17 Sep


Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Mark 8:27-38

Over the last 5 weeks we have been exploring the metaphor of a faith and culture transported to this country from Western Europe in grandma’s beloved pot. Initially we raised the question of how do we contextualise that faith and culture by taking it out of our pot and planting it in our context.

We suggested there were 4 key ideas to be addressed and undertook the task of exploring each one:

  • Coming to grips with the church’s history in this country;
  • Coming to grips with the ethos of the space we now inhabit;
  • Coming to grips with the language and spirituality of this context
  • Coming to grips with the need to mature both as a nation and as a church.

Now we come to bring this discussion to a pause, not a conclusion, as a result of today’s Gospel reading. It is important to understand that this discussion has no fixed point on which to conclude. It is an ongoing discussion with many unanswered questions, concerns and conundrums to be tackled in our journey into wholeness.

It is hoped what we have discussed has raised some interest and that we will find ways to discuss, agree, disagree and move forward, for to stay looking longingly at the pot is to stay trapped in the past unable to enjoy the immense possibilities available to us today.

In Mark’s Gospel, this longing is addressed by Jesus. He says it is time to take the plant out of the pot and pot it in the ground where it will do it’s best work. While it is traditionally understood this is the moment that Jesus speaks to his disciples about his crucifixion, it could also be seen as the moment he breaks the truth to them about how their worldview, the pot, will be shattered.

It is no longer an intellectual or academic process. It is no longer about theological discussions, miracles or healing. It is no longer about an exciting life style with this ground breaking Rabbi who seems to smash all the accepted laws and rules. It is no longer about something that might happen somewhere far off in the future.

It is about now and the moving into direct confrontation with the powers at loose in the world. It is about taking what you believe and planting it in the soil of relationships and community, and watching it be shaken and broken by the winds of fear.

Karoline Lewis suggests: “To ‘deny yourself and take up your cross’ invites us into what the cross can also mean — not just death and suffering, but God choosing human relationships.” God choose human relationships within a particular context and engaged fully in the pro’s and cons of human life. This was not an experience that was rarefied and controlled, it was a life out of the pot, free to experience and be experienced within the ordinariness of being.

This is the challenge for the church, nation and us as individuals. Do we wish to stay embedded in a the cultural myth of church and state we have been given or are we prepared to challenge that myth and develop mature and robust relationships based on our acceptance of our past?

David Lose suggests, “All we have to do is trade what we’ve been led to believe is life for the real thing.” This is challenging. The hanging onto past myths, childhood hopes and dreams and another place and time gets in the way of us being at home in this place and time. It gets into the way of developing contextual myths, hopes and dreams which are applicable to now.

For the Disciples, rattling the cages of tradition was safer than actually taking the costly steps to develop appropriate new world views, to put into action the world view Jesus lived. Often people say they want to live like Jesus, to which I reply, “What, you want to be grumpy, rude, difficult, alternative, disruptive, contrary and more?” Usually they reply no, isn’t he about love? Yes he is about relationships and love, but  ones that are not warm and fuzzy, they are confrontational and transformative.

The things we have been told and are embedded in our psyche are not necessarily life giving and freeing. We have to break the pot and engage at the real human level. Alan Brehm tells us,“We only truly discover the life and love that God has to offer us when we let go all the things we cling to so tightly in that small place of “I” and open ourselves to the people around us in compassion, understanding, and love.” It is this need to let go of the human things we cling tightly too that results in Jesus’ savage rebuke of Peter. Are we deserving of such a rebuke?

In the last few weeks I have been challenged by actions of the Church and those within it in terms of its handling of the Child Abuse scandal, selling of churches, response to individuals within the LGBTQI community, lack of inclusion for FNP people and more. Similarly I have been challenged by the actions of self confessing Christians at the leadership levels within our Nation and their selective application of the idea of Freedom of Speech and Religion and to purport to speak on behalf of God on issues such as climate change, welfare and more. It is painful.

“I am talking about the pain of living on for Jesus in the midst of a dying church. A church, too moribund to sail with the winds of change.” (Peter Woods, 2012), particularly at the institutional level.

Having said that, I am interested in is how this Parish is taking Jesus seriously and letting go of its preconceptions and the ways that have been normal here. Even before my time here we have embraced diversity in gender and ability, we have supported ordination of women and the recognition of FNP sovereignty, supported refugees and developed an effective food collection for needy people. Not to forget the other activities of inclusion such as Caritas, MOGS, Choir, Mother’s Union and Walking Group. This has always been a parish that has addressed issues and found itself changing how it worships and practices faith accordingly.

In my time here, this has grown with the development of the reconciliation garden, the Arts4You program, the coffee shop, volunteers from outside the parish community, the concert series, strategic planning, liturgy experimentation, silent retreats, school holiday programs, student placements and Kids Hope.

This parish is no longer just about what happens on Sunday, if it ever was, and has continued to connect itself to the local community. As a result we are beginning to look different to a standard garden variety parish and the parish we once were. This is the point that Jesus makes. Living in relationship to your context, in his case becoming human, forces you into a different shape and world view.

His changed remarkably over his life. If we take him seriously, each of us, the parish and the church institutional will also.

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