Many years ago, this church had an important conversation (1st picture). I am not referring to this many years ago! The church looked more like this (2nd picture) at the time, but actually that first picture (1st picture) reminds us that this is a conversation we have been having for a long time and will continue to have, as we ask ourselves, “Who are we as a body of believers and what is God calling us to do?”

In 2017, however, the conversation coalesced around three goals: Led by the Spirit, we will explore together what it means to follow Jesus today, build an inclusive, caring community and share God’s love and justice in words and actions.

And at the start of each new year, we set aside some time to reflect on these goals, to flesh them out further in our thinking, and commit ourselves again to living them out. Which is what we are doing over the next three weeks!

Next Sunday, three special guest speakers – David Holly, Meryl Jackson and Megan Williams – are sharing what ‘exploring together what it means to follow Jesus today’ means for them. On the 18th, I am looking at ‘building inclusive, caring community’. And on the 25th of February, which is the 95th Anniversary of Canberra Baptist Church (that deserves a hallelujah!) Rev Scott Pilgrim, executive director of Baptist Mission Australia, is speaking to us about ‘sharing God’s love and justice in words and actions’.

But this morning – drawing on our Mark reading – I want to look at all three goals – and at some of the ways we live them out as a church.

Firstly: Led by the Spirit, we will explore together what it means to follow Jesus today.

This statement reflects a long process of thought and prayer and discussion. It begins by affirming that, we acknowledge following Jesus isn’t something we do solo. Christians are not islands! We know we are ‘led by the Spirit’…’together’.

And the statement ends with the word ‘today’ reflecting a strong concern in this congregation – there was a lot of discussion about how we worded this – that our expression of faith must be a meaningful, life-giving, salvific – saving – faith.

And at the heart of this statement is another carefully chosen word – ‘explore’. The statement affirms that for this church ‘what it means to follow Jesus’ or ‘what it means to have faith’ is not about adherence to a set of statements or beliefs (CBC does not have a creed or statement of beliefs) but is to be explored – worked out – lived out as lived experience. We commit ourselves to a faith that is dynamic and responsive and interactive. We want a living relationship with God.

There’s another word I want to highlight in our reading – and that is the word egeiro, translated ‘lifted up’ in the NRSV. Immediately – the urgency of the gospel we talked about last week continues – immediately after leaving the synagogue, after countering the oppressive spirit in that place, Jesus enters Simon and Andrew’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law is terribly ill. And Jesus takes her by the hand – it’s a beautiful image isn’t it – and “lifts her up”.

This word is so simple and yet so full of meaning in Mark’s gospel. In 16:6, the angel uses it to tell Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, that Jesus has been raised from death.Whenever egeiro is used in Mark, commentator Sarah Henrich writes, “The word suggests that new strength is imparted to those laid low by illness, unclean spirits, or even death, so that they may again rise up to take their place in the world.”

So, although we, as T.S. Eliot says, “shall not cease from exploration”, we know our exploration is not aimless – or wearying – in fact, the opposite because as we explore, Jesus takes us by the hand and lifts us up.

One of the places this is very evident in our church, where people are ‘exploring’ faith and being lifted up, is in our small groups. (If you look at the bulletin – you can use the QR code on the pew to access it – you will find under the title ‘Explore’ a list of all our small groups. Let me say, if you have gone to one of these for a long time, you are welcome to explore another. No one is glued to their seat. And if you aren’t part of a group – check one out for a few weeks! I am very happy (and Steve is too) to provide an introduction. And if you’re still undecided there’s a group (right at the end) that runs just for 4 Thursday nights in March.)

There’s a thing the Women’s Book Group do when someone new joins us. We go around the group and everyone shares, “Why we come to Book Group…” and as we do, we hear the most wonderful stories – everyday stories, but wonderful stories – of healing in people’s lives, of freedom from different forms of oppression, of restoration – of relationship with others and of self and with God, in other words, of salvation – of ‘lifting up’ as we explore what it means to follow Jesus together.

Our second goal is: Led by the Spirit, we will build inclusive, caring community, and there’s another powerful word in our Mark reading I want to draw your attention to. Immediately (the gospel thread continues) upon being lifted up, upon being healed, Simon’s mother-in-law begins to diakoneo, ‘to serve them’.

We have a choice here. We can overlook the potential of this word and read this as a woman doing what women are supposed to do – or we can think about how diakoneo is used in Mark. How Jesus uses this word, Mark 10:45, to describe his own ministry. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” And how diakoneo is also used of the women I named earlier. Compassionate and courageous women who stayed with Jesus at the cross. Women described as followers and providers (diakoneo). In another word, women who were disciples! Disciples who, with Jesus, built an inclusive, caring community by serving one another.

I feel I need to point out – looking at the list of activities through which we ‘Build’ community (this list is also in your bulletin) – that men are allowed to be diakoneo too. There is a wonderful lot of women there. And of course we do have men serving – on our tech team, as stewards, as small group leaders, in the garden group and on many of our church committees – and very obviously – because diakoneo is where the word ‘deacon’ comes from – as deacons. All of us at CBC are encouraged – as disciples of Jesus – to serve. Serving one another is the mark of a disciple.

Let me just draw your attention to those diakoneo-ing as deacons and ask you to pray for them this year as they provide leadership and direction in all the challenges we face, and as they oversee the ministries of this church, as they serve this church.

