Well, it’s going to be a big year. Some of us might have thought that we’d had enough change but obviously in the United Kingdom and North America there have been other sorts of changes in people’s minds that will play out this year.
In the public sphere, it looks like it will be a year of conflict, of emotive language and posturing that will stress the fabric of our common life and will challenge the norms of how leaders should behave.
This will be a year for us to “keep our heads”, as Rudyard Kipling said in his famous poem, If.
For us, hopefully, it will be also about keeping our faith. By “keeping”, I don’t mean keeping as in hiding away and being stoic; but “keeping” as in tending, nurturing, exercising—like keeping fit; keeping faith happens when it’s exercised.
The lead line in our Synod’s Call statement is “Uniting in Christ”.
To keep “uniting in Christ” does not come naturally. Over the Christmas break I read Karen Armstrong’s Paul, the Misunderstood Apostle, her reflections on the Apostle Paul’s ministry.
While at times Armstrong’s picture was quite idiosyncratic, she faithfully represented Paul’s great struggle with the early church that it bear witness to a deep, underlying truth—that Christ, in his life and ministry, and profoundly in his passion, has broken down the barriers that we use to separate ourselves from others.
As the communities of the early church formed from disparate backgrounds, they heard the siren song of seeking identifiers that satisfied a need for security and made them feel unique, secure and right. Paul stood against that with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. His experience of the risen Christ led him to a radical inclusiveness in Christ; one that challenged all the boundaries we love to put up.
“Uniting in Christ” isn’t a Pollyanna-type statement that looks within the church and envisages a bland “Is everybody comfy and happy?” approach to life in the church.
“Uniting in Christ” offers us a deep challenge to hold together when the forces of separation are pushing the other way.
“Uniting in Christ” asks us to put the greater good, the vision of the Kingdom, before our own limited vision of what we think is good for us, for the limited circle of our fellow travellers, and our limited view of what we think is possible.
“Uniting in Christ” asks of us a question about our confidence in the Gospel and the way of Jesus.
In this 40th year of the Uniting Church in Australia, are we prepared to be “uniting in Christ”?