As I said then: “As a community of faith….together we are the company of prophets of Canberra Baptist! We are called to care for the disadvantaged, to live out and speak out God’s justice and truth and love, to go through the necessary, but difficult transitions in our lives and our church, to step into new things welcoming each other’s gifts, caring for each other and witnessing to what God is doing amongst us.”
How do you feel about this title? About CBC being a company of prophets? About personally being a prophet – in the company of other prophets?
To me it is a good fit for Canberra Baptist! Our first goal is: “Led by the Spirit we will – explore what it means to follow Jesus today.” According to biblehub.com these companies of the prophets (Nabhis) were formed, “due to a newly awakened religious life among the people, and intended as a means of deepening and extending it.”
Perhaps its strange to be talking about newly awakened religious life at a time when the census data tells us less people are identifying as Christian, but we know – and many others know – that our relationship with God is vital to our ongoing life and mission. As Anglican minister, Michael Jensen, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald last week: “I would say that the hunger for transcendence has not waned, even if it’s now expressed in non-traditional ways. If anything, we’ve seen an uptick in interest during COVID. Australians, at least as I encounter them, are very open to a conversation about the spiritual, tend to be intrigued by the person and teachings of Jesus, and are looking for something beyond the endless round of work and consumption, for themselves and for their children.”
So my question to you is – are you “deepening and extending” your religious life? Are you looking for something more for yourself (and your children)? (If you’d like to talk through this question with Steve or myself, we would love to have such conversations!)
Our second goal is: “Led by the Spirit we will – build an inclusive, caring community.” Again, according to biblehub.com the companies of prophets were, “voluntary, organised societ[ies], apparently dwelling together in the same place, and pursuing the same mode of life.” They were bound together by the Spirit of God – led by the Spirit, just as we seek to be – and this association enabled them to encourage each other, to be better equipped to offer ministry to others and to resist, “the disruption of the theocratic life, which was a legacy of the time of the judges”.
We no longer believe our government and leaders rule by divine authority, but what disrupts our lives, and is the legacy of our time, is individualism, an ideology that weakens – rather than strengthens – our sense of community, our relationships and our capacity to care for each other.
As I mentioned at our February Church Meeting we must be very aware of the impact of individualism (plus Covid) on our life as a church. I had just heard the results of a public servant survey on ‘working from home’. What it had revealed is that people who were established in their careers felt quite productive ‘working from home’, but younger people did not. They did not feel connected to their departments and roles. Vital coaching and mentoring was not taking place. The conclusion was that organisations might survive this way – but they wouldn’t thrive.
What I said then was: “We, as a church, want to thrive – not just survive! Some of you – because of your health needs – will need to stay mostly on Zoom. But the rest of us need to break the habit of staying home and come! Because we need you to turn up! We need to turn up in each other’s lives – to encourage each other – to call out each other’s gifts – to help us as a church identify new leaders – seek the mind of Christ together – so we, as a church, don’t just survive – but thrive!”
Finally, our third goal is “Led by the Spirit we will – share God’s love and justice in words and action.” I’m struck by the fact that these companies of prophets pursued the same mode of life. What mode of life are we pursuing? Are there things that are distinctive about our mode of life as Canberra Baptist Church? Does our mode of life bring life to others? And – are we actually being prophets – people who proclaim the justice and the love of God to others?
This week is NAIDOC Week and on Sunday we are going to celebrate the first ordained indigenous minister, Rev Graham Paulson, and his life-long work of proclaiming God’s love and God’s justice. This church has had long relationship with Uncle Graham and Aunty Iris and many of you will know that they are now very frail. Uncle Graham has had Parkinson’s for a numbers of years, so this Sunday we will also take the opportunity to write a card to them – that people can sign – thanking them for what they’ve done and expressing our love for them and our commitment to continue in company with such prophets in the future!
Finally finally! There’s another reason Canberra Baptist might be called a company of prophets. They too were known for their music and singing! 😊
The first mention of the company (Nabhis) comes in 1 Samuel 10:10 where Saul is anointed king over Israel and he falls among a company of prophets, “and the Spirit of God comes powerfully upon him and he joined in their prophesying.” And the text goes on to say: “When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’”
May the same be said of each one of us by those who know us! “What is this that has happened to ____________ (add your name). Is ___________ also among the prophets?”
Yes indeed! Led by the Spirit of God we are the company of prophets of Canberra Baptist!
Grace be with you, prophets!
PS In addition to the card for Graham and Iris Paulson, there will be a card at the back of the church on Sunday for Rev Dr Graeme Garrett, a former interim minister of our church and friend to many of us, whose daughter, Jane Garrett, died of breast cancer last Saturday. If you would like to send a card to Graeme directly, his address is: 19 Galada Way, Brunswick East, VIC 3057.
Image: Saul prophesies with the prophets J. James Tissot