Let’s all aspire to being Christ-figures
As you may have noted in the letters column of Insights, my mother corrected some of the “facts” of my birth as set out in my column in December. In so doing she really reinforced the point I was seeking to make.
I did receive correspondence from a person who felt I was denying the divinity of Jesus and that somehow I was denying the gospel that has been entrusted to us. This person felt let down by me and the Uniting Church. I am sad and sorry that what I have written should have that impact, especially as my intent was to encourage people to read scripture in a way that strengthens their faith in a secular and sceptical world. However I am grateful to the letter writer because he asks, “Are you really trying to portray yourself as some kind of Christ figure?” and that has made me reflect on that very point in my prayer times, in my preaching and as I think about what it means to be people of grace.
Although I do not think I have a Messiah complex, I have come to the conclusion that all of us, as we are followers of Jesus, surely would desire, would hope, would believe that it is possible — that as we accept Jesus into our lives there will be a transformation within us that will shine forth, that will reflect the life of Christ.
I hope that all of us, as we tell our stories of faith in a range of different ways, will be telling stories of transformation, stories which in the telling will reveal God active, moulding our lives into people who, in some sense, are Christ-figures.
My prayer is that the Uniting Church through its members, its congregations, its councils and agencies will be the face of Christ, the hands of Christ, the voice of Christ, the Body of Christ in the world.
In January I spent two and a half weeks in the Riverina with congregations and communities in Lake Cargelligo, Tullibigeal, Hillston, Merriwagga and Hay and I experienced congregations — amazing congregations — which truly are representing Christ in their communities through the ministry, leadership and dedication of wonderful lay people.
Sometimes the local communities served may not recognise the ministry of Christ or be aware of how important it is to them. I attended a funeral at Lake Cargelligo for a lady with whom I had the privilege of sharing in the Lord’s Supper the Sunday before she died. The funeral was conducted by two lay people who had been trained through ELM, a present, pastorally powerful and significant ministry within that community.
At Tullibigeal I enjoyed a fellowship tea, which I think was really a church council, where, full of hope and generosity, we decided to sponsor two people to attend a Project Reconnect Conference.
At Hillston I experienced a congregation that appeared to be growing and keen to be using its resources to support the local community. In Hay I experienced a congregation that was updating its technology so that worship might be more attractive to a wider range of people.
All these congregations are facing significant issues of aging, population decline and the effects of drought but my impression is that in all these communities the Uniting Church is leading with a strength that maybe some of the other churches would be glad to experience.
This is a credit to their faithful lay leadership — Christ-figures in their communities.
In mid February I attended a Covenant Service between UnitingCare Ageing South Eastern Region and the Presbyteries of Illawarra, Canberra Region and Georges River, in which there was a recognition that Uniting Care Ageing operates “as a function of the Uniting Church” and the employees of UnitingCare Ageing are “agents of God’s grace” to those they serve.
Here a commitment was being made to work together in building relationships that would enable this ministry of the Church to be as Christ to those who are served by it and to the world.
Let us all aspire to being Christ-figures; that which as human beings we were made to be.