Hebrews 11.29 to 12.2
Today is the second of our August series on Mission and Stewardship. Last week, I shared a quotation with you from William Temple, who among other things was Archbishop of Canterbury during the early part of the Second World War. I said that I hope you will remember this quotation always:
The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.
I said that it’s a great thought, but not a consoling thought. It’s an unsettling thought.
Some of you suggested after the service that the Church must exist in some way for the benefit of its members. If you think that, I’ll concede that you are indeed quite correct. There is one way (and one way only) that the Church exists for the sake of its members:
The Church exists to make its members disciples of Jesus; the Church exists so that we may be formed into the image of Jesus.
In other words, the Church exists for our true benefit. The thing is, becoming a disciple of Jesus is a bumpy journey of repentance, not a journey of calm repose. We just need to read the Gospels to see that. Being formed and re-formed into the image of Jesus can be a painful process. But: it’s all for our benefit. Our true benefit.
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Al Macrae, has written in the ABC’s Religion and Ethics page that we need prophetic political leadership. He is so right! Read the whole thing, but here is a sampler:
Biblical wisdom tells us that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” If this aspect of leadership is neglected then leaders will inevitably seek lowest common denominator approaches which, in time, diminish any community.
From within the Jewish and Christian traditions there are many examples of courageous visionary leaders – Moses, Esther, King David, St Paul and, of course, Jesus himself. I’m sure we can all remember leaders in national and local political life who called us, often in the face of strong opposition, to the higher values of justice, peace and compassion.
But what seems to be happening in the current election is something different. The candidates seem a little too willing to capitulate to our less generous, more self-centred selves.
Australians like to think of themselves as generous-hearted people, predisposed to giving people a “fair go.” So why would leaders not appeal to these values?
The debate about asylum seekers is a perfect example. The policies of both major parties assume that most of us are fearful and mean-spirited, incapable of empathising with the plight of people seeking sanctuary in this land of abundance.
Jews know the biblical admonition to care for the stranger and the sojourner. Christians likewise will recall that Jesus himself was a refugee. Our leaders could remind us that the vast majority of our forebears arrived here seeking new life and opportunity, fleeing famine or war.
They could remind us that, at both solemn and proud civic occasions, we sing our national anthem which proclaims “we’ve boundless plains to share.”
They could call us to be who and what we claim to be.
While you’re on the site, bookmark it. Brisbane-based theologian Scott Stephens edits this page, and he’s doing a great job.