Archives for October 2017

Belinda Groves – 29 October 2017

Well, it’s hard to evaluate last Sunday’s Longest Morning Tea Table. There were some there from our Community Centre and friends, but there were not as many as we had hoped. So, in a way, it was a failed experiment, and yet it was still a very wonderful morning!

It was good to have the time to sit and talk to people and to have several such conversations. I met some newcomers and saw many old friends catching up. It was lovely to see the older folk sitting and chatting while the younger ones tossed a frisbee under the pine trees. So, after some discussion on Monday amongst the pastoral team, we have decided to put last Sunday in the category of highly successful failed experiments!

If we were to do something like it again we might want to consider a different time or format, or more advertising, but perhaps the most powerful form of social media is always the personal invitation!

One of our results from the National Church Life Survey was that 75% of us agreed that Canberra Baptist is always ready to try something new, and perhaps we can take heart from the evidence of that last weekend too.

In my welcome last Sunday I quoted from Kathleen Norris’s book Amazing Grace where she describes a dream she once had of heaven: “I once had a dream of being seated at a long banquet table, so long that I could not see the end of it. I am a dedicated bread baker, and I recall noticing that the quality of the bread was excellent. I was also pleased to recognise some of the people in the crowd. Emily Dickinson seated next to St Therese of Lisieux, Soren Kierkegaard seated across from them. I longed to hear the conversation. My grandparents were there, my aunts and uncles, my mother and father. Family, friends and strangers. A whole raft of Dalai Lamas, including the current one, his immediate predecessors, and also several infant Lamas-to-be. There was much lovely conversation, but it all sounded like song and was profoundly joyful… I woke with a sense of wonder at the grace of it all.”

That was my hope for last Sunday; that we would experience something of heaven, of a table so long we cannot see the end of it, of a gathering of people, all different, but engaged in lively conversation that sounds like song. But it is not just my hope for last Sunday, but my hope for every Sunday at Canberra Baptist Church, for every week of ministry and every gathering, for our future as a place where justice and faith and hospitality thrive, where people sit and serve at a table extending to eternity.

But that requires us to take risks, to experiment, to be open to others, to love. Norris says her favourite definition of heaven came from a friend, a Benedictine sister, who when her mother was dying, tried to reassure her, saying, “In heaven, everyone we love is there.” And her mother had responded, “No, in heaven, I will love everyone who’s there.” Amen to that!

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John Morrison – 22 October 2017

One of the activities Kristine and I were looking forward to during our recent UK trip was the Mary Jones walk.

In 1800, 15-year-old Mary Jones walked 42kms barefoot across the Welsh mountains to buy a Welsh Bible after saving for 6 years. She purchased it from Rev Thomas Charles, an influential preacher and pastor, who shared her story and the need for affordable Bibles for ordinary people in their own language.

This was part of the inspiration for the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society (now just called the Bible Society) in 1804 by Rev Charles and others, including William Wilberforce.

The walk is from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, Mary’s remote home village, to Bala where there is now an excellent museum (“Mary Jones World”!) in a former church.

We attempted to do it over 2 days, but failed, due to a combination of relentless mud, rough terrain and getting lost. We have a newfound appreciation of Mary’s dedication and tenacity.

After hiking with full packs from 9am to 6pm on the second day, we were still considerably short of our destination. So we made our way to a nearby town where we asked an elderly local resident about the next bus to Bala. We had a 2 hour wait — except that the man cheerfully offered to drive us. “We’re all Christians”, he said. On the way he shared that he had been ordained in a lay Catholic order.

At the end, he refused payment. Instead, he suggested that we repay him by helping someone else with a similar kind deed sometime. We were touched by what we would call his hospitality. We said yes, of course. Beyond our agreement to indirectly repay him is our obligation as Christians to continually respond to God’s hospitality to us with hospitality to others.

We often think of hospitality as involving the sharing of premises and food but it is much more than that. Dictionary.com defines it as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” It involves generosity of time and spirit whatever the location or occasion.

We have countless opportunities, big and small, to be hospitable. Today’s longest morning tea table is one such opportunity. As invited guests join us, our welcome, attention, sharing and conversation is what hospitality is all about. And we will also be the recipients of hospitality as they engage and share with us.

One of the draft church goals resulting from the review process so far is “inclusive community.” In elaborating on that, people have used such expressions as demonstrating Jesus’ hospitality, reaching out, embracing newcomers, open and accepts diversity of views.

On behalf of us all, welcome.

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Belinda Groves – 15 October 2017

I am not entirely sure where the idea for next Sunday’s Longest Morning Tea Table came from. Perhaps – like a good morning tea with plates of scones and biscuits and slices and savouries – it was a combination of various things.

It was many months ago that I was driving down Limestone Avenue past the Church of Christ and saw on their noticeboard (there’s always some gold on their noticeboard), “Rather than building higher fences, let’s build longer tables.” The phrase could refer to several areas of our lives: To our refugee policy where all our energy seems directed towards deterrents rather than compassion and creative – life giving – solutions. To the promises at the time of the incoming US president! And to our sometimes Pharisaical approach as Christians to sharing the gospel.

How could we move, I wondered, to a place of graceful presence; where we could show real hospitality to others, and where we could share confidently the treasures of our faith because our listeners would know that we would listen to them with equal respect? In other words, how could we continue building real and deep friendships with others?

