We are living in troubled times. Our neighbour has lost her beautiful cat, it just went away. She has put signs around the neighbourhood, with a picture of her cat, a phone number and reward. She has kept the outside light on, left the garage door slightly ajar. But her cat has not returned, and she is grieving this loss.
Last week in Melbourne, the earth shook. I could hear it building from a low rumble, to our house shaking, books falling off a shelf, a loud noise, and wondering what is happening to my world. We don’t have earthquakes in Melbourne!
The second year of the COVID pandemic, with over 240 days of lockdown in Melbourne. Restrictions have meant that old ways have disappeared, visiting my children and grandchildren have hardly happened over this time. Ways of being church have perhaps forever changed. Who would have thought the LCANZ would be having a Convention online?
But this is bigger than our little world. We are living through a period of global disorder. People around the world are experiencing tremendous suffering, uncertainty and disruption to their lives. What we had been used to as normal has evaporated. A new reality is being unveiled – systems of evil and injustice are being seen in greater clarity, and our collective “normal” has been radically upended. Walking through this chaos and despair can be difficult; but ultimately, it is when everything seems adrift that we are drawn to our true anchor and rock. God uses tragedy, suffering, pain – and even death to guide us into His greater Love. As people of the cross, we know the ways of this gracious God, and we trust.
Yet we don’t expect all of this to be happening. We expect nirvana, where everybody loves everybody, where struggle doesn’t happen to us. Why isn’t this happening yet? Actually the Gospel is not about an ideal world, comfortable and predictable. The kingdom of God is about living amongst the weeds. This is utter realism. The tragic sense of life, the chaos of life, the uncertainty of life, Easter Saturday, that’s the Gospel leading to life.
On a hard day we do not know if this Gospel is reliable. This parable of living amongst the weeds invites us to be honest about our fear and our uneasiness and our anxiety. It also invites us to imagine that God is on the other side of the story, capable of life-giving generosity, full of grace. God is faithful, and has power and is ready to feed us and sustain us and care for us.
There is a sense of rebirth coming out of this pandemic, the kingdom taking new root. Our first birth was actually traumatic, as we entered a foreign world. Everyone else was happy at our birth, but we were frightened. At our second birth, in the waters of baptism, God was happy as we entered His new world of life and grace. And we continued to have our fears in this world. We have our daily birth, death of the old, the past, and new beginnings. Has the Church, the LCANZ entered a time for rebirth, with all of our wounds and fears?
Are we not people of the cross, having entered into death, that new life may begin? Whom Jesus has brought into his kingdom, weeds and all? Not of fear, but of grace, of compassion, of love?
How will we respond in these times, as individuals, and as Synod? With fear, or trust; with sadness or eagerness; with shrinking or compassion; with withdrawal or generosity?
These are new times, God’s times, the Saviour’s times, the Spirit’s times, for a suffering, wounded people, for a suffering wounded world. Our gracious Lord invites us, “Come to me, listen, that you may live.”
PRAYER: Loving God, you fill all things with a fullness and hope that we can never comprehend. Thank you for leading us into a time where more of reality is being unveiled for us all to see. We pray that you will take away our natural temptation for cynicism, denial, fear, control and despair. Help us to have the courage to awaken to greater truth, greater humility, and greater care for one another, trusting in your eternal presence and abiding love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This was the final devotion for Part 1 of General Convention of Synod
Text Matthew 13: 36-43