Respected by others
Instinctively, we wish and hope for a safer and less troubled 2015. Last year had far too many shocking events, tragedies and disasters – in our own backyards, and worldwide.
As individual Christians and as a community of faith – a national Church in Australia – I wonder how we would sum up our hopes for this year?
At our Synod meeting last year, we were overwhelmed by the dire situation of our Church. Issues with properties, finance, structure, membership, leadership, and even with our future as an institutional Church. We were obliged to respond to these challenges by saying “If not me, who? If not now, when?” We have undertaken a serious response. The Synod Mission Plan is our way to respond to the mission of God. I urge you to pray for it.
Four months into the Moderator’s role, I have had incredible opportunities for meeting people in various contexts and circumstances. I’ve seen and heard people’s witness to God’s presence in their lives – ordinarily and extraordinarily.
In late December, I joined a Men’s Breakfast at Temora, in the Riverina. The blokes gathered there have been meeting, every month, to foster Christian fellowship across many denominations. They are volunteers in various community affairs; mates in times of need; and neighbourhood friends, closer to each other than their sisters and brothers separated by distance. For this special meeting (that I was guest speaker at), they invited family members to share their Christmas celebration. Despite all the differences in traditions and theology, there was every indication that they respected each other. In their respect, they were united in Christ!
Throughout my ministry, I have been involved in various ecumenical affairs. I have participated in prayer services for Christian unity, or gatherings for justice and peace, and so on. But I have not enjoyed any of those ecumenical gatherings as much as I did that Men’s Breakfast in that small country town! The country way of practicing ecumenism reminds us of the importance of respecting others who are different from us – even amid feelings of insecurity about the future.
At the Exodus Foundation Christmas Dinner, I met a Catholic man from Malta, as well as a young Muslim fellow, an atheist, a Buddhist Asian grandma and a young Nepalese Hindu woman. The dinner for almost 3,000 was extraordinary but what I found most amazing was the goodwill of hundreds of donors, volunteers and guests. This made Christmas a community of genuine spirit and respect.
As I write this article, I affirm the nature of our Church – open, courageous, and willing to work with others (ecumenically, or through interfaith dialogues), to witness the ministry of Christ in the 21st Century.
Chinese tradition says that “The sheep is respected by others”. This is the “Year of the Sheep”, and I think we should endeavour to make respect our aim. Respect for all humanity, across all generations, and respect for God’s creation – including the earth, the environment and all creatures.
In the long journey as an institutional Church – a journey which currently feels like a race against time – we can become weary and lose our vision. But let these words from Hebrews 12:1 be an encouragement to us all: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
Let us race with a gentle respect for each other. Pray that, in doing so, we will be able to successfully navigate the mission of God for our time!
Rev. Myung Hwa Park, Moderator