It was so lovely last Sunday to welcome Cecelia, Tara and Richard into membership and to hear how their faith journeys have brought them to Canberra Baptist Church. They told us beautiful stories of feeling welcomed and included; of their joy at finding a community that was passionate about the love and justice of God – a community that felt like they had come home.
As I reflected on the service, however, I was reminded of a story American pastor Nadia Bolz Weber tells of standing up at a similar event at her church and acknowledging how wonderful it is to hear such glowing accounts of your community from new members, but, she adds, “You also need to know that, sooner or later, this community will disappoint you. You will be let down. Someone will hurt your feelings. And you need to decide what you will do when that happens. Because if you choose to leave when the church doesn’t meet your expectations, you will miss out on seeing how the grace of God comes in and fill the holes left by this community’s failure, and that it is just too beautiful and real to miss.”
During the week I picked up a book, Spiritual Direction, based on the writing of Henri Nouwen. There too was a discussion of life in community and how it is made up of two elements – celebrating the life we share together and learning to forgive each other. “What is forgiveness? Forgiveness means that I continually am willing to forgive the other person for not fulfilling all my needs and desires….We say [to others], “Love me!” and before long we become demanding and manipulative. It’s so important that we keep forgiving one another – not once in a while but every moment of life. This is what makes community possible…“
This is why, I think, Jesus keeps moving in Mark 1:29-39, our passage from last Sunday. This is why he resists the disciples’ call to respond to the adulation of the crowds and to stay in Capernaum. His mission is not simply building community but building community that will continue to do mission (and recognise that that mission also involves their own brokenness and need for forgiveness). Likewise, our focus is not ourselves, as we build caring, inclusive community, but on the Spirit of God who is leading us ever onwards.
Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Direction is a book that has definitely earned a place at ‘Scriptorium Sunday’ on Sunday 21st February. Din Adikari and Anthea Snowsill recommended it to me, and I recommended it to John, and he recommended it to all of you in his last sermon! If you saw last week’s Sunday to Sunday you will know that – like the amarius (or ‘provisioner’) in the medieval abbeys – I am asking all of you to bring a book on the 21st, our church anniversary and the first Sunday in Lent, a book which has encouraged you in your faith, that you are happy to lend to someone else.
Here are the monastic rules for our Scriptorium again!
- Firstly, to borrow a book (or other material), you must bring a book (or other material).
- Secondly, make sure your name and email or phone number is in the front of the book (so it can find its way back to you eventually) and please also insert a short note about why this book has encouraged your faith. This will be a wonderful way to learn from each other and may inspire more conversations!
- Thirdly, you might not have an actual book to recommend, but a podcast or something else. If so, print out the details on a piece of paper and bring that with you.
I am looking forward to seeing what treasures people have been reading!
Next Wednesday, 17th February, can I also ask you to come to the church at 7:30pm to pray for the upcoming Special Assembly on the 27th February. At that Assembly motions will be debated which many feel will undermine key elements of Baptist faith and practice and damage our ministry as a denomination going forwards. Please join us to pray.
Finally – a special request! This week Covid restrictions have been eased at Baptist Care Griffith and Carey Gardens allowing residents – after ten long months of separation – to attend church again. It is such wonderful news that these church members will again be able to worship with us. If you can help, from time to time, by providing transport to and from church and have completed a General Volunteer induction, please contact me or Cecelia in the office.
Let me finish with these words from 1 Peter 4:8-11:
Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.