15 December 2019
The National church has put out a mission document which reflects on the changes from a settler church to a mission church way of thinking and acting.
When this parish was formed and our buildings erected New Zealand was quite different . The church was central to our society , most of the community had some link with the church and to be involved with the church was an automatic part of community life rather than an expression of personal faith for many people. . Part of the culture. It also worked that way in the Pacific Islands and still appears in that form in the many village churches of different language groupings where friends and family are welcome but it can be difficult for strangers to come in.
But since the 60s and 70s times have changed - the church is now in mission as a minority group of the community, the old church culture does not connect in the way it used to. We are in a new place as we seek to express our Christian love in a community of people who are secular and some are of other faiths..
In the passage in Mark we find the disciples facing deep changes to their way of thinking.
Jesus? disciples refuse to face that Jesus? way to lasting liberation is through his suffering. They stick to their old messiah model rather than the new way Jesus is pointing them to. The characteristics which they show are also the characteristics of a church which is still trying to act as part of the old culture in a new culture.
They have a survival mentality, where the old ways of doing things is clung to. So time and energy are put into getting things back to the way they were rather than developing the tools which are needed for now.
For churches fundraising and other inward looking activities consume energy of diminishing congregations,. Resources, are conserved rather than being used and given. And the purpose becomes to keeping the institution going rather than serving others .
Example - when refrigerators came in. Business for ice carts fell so one firm built bigger and better ice carts, they even put them on trucks business was better for a time . Another firm changed to refrigerators. Guess who went out of business? They forgot the purpose of their business was to keep food cold. Not building ice carts.
As Christians we must find ways connect with the people in our community who may simply not know that Jesus is good news for them in their lives now
We need to understand that its God?s job
God calls us to worship and into being church and gives us our unity, our loving and our belonging through Jesus. And the gifts we all have to share and sends us out to be part of the world.
Two conversions -
Today?s story tells us a lot more than we realise about ourselves.
Jesus followers had messed up and not been able to give life to a little boy whose father asked for help.
They were only too ready to claim Jesus as the fulfilment of all the hopes and dreams of the shattered people of Israel -the Messiah. A lot of talking was being done there. But they wanted it their way, comfortably, without pain, instant greatness - goodies for themselves, don?t we all want it that way?
So they argued about the prizes, who would be the greatest among them, who would call the shots in this new Israel.
Jesus followers had lost the plot, in fact they weren?t even near the plot, and they were not in unity or peace with one another. and that made them totally ineffective.
Jesus says you want to be first? Then you must be last of all and the servant of all. He places a child in the midst of the circle of disciples and takes it in his arms and shows them what he means for the Christian community.; about servanthood
Receive this child, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
This is the good news in one action. Where are you and I and our church in this story? Where does it connect with us?
One writer comments that in Jesus? time in the Roman empire, infants were abandoned as a method of birth control and for a number of reasons, , but usually their parents who couldn?t feed them. Babies weren?t people so there was no stigma in abandoning a child.
Most abandoned children probably survived, because they were picked up and brought into someone?s household. Probably by picking such a child up and taking it home, a person assumed the role of its legal guardian - like the ritual in which a father would pick up his own child immediately after it was born, thereby acknowledging it as his own and pledging to raise it. If, however he refused to lift the child, it would be abandoned.
When Jesus took the child in his arms, those watching would see the symbolism. The child was unconditionally brought into the circle of the caring community of the church. Those who were lost and rejected were to be welcomed. Early Christians were known for their practical caring of destitute children.
If you are lost, rejected or feeling abandoned know that Jesus draws you into his company to be loved.
And we have a glimpse of the serving mission of the church. To be welcoming and ready to act in service to those who are weak and powerless. The opposite of arguing about who will be greatest.
Jesus goes further and links acceptance of such abandoned children with acceptance of himself We are accepted and in turn accept Jesus and the new community is increased..
This simple story gives a picture a picture of how Jesus sees a faithful community - the servant church in mission.
A faithful community knows they are sent for others and in doing that they are serving God
A faithful community is one where the stranger is welcomed, not just family and friends but the stranger who may have no status.
A faithful community is one which goes into the community and sees where its is called to serve. The babies were abandoned in the market place, you had to be part of the community to find them.
A faithful community does not spend its time arguing about who gets what , trying to divide up the goodies, spending time focusing on its own survival. That just makes it as irrelevant and ineffective as the followers of Jesus were with the father who sought their help to heal his child.
We are reminded that the church is not an end in itself not a clubhouse for the few, but a servant of both God and contemporary society. Ted Witham says "It is against the church's nature to focus on itself."
A faithful community needs to have faith and trust that God will lead into new places and provide the resources.
It needs to be ready to let go of unused resources and give generously to serve others in specific actions.
A faithful community is known as a community where they love one another .
A faithful community has unity of its diverse gifts working toward one purpose. it cannot be working in opposite directions or withdraw into huddled groupings.
A faithful community has double doses of hope and love because the Jesus they follow does not leave them, but stays when the going?s tough and loves beyond death.
And knows that new beginnings are God?s gift.
A faithful community seeks life for others and is willing to die if that others might live if called to do so.
A faithful community gathers for worship of God to praise and pray, to listen and celebrate, be healed and forgiven and refreshed in love for serving others.
When I went through the list, I think we are somewhere on the way to being a faithful parish in mission. By the grace of God we will continue to be more intentional in our mission, clearer in our purpose and unified in our actions.
Certainly next week we?ve taken the children on board - 72 of them, not abandoned but on holiday - lets pray that they know they belong here,
are accepted and are precious in God?s sight because they are precious in our sight. The actions of the people of this church who care for each other and for those around us.
And Why do we do it - because Jesus is bringing life for the world, lasting life which God wants and longs for us and this world to have. And he calls us - each of us here to be a sign of that new world in our life and our deeds.
Let us praise God
note this drew on many sources
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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