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Sunday 26 September 2021

Trinity 17, Twenty-sixth in Ordinary time, Proper 21

Discern what God is doing

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29, Mark 9:38-50  

 

By Sarah Siddique Gill

Vicar of the Anglican churches of St Stephen and St James, Blackburn – Cross Cultural Ministry, with Multi-Lingual Services

Context: a Eucharistic service in a parish of a minority Christian community in a predominantly Muslim Town; Mainly elderly members with a few young families and children

Aim: we are not here to take charge - but to take initiatives

In the last forty years our Church has progressively experienced a changing demography. The town does not look the same. It looks a different land. The indigenous community has become a minority surrounded by a 67% Asian and Muslim faith community. It is no more a mono-religious community. It is exceedingly difficult to accept change. At times, we take solace in romanticising our past. And sometimes, we try to make sense of people whose culture and way of life is different. However, we are still called to live Jesus through our presence and engagement in the community. Our readings this morning encourage us to discern what God is doing in our context.

GOD TAKES INITIATIVE

God always takes initiative. We read the story of people who were liberated by God from slavery in Egypt. God promised to settle them in a land full of blessings. God chose Moses as their leader and God Himself travelled with them. This was a major change which effected the complete lifestyle of people. Soon they became a complaining people. They were missing their past favourite food as well as their social surroundings. Moses was the immediate person to face the anger as a leader. Moses found it utterly frustrating to cope with the complaining people in his care. Moses almost gave up, but then approached God.

GOD HELPS MOSES TO TAKE INITIATIVE

There is great learning from this story for both church members and leadership. Moses acted as in-charge of this group. But God did not intend Moses to simply take charge of these people to maintain or manage and solve their problems. God expected Moses to take initiative and be proactive. God equips Moses by asking him to gather seventy people as elders and leaders from amongst the people. They were to bear the burden with Moses and support him so that it was not a lone battle for him. God takes some of the power from Moses and shares it with seventy other leaders. Moses learnt that he is called to take initiative in building people of power. He was to be an enabler - to build the capacity of people in his care so that they might continue their journey to the promised land with confidence.

GOD INVITES THE CHURCH TO PARTICIPATE IN HIS MISSION

It is God’s Mission (missio Dei) to lead His chosen people to the promised land. God chooses people to participate with Him. God’s mission is progressive, and it continues. The Sundays in Trinity remind us that God has used prophets, and seers and then He sent His only Son Jesus Christ as incarnate God. Jesus inaugurates the holistic mission of God on this earth. God’s mission had always been to save every human being and the whole of creation through His chosen people. But God’s chosen people lost the path and God had to send His only begotten Son to free people from the oppressive law. Paul writes to all those who followed Jesus, ‘So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and do not get tied up again in slavery of law.’ (Galatians 5:1) (NLT)

DISCERN WHAT GOD IS DOING

COVID – 19 has changed the way we minister. God is at work. Our worship is no longer confined to four walls. We are forced to take initiative to be church in the community through Facebook, Zoom, YouTube and other means. Jesus’ ministry- as we read in the gospel of Mark- was in the heart of the community. People followed Him and believed in His miraculous healing ministry. Someone not part of Jesus’ group was still able to perform healing ministry better then Jesus’ disciples. His disciples tried to stop this person, but Jesus said whoever is not against us is for us. Jesus wants His believers to be like salt, but He warns them that if salt loses its taste, it is to be thrown away. It is a Kairos moment for us as minority Christians to be like salt with Jesus’ flavour in the community. Let us discern what God is doing in our context. We are here to take initiative and move from maintenance to mission.

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