Tonight we reflected as a group upon Jesus’ teachings not to be anxious; to strive for God’s kingdom; to know that it is God’s good pleasure to give youse the kingdom; to share what youse have with those in need; and to make for yourselves treasure in heaven, for where your treasure is, so is your heart (see Luke 12:29-34; and yes, Jesus is speaking to his disciples as a group: every occurrence of ‘you’, ‘your’ etc. is plural). So together we wondered what our common treasure is, where our common heart is, and how we might have already received the kingdom … and given it away. Questions and responses follow.
As the little flock of Sanctuary, what is our shared treasure?
- A love for Jesus (phew!)
- Each other
- Care for the broader community, most commonly expressed through our work, volunteer activities, time, prayer and advocacy
- Concern for people who are often marginalized, even rejected, by the church e.g. divorcees, LGBTIQA+ people, Indigenous people, vulnerable young people – and a desire to know how to serve such people better
- Interest in wider social and theological perspectives, and intellectual rigour. We value being flexible and inclusive, while also acknowledging the paradox that proclaiming a gospel of inclusivity in an intellectually rigorous way can often be socially exclusive
- A form of worship anchored in ancient forms but which is also clearly the ‘work of the people’ here and now (for that is what ‘liturgy’ means: the work of the people)
- Desire for and recognition of the presence of the Spirit, often felt during our services – whether in singing or quiet time or shared moments – and the powerful healing that this presence brings
When do we glimpse us being formed into one body, with one heart and one shared treasure/desire?
- When we sing
- When we eat together
- When children set the communion table
- When things are nearly disastrous – a little one almost sloshes the communion wine and we hold our collective breath – it feels right, daring, innocent and unifying all at once
- At our special services: the Dawn Service, the Tenebrae – again, the singing, the eating, the sharing, the children being part of it all
Jesus talks a lot about not being fearful or anxious. As a flock, what are we afraid of?
- We are currently highly pastor-centric: Will we be able to continue (energetically, spiritually, financially) when the pastor moves on? (Ed. note: She’s not planning to move on anytime soon! And as someone once said, Do not worry about the things of tomorrow; today has worries enough of its own!)
- Potential backlash from far right fundamentalist Christians
- Question: Are some of us afraid of growing bigger, or of befriending newcomers? This was mooted, and not firmly resolved – although some newcomers say they feel well befriended, and that they’ve found their people. Yay!
As a flock, how have we already received the kingdom which it is God’s good pleasure to give?
- “Youse are our mob!” Jesus ate with all sorts of people and drew them together. We glimpse the kingdom through a strong sense of general basic inclusion, especially as we eat together!
- Jesus taught us to make children central. We glimpse the kingdom when children set the communion table; when older kids care for younger kids; when we realise this mob is the village which raises these children; when teenagers keep choosing to turn up; when children don’t want to leave and beg to stay longer.
- Jesus taught us, full stop! We glimpse the kingdom as we are confronted by new ideas and challenges every week: here, a glimpse of the bigger kingdom breaks into our lives every single service, from a variety of sources.
If we have indeed received the kingdom (or heaven’s treasure), how are these gifts flowing through Sanctuary and into the wider world?
- We take what we discover or experience and try to introduce it wherever we go, especially at work. The last lines of the service are the most important: “The service of worship never ends; it must be lived. We go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” They shape the following six days and twenty-two hours of our week.
- We are sustained in our work with vulnerable people.
- We take what we hear and talk about it in our wider households and networks.
- We are challenging people’s fixed and limited ideas of what Christians are.
- We provide a place of welcome for LGBTIQA+ people, divorced people, vulnerable young people etc., especially those who have been kicked out of home for being gay, for having mental health problems that aren’t being ‘cured’ by prayer and fasting etc.
- We are speaking out for and on behalf of LGBTIQA+ people in ways that are rippling beyond our ken, but for which we are being publicly named and recognised in various forums.
- People are being referred here by local atheist GPs and psychologists. True! (But how do we help any referrals take the leap of faith, and turn up to a service?)
Last question: What is our hope?
- That every church becomes known as a place of welcome, refuge and love for all peoples, no matter their age, faith background, or cultural, gender or sexual identity.
Photo by Leonardo Sanches on Unsplash. “Eat drink sing repeat” with a group of people of diverse ages, stages, life experiences and identities in the name of Christ, with a bit of Bible and prayer chucked in, and that pretty much sums up Sanctuary!
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