“It is imperative that we become a people who understand who we are, who God is, what God is about in the world and what God is calling us to be about in the world.”
Findley B. Edge, The Greening of the Church (Word Books, 1971) p.37.
What does this mean for us? I suggest it means that we need constantly to be asking these questions:
Where do we see Christ moving in our present situation?
What is God saying to us here and now?
What is the Spirit calling us to be and become, to discover, venture and do, in conformity with the way of Christ?
What then shall we do, individually, collectively and co-operatives?
These things form the basis of the life of a local church: a continuing conversation about and with God—a conversation on the way.
This Sunday we celebrate and reflect upon Box Hill Baptist’s 117th Anniversary.
The church has witnessed so much over that time, including two world wars, and countless new communities coming to join us and share their cultures with us.
And no doubt there will continue to be much change before us also – And we look forward to continuing to be a part of and serve our local community.
In the wider Christian church, this Sunday is a celebration of Christ as the Lord of all the world. In some places it is called ‘the Feast of Christ the King’. For many people, however, this language does not exactly work. The challenge is to maintain our faith in Christian a way that is both meaningful in the contemporary world and retains the basis of hope that has sustained the church through all the centuries.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in prison during the last year of the Second World War, wrote about this struggle for modern day Christians: ‘What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today.’
Who is Christ for us today? This is the challenge for us, because it not only defines something about him, it also declares something about who we are, what we care about, and what we hope for.
Today, and in the weeks ahead, in the season of Advent, we enter into this wonderful and challenging time of reflection, a time of faith, and hope, and love.
No doubt our society becomes more and more multi-cultural every day, month and year. It seems likely that there is no place in our society which is not multicultural. Our workplaces, our schools, our local communities, our sports and hobby clubs, and our homes are multicultural.
Hence, many people find it exciting to live in our multicultural and dynamic society, especially those who come originally from a mono-cultural and mono-ethnic society.
Our church is then called and committed to embracing and demonstrating these multicultural dynamics in our ministry, vision and future direction. Moreover, our church is called to be a model of an intercultural community in which active intercultural engagements and interactions take place among its members and between the English speaking congregation and the Cambodian speaking one. In order to so, we need a multicultural and multi-linguistic leadership team and pastoral team.
“…there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
“So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”
The church as community is the people in community, with God.
The people are the church, together.
In this community, we can grow as persons, we are loved and we receive love; we have gifts to share and to receive. In this community, we are members: we belong, we each have a part and a place and a contribution to make.
But the church as community loses its way unless it knows that it is the community of God.
In short, it is the community of people living in and with God, and God living in and with us.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, French theologian Anton Loisy wrote: ‘Jesus announced the kingdom of God and what came was the Church.’
These words, often quoted out of context, serve to ask what is the relation between God’s promised reign and the Church. For many centuries, the Church imagined that God’s kingdom was limited to the Church. In earlier and more recent times, there has been much creative thinking about God’s purposes in the world at large: and how the Church should be part of that. This thinking lies behind the idea of the Church as servant.
What is God doing in the world around us—and how can we participate in that and work with God’s purposes in our lives, in God’s world?
That is the continuing challenge and invitation to us, the Church.
The Church—What is it about?
This week and for the next 4 Sundays we will be thinking about ‘models of the church’, some of which are well recognised ways of thinking about the nature and mission of the Church.
These sermons will provide us with some stimulus for our collective discernment of the challenges and opportunities facing us as Box Hill Baptist Church.
During this time there will also be some Forum opportunities, for community discussion of some of these challenges.
This Sunday we give thanks to God as we celebrate the Church Anniversary.
Can you imagine what it was like for those who came to this area 115 years ago, to establish homes, a wider community and a Baptist Church as part of that community ?
The ancient prophet Jeremiah also challenged a group of people who had moved (not of their own choice) into a new community. He encouraged them in God’s name to settle there:
‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you in exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’
(Jeremiah 29. 5, 7)