A handful of us in the Synod Office have been meeting each week for prayer and bible study for over five years now, on zoom and face to face. This time together shapes our week and reminds each of us of our first calling; most of us find the time together in prayer and reflection to be indispensable.
As I write this, we have just celebrated the wonder of Pentecost, and the reading for Trinity Sunday is the closing words from Matthew’s Gospel:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
It is no surprise to anyone in this generation of society and church that compliance and regulation can dominate the agenda of those in roles chosen with other expectations. Ask teachers, or medical professionals, or ministers, about how their diaries (even their vocations) have been incrementally changed to comply with the demands of administration.
In our church and community, we need to ensure that people are safe, especially those at most risk; we need to take appropriate responsibility for our resources – human, financial and property. No one questions that.
However, we can become forgetful.
The insistent demands of compliance can easily drown out the vital voice of our first call, if we are not careful. We can fall for the illusion of planning carefully, of “managing our risks”, when risk and sacrifice are inherent to our vocation.
In reading the Gospel yesterday, I was reminded that the tension is supposed to exist. Sacrifice and mercy, reconciliation and adherence to an alternate life are inevitable consequences of our discipleship to Christ.
We baptise, and remember. We break bread and share wine, and remember. We hold the Word before our gathered communities, and remember.
Our communities of faith have innumerable contacts within our wider communities. We offer meals, and groceries; we have community gardens, we visit hospitals and hospices and people’s homes; we offer breakfast in school and church and the local café; we sit in courthouses and injecting centres and prisons of the body and mind, because sometimes company is all people require; we serve and bless people at the beginning of life, throughout life’s journey and as life draws to its completion.
When we are asked why we are caring and serving and offering hospitality, what shall we say? Some carefully scripted, even formulaic, lines written with no attention to context? Some bland murmurings about “being on the roster”? Awkward silence?
Or might we speak about the sense of hope we find when we consider how loved we are by Jesus Christ? We could talk about how our faith community has made a place for us which gives us purpose.
We might even talk about our Uniting Church which asserts the passionate love of God for each and every person, in a world where many people are told they have no place, or no name worth enunciating.
Perhaps we could invite those new friends into our faith community, or to the pub, or café, and listen to their story. In those mutual conversations we might discover together our shared doubt and hope, and discern what the Spirit might sing into our lives. Could you invite them to share in worship, or a small group, or to your home for a meal?
From the commencement of Jesus’ ministry to the gospel’s completion, Jesus is inviting people to walk with him; might we not offer a similar invitation? To follow Christ is to live a life of hope – in this world – for mercy, for justice and for life itself.
Is this not worth inviting others to share?
Remember your first love, which placed you here. Recall the hope, the passion and the blessing. Is that not a story worth offering to others with the care and generosity it was offered to you?