Hearing God’s call

The Lord said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
Then the Lord said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them:
O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
Thus says the Lord God to these bones:
I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

In a language which seemed to arise from the red dust of this ancient continent, a man stood and prophesied in the company of Ezekiel. In a tongue which spoke forty millennia before Ezekiel heard God’s call, before Sarai and Abram left their country under God’s command, the Uniting Church Assembly attended to the voice of God.

The language was Djambarrpuyngu, and its voice was Djawut Gondarra who, with his wife Yurranydjil, have brought a translation of the Old Testament text into their language.

How do we attend to the voice of God in our world? How do we, under God’s compelling word, speak life to those consigned to dust?

Our convocation wrestled with God, scripture, our tradition and each other, as we sought to understand what these questions mean, and where they lead.

We worshipped and sang; in our bible studies, we were challenged about how we “extend the mat” of hospitality to the community and the creation.

We installed Dr Deidre Palmer, our new President, and elected Rev. Sharon Hollis to follow her in 2020.

When we affirm our creation in the image of God, we open ourselves to an ever deepening understanding of our relationships with each other.

This informed our engagement with the critical issue of domestic violence; even with our strong statement about what we believe and how we chose to act, we begin with God’s image – both for survivor and for those who commit the harm. There is much more to be done and we have committed our Church to that action.

The breadth of our church, and our depth, were revealed as we considered how to increase our hospitality to those who live with disabilities. This is not simply about wheelchair access and hearing loops, but about how we serve people who live with a range of challenges like autism spectrum disorder, or mental illness. This is about safety and hospitality, about providing a space – and a community – where each person experiences true welcome.

The most marked conversation in the Assembly was about marriage. This also begins with our understanding of who we are, both in our creation and, in Christ. This was not easy for our gathered church, nor has it been in our congregations.

The decision was to make two statements of belief about marriage, one of which affirms traditional marriage, and one of which affirms marriage as being between two people. These two statements can be held together, or in tension, and people are free to agree with both, or simply one. For many this is a difficult challenge, and some deem it almost beyond them. For others, it is a realisation that God might be speaking a new word for our church.

Our unity is in Christ alone, it is Christ to whom we turn, and it is Christ who will lead us in this journey.

We considered how we can best serve our First Peoples, our history and our future, when we acted to affirm their sovereignty. The conversation, as with every major proposal at the Assembly, is conducted in the context of the world around us – the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the response – and our church felt it necessary to make this statement.

We struggled to speak effectively and to move forward on legalised assisted dying, which is another pressing issue in our community. We affirmed – again – our commitment to care for God’s creation, made pertinent as drought pervades our land.

The Working Groups reflected discipleship in action; engaging with God’s word and each other to discern a resolution. The stories of prayerful faithfulness and integrity were heard consistently throughout the week.

How do we attend to the voice of God in our world? How do we, under God’s compelling word, speak life to those consigned to dust?

This has always been our calling, and our struggle, as we discern how best to speak and act in the community in which we live and bear witness. As we consider the Church’s decisions, we begin and end with Jesus Christ, our hope and our salvation. None of these decisions was taken lightly, or selfishly, but seeking to be responsible for lour Church and its witness in our world.

Pray for each other, and for those who struggle. Worship together, seek God’s blessing for each other. I ask you also to pray for me in the days ahead, and I commit to continue praying for all of you.

Through human witness in word and action, and in the power of the Holy Spirit,
Christ reaches out to command attention and awaken faith;
he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings, to be the disciples of a crucified Lord;
in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules and renews them as his Church.   

Rev. Simon Hansford




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