Who are we to become?
I had intended to fill my last Insights column as Moderator with accounts of good and uplifting experiences from the past three years. I do indeed come to this time with a strong sense of gratitude for God’s calling, and the Church’s support. I am encouraged and inspired by much of what I have seen and heard around the Synod.
Yet I cannot ignore the current relentless news that threatens to engulf our hope in a wave of human suffering; in particular, the huge death and injury toll of innocents in Gaza and Syria, and acute persecution of Christians in Iraq. The seemingly endless cycles of violence and revenge, fuelled by profiteering military-industrial corporations, occasionally bring the pain right home to us, as is the case with the destruction of MH17. This all coincides, ironically, with the commemoration of the centenary of the start of World War 1: “The war to end all wars”. Such sacrifice! What have we learned?
At home we are divided about what is fair in a Federal Budget, the treatment of asylum seekers, and the appropriate use of natural resources. Tensions over competing personal, corporate and public interests have fuelled much confrontation, given tragic expression in the shooting death of a State environment compliance officer. A predicted early start to the bushfire ‘season’ coincides with irrefutable evidence that humanity is complicit in dangerous climate change. Yet we still argue about how serious we need to get in our practical response.
Where does the Church stand in all of this? Jesus respected the Law that proclaimed “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (not to fuel vengeance but to truncate it). But he took it to a higher level: “Turn the other cheek” and “Go the second mile”
(Matthew 5:38-42) He also advanced the agenda of the Prophets, who cried out for justice and proclaimed good news to the poor.
The Uniting Church, with Jesus as our focus, stands in this tradition and is called to walk in this Way. The challenge, in the face of suffering and struggle, is to decide whether we are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Are we going to give strength and hope to the communities we serve or simply mirror their dysfunction?
The Synod will meet for four days in at the end of September. This presents a significant opportunity to make important decisions in the light of particular challenges we face. Will we meet in the spirit of ‘Uniting for the Common Good’ or will we seek to advance personal agendas and inflame old enmities?
I call on everyone to pray for the Synod meeting in the coming weeks. Specific prayer points can be found elsewhere in Insights. The Synod prayer gathering (at 9.30am on 27 September) is also excellent preparation for the meeting. I commend, for our inspiration, the story of the victory Gideon’s army in Judges, chapters 6 and 7. Their faith, courage and creativity remind us to not be obsessed with numbers. Likewise, in Jesus’ hands, five loaves and two fishes are more than enough to feed the 5,000, lest we quail at our lack of resources.
Finally, thank you all for the amazing privilege and blessing of serving you in this time and place. May the blessings of Christ continue to enlighten your lives.
Rev. Dr Brian Brown, Moderator
You can follow Rev. Dr Brian Brown on Twitter @BrianBrownUCA