|A building project last Monday. Enjoyed doing it so much.|
|Early morning sun shining on our back yard.|
We have been running a Friday night drop-in centre at the Church for nearly eighteen years... we began in 1995. We plan to have our final night there on December 13th so there are only 3 nights of drop-in centre left. On Friday evening we had about 50 people through. (We probably have some sort of regular contact with about 120 people) Some, especially those who have been coming a long time, were getting all nostalgic. Others were all worried because it is really uncertain, and not likely that it will open again after I retire. A man who comes as a carer or minder for one of our clients commented that the drop-in centre was very important to these people. "Couldn't something be done to ensure it stayed open?" He began to think about a multi-agency group continuing the effort. I have to walk away, it would frustrate me too much to still be linked to the Church in any way after I have retired. It will no longer be my scene. It will be sad, but I have no doubt that people will cope and move on.
$4.17 Million.... really?
There was a note in the newspaper the other day that the CEO of a major bank got a 14% pay rise! He needed it because now his pay is a paltry $4.17 million per year! Other workers I know have had a 1-2% pay rise and they get an eightieth of what he earns, or in some cases less than that. Sorry that is obscene! I think I will be changing banks.
I am working my way through my last seven sermons in a series called "Concluding considerations."
The first was on "The Future" Here is my outline...
1. What to expect...
- Incredible advances in technology... increased production but fewer basic jobs.
- Medical science will be able to work wonders but that will raise ethical questions.
- There will be a "knowledge explosion" with easy access to all sorts of information.
- It will be a cosmopolitan world with people traveling and living in a variety of countries. Our communities will increasingly involve a greater variety of ethnicities and cultures.
- Muslim / West tensions will continue and we will have to find peaceful ways to build bridges.
- There will be an increasing gap between rich and poor within our communities. How do we find a place of dignity and worth for jobless people in our communities? There will be an increasing gap between rich and poor nations.
- We will have to transition from an oil based lifestyle to other forms of energy. Oil is running out and getting difficult and expensive to harvest.
- Climate change and sustainability issues will have to be faced.
- We in the west suffer from a loss of meaning and spirituality connection.
- The speed of change will make us feel insecure.
2. The Church's reaction...
We can easily suffer from "Future Shock" and long for the "Old Time Religion." In all the major religions there has been a resurgent conservative/ fundamentalist element. ... BUT.. ultimately these do not last the test of time and can be dangerous, adding to the problems.
3. Positive steps toward relevant Church communities
(i) An intelligent, informed, knowledgable and thought out faith that faces reality rationally.
(ii) A servant Church earning its credibility by serving people in the community.
(iii) A flexible, adaptable Church willing to change and keep on changing.
4. God will be there.
For me God is a movement bubbling away amongst us bringing justice, freedom,wholeness, love and abundant life. This current of life has been there enhancing life for centuries, and whatever else we say about the future, "he" will be there too.
Today's sermon was on "If I started a new Church..."
I imagined that I was a Martin Luther, a Wesley, or William Booth and expressed just three emphases my imaginary church would hold.
1. It would focus on Jesus
The Christian religion carries with it a whole lot of excess baggage which gives it a bad reputation. The essence of being Christian is following Jesus, his "spirit", values and way. He would be the focus, not dogma about him, nor institution, nor peripheral religious side lines. This imaginary Church would simply call themselves "followers" or "Followers of Jesus."
2. It would be action/service orientated, rather than worship oriented.
I find myself questioning the worship focus of the church. We spend untold resources on our Sunday worship in terms of salary, buildings and equipment. A church is deemed a success if it has crowds at worship. A minister is classed as "good" if he is a good worship leader. BUT..... in all the Gospels Jesus mentions worship only once! If it was meant to be the priority we make of it, surely it would have featured more highly in his teaching? Instead he calls his followers to be servants, to be salt and light in the world. By example and teaching he wants us to be reaching out in loving service to others. It would seem to me that a Church (or gathering) which is truly following Jesus would see this as the focus of their being. As an example of the distortion I see in current Church life let's look at the Order of St John. It serves the community through - Ambulance service, community volunteers at events, medical alarms, a caring caller service, youth groups, Friends of the Emergency Department, hosts at the hospital, and support in the oncology department. It also has its rituals, administration and ceremonies. If St John decided that it would put all its recourses into just "rituals and ceremonies" we would say it has forgotten its purpose and is wasting its time. We would see it as denying its essential identity. It may be a bit of an overstatement, but that is what the Church has done! It began as followers of the one who came to serve, who sent them out to serve. But by and large, it has stopped being a source of loving service, and spends all of its resources and energy on worship, administration and institution as ends in themselves. It has forgotten the "spirit" of the one it purports to follow!
3. It would be inclusive.
Jesus got into trouble because of his inclusive attitudes toward people. People the elite and religious leaders saw as quite unfit he would affirm as included in the people of God. My imaginary Church would follow that lead. It would be open to other spiritualities. As I often say in my funeral service; "God, or the Great Spirit is bigger than our various religious interpretations."
4. It would seek to be a catalyst in the community.
It would give its support, efforts and resources to working alongside and with other community based "life enhancing" groups. Too often the Church has stood aloof from the community thinking it is the only one with the truth about life. The "Current of life" is bigger than the Church, and many in the community seek to enhance life with a passion... "my" church would celebrate and support that. Groups like Fair trade, Sustainability efforts and Night Shelter for example, would be supported.
I have five sermons left. Watch this space.
I came across a paragraph that could easily describe my journey over the last thirty years...
Rev. Peter Laarman writes; "What I have discovered about the substance of my faith in this last third of my life is that all else pales next to the figure of Jesus. And the more compelling Jesus becomes, the more I feel the urgency of becoming a "doer of the word" and not a mere hearer - or, often in my case, a mere preacher. This is the primary question: why do I - why do so many of us - cry "Lord! Lord!" with complete ease and yet fall so short of radical discipleship?"