generations? What might my children endure if none of us shares the faith?
Do we have the intelligence, humour, imagination, courage, tolerance, love, respect, and will- to meet the challenge? Time will tell, a time not too far from now. None of us alone can save the world. But each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so. Together we are more likely to succeed.
This is a lovely and loving congregation (you guys are awesome). We are gathered together in Christ’s name for the purposes of God. Together our relationships practise commitment, loyalty, patience, bound by the love inspired by the Almighty, and we are persistent. We must take courage and be persistent.
See you at Church next Sunday … oh, and maybe you might ask someone, maybe a neighbour or maybe family who doesn’t belong to a gathered Christian community if they’d like to come too. Share with them why you like to gather with other Christians on a Sunday. You never know what might happen!
Yours in Christ’s service,
Rev. Mel Graham (September 2018)