The Hope of the Gospel
The great psychiatrist Erik Erikson says that a 10 year old child has certain characteristics. She has on the one hand a sense of industry and energy, while on the other hand she feels still incomplete as a person. She overcomes her feeling of inferiority by delving into all opportunities to learn by doing and learning to succeed.
That stage of thinking is reflected in the story of a 10 year old and a small child. In a tightly packed lift, the two children were eating huge ice-creams and as they were leaving for their floor, the smaller of the children brushed past a woman in a mink coat, smearing a soft streak of lime ice-cream across it. ‘Careful,’ commented the 10 year old, ‘You’re getting fur on your ice-cream.’
10 is an interesting age. It is well beyond infancy, is on the verge of young adulthood and is when children begin to exhibit much of the potential that will fill their years. According to Erikson, the 10 year old is developing a strong orientation towards the future, and it is particularly towards the future that the story of Jacob calls us.
We can look to our past with a lot more confidence that Jacob could. Remember some of his antics? He conned his brother Esau into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. Later, with his mother Rebekah, he deceived old Isaac into making the family inheritance over to him.
For all of his unworthiness, God comes to him to bless him. And no-one would have been more surprised than Jacob.
When we look at the past of the church, we need to acknowledge that there have been times when nationally, things have been said by church leaders which have not helped the life, cause and growth of the local church. However, we need to be thankful too that our church has strongly practiced and supported social justice as one expression of Christian belief.
We should be further grateful to God that the theological differences of our Uniting Churches has enriched the total life of the church. Some would have argued that Methodist Armenianism, which emphasises the freedom of the will. and Presbyterian Calvinism, which focuses upon the sovereignty of God, could not be reconciled, however each has added to the theological character of the church, structurally and doctrinally.
We also give thanks to God that the birth of the Uniting Church has helped to focus upon the importance of ecumenical growth and contact. Churches have never talked to each other so much, and have never worshipped together so frequently, as has been the case in these past few years.
I believe that God has elected to use even our denomination to that end.
However, having said all this, our highest priorities for the next decade need to be more than the ecumenical and social justice in essence. We need to see very clearly that there is in fact no peace without the peacemaker; no service without the suffering servant; no satisfying bread without the bread of life; no liberation without the liberator.
Therefore, our task for the next ten years at least is stated in verse 27 of Matthew 10 where Jesus said, ‘What I am telling you in the dark, you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the house-tops. That is the call to the church for the next decade.
Let the Uniting Church be the one which as it were, drives this Australian community mad with its message about Jesus Christ. Not only is this expected by our Lord, but it is needed to rescue this people from its belief that humanity can live very well by bread alone – a belief that holds that the good things of life can plaster over the cracks of emptiness and lostness in the Australian soul.
As the historian George Marsden wrote recently, ‘In the last analysis the church declares that none of the solutions offered by humanity will work and that we must be thrown on the grace of God revealed in Christ, who is our only comfort. Therefore, we are called to a rooftop ministry in this Scripture, to proclaim to the people of this area that there is a God who offers abundant life through his love, power, forgiveness, strength and guidance.
A lady shared in one of our Next Step groups how she had told her workmates that she went to church. It was obvious that they did not know many people who said that kind of thing. When we make those admissions, people often react the way they would if they discovered a dinosaur bone in their backyard, a kind of mixture of curiosity and disbelief. The same may happen to you; in a staff room, over a cup of tea at the office, during a Meals on Wheels call, at a teenager’s party, a senior citizens card game, even in a supermarket queue.
What you have heard in private, then in the church here, in your groups, in your own prayers and Bible readings, in your Sunday School classes, announce to others. And in doing this, Jesus tells us to remember two things: don’t be afraid and you are of value.
So love God that you have no fear of people, he says, and you are worth more to God than any created thing. Nothing you can do, or have ever done can lessen your value, or your standing through love in his eyes. So put your security in God, and do what it is in your power to do. In your words, your business ethics, over the dinner table, with the persons you love most, and those you wished you loved more.
Acknowledge the Lord before them wherever you are and the Lord will use you.
By George Robert Iles