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Called to stand in community

Colleges Crossing Recreation Reserve, Chuwar, Queensland. Photo by Lewis Yu
The Uniting Church in Queensland comes from a great tradition of giving to help the poor. The prophet Agabus didn’t have the Bureau of Meteorology to help forecast a famine in Palestine when he warned the early church leaders in Antioch.

The area around Jerusalem was hit hard in 46 AD and the church responded generously to an appeal by Paul, Barnabas and others on behalf of “the saints in Jerusalem”.

Like the Uniting Church in Australia Flood Appeal, the efforts of the churches around Antioch, Macedonia and Acha’ia were far more than a mere fund raiser.

Paul told the Galatians that the Assembly office/Jerusalem Council had told him “not to forget the poor”, but it’s clear he is not simply passing the hat around, rattling the can for a worthy charity.

This project occupies a place in his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians as well. It may have taken as long as 18 months, with the apostles and others travelling huge distances to encourage the Christians’ generosity. In the end Paul was prepared to risk his life to personally deliver the funds.

His appeal for the poor in the care of the Jerusalem church was central to his vision of church and understanding of worship: our lives as a living sacrifice.

For him the collection was a ministry; a service in which grace would abound and overflow, providing a clear demonstration of what it is to be a uniting church; a body of believers growing together under the headship of Christ.

In Queensland this is our opportunity to show that in Christ there is no South-East corner, no regional Queensland.

There are no city and country Christians, there are no large congregations and small, but we are all one in Christ, called to live out our faith in daily service.

There has always been criticism as well as praise for the way the church ministers to those in need after a disaster.

In the first two or three centuries Christianity forged the modern western understanding of charity for the poor and afflicted. How we loved others drew astonishment and some misunderstanding.

The so-called Cyprian Plague from approximately 251 AD to 266 AD was labelled with the name of Bishop Cyprian who led his church to care for the sick and dying.

We have a commitment not to stand by, but stand in hard-hit communities, taking our place with the congregations who will live and serve there in the months and years to come, opening our purse strings long after the TV news images have stopped tugging at our heart strings.

Photo : Colleges Crossing Recreation Reserve, Chuwar, Queensland. Photo by Lewis Yu