Finally, we commit ourselves, to be led by the Spirit to share God’s love and justice in words and actions.

It is interesting in verse 33 of our Mark passage that upon Jesus lifting up, healing and restoring this woman, upon her taking on the role of a serving, as a disciple, the other disciples – the whole city, we’re told, was suddenly on their doorstep!

There are two things to note here.

Firstly, it is incredibly exciting and wonderful to be part of this work – this work of sharing God’s love and justice, of proclaiming a message of life and healing, freeing, restoring human lives. Think of the ministries of this church over the decades. Think of the baptismal testimonies we have heard. Think of the stories of those sitting in the pews around you. Think of the people who come here day after day as part of our Community Centre because this place, one said to me, is the heart of the Kingston community.

It is incredibly wonderful.

It is also exhausting, at times, discouraging, at times, infuriating, at times, scary, at times. Sometimes it might feel as though the whole city is gathered around the door.

How Jesus deals responds to this is incredibly helpful and instructive for us. He prays. Do we pray? Do we pray regularly as part of our day? He knows his limitations. Do we know our limitations? And then he keeps going. Verse 39: “And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.”

I was sharing with Peter Churcher yesterday that sometimes I find aspects of our witness to the NSW/ACT Association that we are an affirming church very scary. And how another pastor said to me this week, “We need to acknowledge that. It is scary. That’s ok. We just keep going.” In a sense, that’s the model we see here in Mark.

‘Sharing God’s love and justice in our words and actions.’ You will find a box with the title ‘Share’ in our bulletin – but the box is blank. There were many ways I could have filled it, but I thought I would give you the opportunity. Can you have a think, and talk to those around you? “How did you see CBC sharing God’s love and justice in words and actions in 2023?”

Can I also ask you, “How would you like to see CBC sharing God’s love and justice in words and actions in 2024?” And can I ask you to text me (my number is also on the screen) with your responses – so that we can populate this box too – so we can continue to find ways to share God’s love and justice together.

Thank you. I will collate those responses and you’ll be able to read them in next week’s bulletin.

Led by the Spirit, we will explore together what it means to follow Jesus today, build an inclusive, caring community and share God’s love and justice in words and actions.

As we reflect – over the next few weeks – on these goals, as we flesh them out further, let us commit ourselves to God and to one other as we lift up, as we serve and as we continue proclaiming good news and freeing lives from bad news.



This table does not belong to any denomination or church or community – it is the table of Jesus.

Jesus who demonstrated for us – in his ministry and with his own body – what it means to be lifted up, what it means to serve, what it means to proclaim good news.

And it is Jesus who invites us to share this meal,

to celebrate those gifts of life and love and community and to recommit ourselves to sharing those gifts of life and love and community.

Let’s pray:

Most merciful Lord, your love compels us to come in.
Our hands were unclean, our hearts were unprepared;
we were not fit even to eat the crumbs from under your table.
But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation,
and share your bread with sinners.
So cleanse and feed us with the precious body and blood of your Son,
that he may live in us and we in him;
and that we, with the whole company of Christ,
may sit and eat in your kingdom. Amen.

He promised to be with those who met in his name: this we believe.

He promised to hear the prayers of faithful people: this we believe.

He said that in the communion of bread and wine he would be present to us as we remembered him: this we celebrate.

Loving God, send now your Spirit among us, and upon this bread and wine

That we may taste and see your goodness

and be embraced by your love

And engaged in your service. Amen.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to them saying,

“This bread is my body. It is given for you. Do this to remember me.”

Later he took a cup of wine and when he had blessed it, he said,

“This cup is the new relationship with God made possible because of my death. Drink it, all of you, to remember me.

I will not share this with you again until I do so in God’s coming kingdom.”

Let us hold our cups and drink together.

As we have eaten the bread and as we drink this cup, we remember Jesus.

The Peace

Jesus took us by the hand and lifted us up.

Jesus broke the bread and shared it with his hands.

We are now invited to use our hands to share a sign of peace with one another.

And to live out those signs of peace.

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God as we look around our world – the whole world gathered at our door this morning – we are overwhelmed.

We pray that you will lift up those parts of our world in conflict – we think of Gaza and Israel and Syria and Iran and Iraq. We think of the Ukraine. We think of ongoing conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia and Myanmar. Bring peace, God

We pray that you will lift up those affected by extreme weather – we pray for the people affected by fires in Chile, by floods here in Australia and other forms of environmental distress. Bring restoration, God.

We pray for those who are sick in our own congregation, those who are recovering from surgeries and those who continue to have treatment. We pray for those who are awaiting the arrival – the imminent arrival for the Hilly family and Janice and Des – a new little one. Watch over them.

We pray for our church as we continue a ministry of lifting up. As we serve one another. As we share good news. Be with our ministry team. Be with our deacons. Be with all our ministry groups, those who attend them and those who lead them. Be with all our listening to your Spirit as we explore new areas of mission and ministry. Be with us, God, this year. Amen.


May the God who created a world of diversity and vibrancy,
Go with us as we embrace life in all its fullness.

May the Son who teaches us to care for stranger and foreigners,
Go with us as we try to be good neighbours in our communities.

May the Spirit who breaks down our barriers and celebrates community,
Go with us as we find the courage to create a place of welcome for all.

– Clare McBeath and Tim Presswood (Jesuit resources)