Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. [Matthew 10.37-39]
The celebration of forty-three years is neither a noteworthy birthday, nor an anniversary of particular moment. The importance of our Uniting Church anniversary is not the number, but the reminder of why God called us to unite, and the purpose for which God has called us.
As our community and our world try to navigate the new paths bulldozed by COVID 19, we are also caught up in the vital and ongoing crisis of racism. People are trying to distance themselves socially, while seeking to register their voice and presence about how we must give value to the majority of the world’s population – those who are not fair-skinned.
As Jesus’ disciples, we are in the midst of this. We must be.
It is not simply about missing each other in our congregations. It is far more than debates about whether or not we can sing when we gather. It is about the witness that we bear.
The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself. [Basis of Union, Para. 3]
The one we follow, Jesus Christ, leads us into the midst of the community in which we live. So we are called to stand with all who experience the obscenity of racism, and stand before all those who would seek to decry its potent weight. When someone asserts that #BlackLivesMatter, we challenge those who would parse the language to avoid responsibility, and seek to raise the voices of those whose lives are accustomed to being silenced.
When Jesus Christ died and was raised for each and every person in history, the last became the first.
While we learn what our renovated social life looks like, avoiding handshakes and hugs with our serially-washed hands, we must address deeper concerns – caring for the frail and elderly in our community, learning again how to live and celebrate and grieve and worship – because fear and anger bear fruit faster than reason or science.
We will attend to those for whom home was unsafe; we will support those for whom isolation resulted in brokenness, or despair; we will live out justice and compassion for those who felt discarded, or lost when a virus changed everything.
We bear witness as a community which offers hospitality and mercy, which is precisely how we found life in Jesus Christ.
Our Church was formed during the Cold War, just after the war in Vietnam had ended. The world was changing rapidly, and the worldwide church was facing headwinds for which it was not prepared. The Australian political landscape was scarred from the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, and we were facing waves of refugees, born of our catastrophic misadventure in South East Asia.
The last, first. Voices for those silenced. Valuing those who appear different. Hospitality. Mercy.
A community in which Christ may work and bear witness to himself.
A risky, costly, wonderful calling.
Some of us might dream that we could return to what church and life were like before the virus. More of us might want to seek refuge within our church and close our eyes and hearts to those whose lives are beyond our doors. A few of us might even wish to travel back four decades and start again (or not start at all!)
We find our life neither in shelter, nor in nostalgia. We find our life in one place – Jesus Christ.
Our Uniting Church finds its life when it “preaches Christ the risen crucified One and confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father”. We have been called, never for our own, but for Christ’s sake.
Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
May you discover the new life to which Christ calls you, each and every day.