Then sometime after that drive down Limestone someone told me about a stay they’d had in a small country town, and how the local church had been hosting a morning tea to which everyone and anyone was invited.

And so I started thinking about the possibilities for us and, in the process, looking online for mentions of long tables and morning teas, and I discovered that it is ‘a thing’!

In some parts of the world it is simply about breaking records, but in others – including South Australia – long table events raise money for medical research. In Devon, in the UK, they hold a longest table in memory of a local restaurateur who had an enduring belief that sharing food and wine with family and friends – and new friends – is what makes life worthwhile. In the US, many cities hold longest table dinners to raise funds for community organisations or to build community. As the coordinators of The Longest Table Dayton, Ohio, write, their table was “packed with strangers who wanted to break bread with their neighbours and meet someone new…to re-think their assumptions about others….”

As we prepare for our Longest Morning Tea Table, can I ask you to bring a plate to share, but far more importantly, can I ask you to come wanting to break bread, wanting to share yourself and in so doing, find new companions.

Belinda

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John Morrison – 8 October 2017

It’s good to be back with you after 7 weeks in the UK. Even though we attended many church services while we were away (3 each day during our week on Lindisfarne Island!), there was something very special about worshiping with you again at Canberra Baps last Sunday.

The very familiar words of one of the hymns resonated with new significance in view of the walks we did in Scotland, England and Wales.

We are pilgrims on a journey
    and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
    walk the mile and bear the load…
I will weep when you are weeping;
    when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
    till we’ve seen this journey through.

As I sang those words, they reminded me not just of our recent walks but also of our life-long commitments to each other. But the words were written, of course, with a much broader context in mind – our relationships with one another in the family of God. What a beautiful, and challenging, expression of those relationships.

Kristine and I witnessed an incident during our time in London which, it occurred to me, was an allegory of the opposite. On the day of the match, I managed to get two of the last of the 60,000 tickets to see Arsenal and West Bromich Albion play at Emirates Stadium. Towards the end of the game, which Arsenal won 2-0, a heated argument broke out right in front of us between two men who were both West Brom fans. It began when one man took exception to the other’s negative comments about a poor passage of play from their team. The best I could tell from their heavily-accented shouting over the top of each other, the first man went on to claim that the team would never get anywhere with their current coach and style of play while the other accused him of being a traitor (and other derogatory terms I won’t repeat here).

It seemed strange to me that they were both fanatical supporters of the same team and yet were so vehemently attacking one another. As an observer, I thought if they just listened to each other they would probably find there was much more on which they agreed than differed.

Allegorical? Unfortunately, it can be like that in churches sometimes. Equally devoted supporters with different views on some aspects can become bitter opponents if they fail to listen with grace. I hasten to add, and I’m glad to say, that it’s not an allegory of what I’ve witnessed at our church. In fact, quite the opposite.

I was disappointed to miss the Ears to Hear Reflection Weekend and Signpost Sunday due to our trip. I’ve been delighted, however, to hear very positive reports of those times of sharing and reflection. I’m impressed with the draft document that has resulted from the process so far and look forward to the refining and adoption of our goals towards the end of this year.

Remember: “Companions on the road”.

John

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Belinda Groves – 1 October 2017

Dear Friends

As I was reflecting on our reading from Matthew this week I was thinking about how sensitive and politically charged two simple words – ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ – have become. For instance, if I was to preach this morning about the son who says ‘No’, but then does the will of his father, or the son who says ‘Yes’, but doesn’t, would too much be read into it? Or if we were to read The Message version of the Lord’s Prayer which ends with “You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes” would people object? And then I started to think about Matthew 5:37, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one…” which seems to be saying that clear and reliable communication is the mark of a Christian (and that, irrespective of how we vote, marking both boxes on the postal survey is not!)

But today’s reading is less about what we say and more about the testimony of our lives. Are we just saying ‘Yes’ to God or are we living a ‘Yes’ (and all that that might entail)? And, the gospel dares to suggest, even some who say ‘No’ to God might end up living the truth of ‘Yes’.

So, in that spirit, in the spirit of living a ‘Yes’ to God’s kingdom and the way of righteousness, can I share with you this poem by Edwina Gateley.

Called to Say Yes

We are called to say yes.
That the kingdom might break through
To renew and to transform
Our dark and groping world.

We stutter and we stammer
To the lone God who calls
And pleads a New Jerusalem
In the bloodied Sinai Straights.

We are called to say yes
That honeysuckle may twine
And twist its smelling leaves
Over the graves of nuclear arms.

We are called to say yes
That children might play
On the soil of Vietnam where the tanks
Belched blood and death.

We are called to say yes
That black may sing with white
And pledge peace and healing
For the hatred of the past.

We are called to say yes
So that nations might gather
And dance one great movement
For the joy of humankind.

We are called to say yes
So that rich and poor embrace
And become equal in their poverty
Through the silent tears that fall.

We are called to say yes
That the whisper of our God
Might be heard through our sirens
And the screams of our bombs.

We are called to say yes
To a God who still holds fast
To the vision of the Kingdom
For a trembling world of pain.

We are called to say yes
To this God who reaches out
And asks us to share
His crazy dream of love.

 

   Belinda

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