“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go.” Mark 1:29-39
It is tempting to stay where you are popular, where you are wanted, where you are welcome. This applies not only in a physical sense but emotionally and spiritually. We are tempted to put our roots down in the place that makes us comfortable and welcome just because it feels good.
Now, from my/our many jobs and homes one could surmise that the Loughreys are not stayers – not people who stay in one place or one occupation very long. The truth is that one Loughrey would like to, the other is an adrenaline junkie and likes the smell of new places and challenges. Going has never been a problem for me. Staying has, although I think I might be staying put here a little longer than usual.
Jesus comes back to Peter’s village and does a miracle. He is besieged by others who maybe looking for a miracle or may simply want to be around someone who does miracles. Jesus was a celebrity and everyone wanted a piece of the action. If Jesus had an ego he could have been tempted to stay, remain the hero and bask in the glory of being who he was. He could have remained.
One of the challenges for the church and for us here at St Oswalds’ is to remain, basking in past glories and continuing to do what we have always done. We have a wonderful history and there are great legendary tales to be told about our past. Some of us remain, just not here but cemented firmly in what we understand was our past and are to some degree reticent to leave behind the place of comfort and reminisces.
Are these memories real or have we embellished just a little the tales we tell? Are these memories sufficient to maintain us as we move into the future? Are these memories relevant to the world we find ourselves in and how do make sense of both now?
Moore’s Law tells us the capacity of computer chips, those little squares of plastic in your computer, phone and iPad that carries and stores data has been doubling in capacity every two or two and a half years for 50years. The modern smart phone only took off In 2007 and has resulted in you having access to an incredibly powerful computer right there in your hand. If the 1971 Volkswagen had developed at the same rate we would now have a car that would go three hundred thousand miles an hour, get two million miles per gallon and it would cost 4 cents! You could drive a car your whole life on one tank of fuel!
And Thomas L Friedman in his book “Thank You For Being Late”, asserts not only is change going to increase in speed it is going to impact us in many yet foreseen ways. He suggests we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Our world is moving at great speed and the place we used to know as Glen iris/Ashburton is no longer here. Our population is changing in both demographic and ethnic terms. It is no longer primarily an Anglo Celtic area. We are surrounded by people from Asia, particularly China whose collective needs is very different to what we are used to. Did you ever imagine the church next door becoming a Buddhist monastery 50 years ago? A quick walk through the corridors of Glen Iris primary will confirm how different our local community is. This change will not slow down but will only increase and diversify.
An interesting thing about that particular group of people, for example, is that, if they are Christian and Anglican, it is a very different form of Anglicanism that we have traditionally practised here at St Oswalds’. Are we prepared to drastically rethink our faith practice for the purpose of attracting this population or can we find space to develop another congregation on this site?
In our area there are many older people who are asset rich and cash poor, without companions, alone and lonely. How do we change what we do so we can find ways to connect and involve such people? Or do we remain as we are?
One of the largest demographic groups is the 30 – 50 age group, those with families and busy lives? What do we do to find a way to connect with them. A connection here is also a connection to their children and would also bring about a rethink in how we do church and community engagement. Or do we remain as we are?
When challenged by the disciples to remain Jesus replies, “Let’s go!” Let’s go out into places we haven’t been before to do things we never done before. Let’s not remain here where I will have to do the same old thing (a miracle) over and over again. If I Do that, you’ll write it down and someone will make the movie! Let’s not get stuck in the same old same old, let’s go and do something new somewhere new.
So they do and it turns out to be uncomfortable, challenging and ultimately, very costly; but it did change the world (with a little bit of help from Constantine).
How did this Happen? Because Jesus took time to discern and listen, to walk and observe, to be open to the Spirit and the opportunities alive in front of him. His time alone in the dark could be a metaphor for discernment – we do it alone, there is often little to guide us (its dark), and in the end we just have to go. Then and only then will we find if what we thought we heard, thought we discerned, is actually right.
This applies not only to individuals but to corporations, Governments and parish churches. The only certainty we have is that if we remain we will continue to get what we have always got and we know that’s not enough. We need more and we need to be doing more, not the same.
How does that challenge what we offer to our community now? While we maybe very proud and defensive of our groups and our offerings is that all we are? Are they in fact building community, extending the reign of God in this community and building the church for the church? Do they in fact feed into this space here Sunday to Sunday? Do they actively reach out beyond themselves and change the community they are in? Or do they remain – ours and ours alone?
If Jesus remained the village would have had their own miracle worker and Jesus would have been able to put his shingle up and been content to do good to those he already knew. Is that what he came to do? Is that what we are here to do – look after ourselves, save our church as we know it and remain; or are we asked to take the risk to look outside of this building and our friends and run the risk of losing our church as we know it as we build a new one, out there?
Jesus had a choice – to remain or go. His reply was simply – “Let’s go out..”