Pentecost 20B, 2006
Mark 10:35-45a

A Liturgy is also available


Seems we are in the season for church meetings!
The Uniting Church NSW Synod meeting concluded a week ago.
And now it’s the Sydney Anglican Synod’s turn.
Not to mention all the other Uniting Church synods
which either have or are, also meeting around this time.

While never really a big fan of such meetings, this year the 
NSW moderator used a collection of prayers and affirmations
from the Eighth Assembly (1997) called ‘Moving with God’s Spirit
at various times during the meeting.

As to whether he used this particular prayer or not, I can’t be sure.
But if he didn’t, I reckon he should have...

Galilean Jesus,
on hills and near beaches you called people
around you for reflection, explanation and resolution.

So now we reflect together, knowing that 
we will hear wise words if only we listen intently.

We each bring some knowledge and some understanding
and we bring our faith, 
sometimes uncertain, but willing.

Help us to complete our task together
and to be resolute in gospel action.

The only role synod and other church meetings have is not to meet,
as if that is a committee’s or council’s reason for existence.
But “to be resolute in gospel action”.

Well, how did the Synod meeting go? Not too good in my opinion.
Sure there was much talk and resolution passing.
Even an attempt at a little theology.
And social justice action.

Two examples of the latter have been printed in today’s Notices.
Let me share them here.

(i) That the Synod-
call upon the Federal, NSW and ACT governments to increase funding for the educational and counselling needs of children from a non-English speaking background, especially refugee children who have particular traumatic histories and language difficulties. This needs to include the provision of extra teachers and other educational resources, particularly appropriately tailored textbooks and library resources.

(ii) That the Synod-
encourage all congregations, presbyteries and agencies to switch to government accredited ‘Green power’.

True, two needed and worthwhile invitations or calls to ‘gospel action’.
But in general, much of the discussion and decision making presented as calls
to be at mission, were really about
in-reach rather than outreach.

Siev X, for instance, was never mentioned.
And it took me one whole session, and a request to the Past National President,
before I could get the moderator to indicate North Korea
had announced it had detonated a nuclear devise!

As South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said at the
National Christian Youth Convention in Ballarat (Vic) in the mid-1980s,
"It's very difficult to wake up someone who is pretending to be asleep."

Virtually paralysed by more that 20+ years of debate and dispute
over human sexuality and falling numbers,
led by the fundamentalists and ultraconservatives, our Uniting Church
in this (NSW) synod anyway, has shown itself to be
too anxious about these issues to risk perceived additional losses
at the hands of, say, theological reform.

But the message from the ‘progressive’ christian grassroots movement
is loud and I would claim, very clear:
theological and liturgical reform is the much needed
root of ‘gospel action’ today.

And such reform will include:
(i) a spiritual vitality and expressiveness,
(ii) an insistence on Christianity with intellectual integrity,
(iii) a transgression of traditional gender boundaries,
(iv) the belief that Christianity can be vital without claiming to be the best 
or the only true religion, and
(v) strong ecological and social justice commitments
(Taussig 2006).


Today's gospel story from the storyteller we call Mark,
touches on this matter of ‘gospel action’ or ‘mission’.
Let me see if I can unpack that comment just a bit.

The story as told by Mark seeks to empower its listeners.
It appears Jesus was experienced as powerful, but in an empowering way.
His life did not require him to seek power for his own sake,
but to own the power he had
in compassion and in self giving.

His call was to model a new kind of being in the world.
Not to be served but to serve.
Not to be about maintenance, or in-reach,
but to be at mission, at ‘gospel action’.

Last Sunday 10 people from St James were part of a group
of about 2,000 people who gathered in Weston Park
to remember the shameful and untold tragedy called Siev X.

In October 2001, over 400 asylum-seekers departed from Indonesia
in a grossly overcrowded, unseaworthy boat bound for Australia.

Somewhere between the two countries the boat sank,
with a terrible loss of life - 353 of the asylum-seekers drowned.
The victims of this maritime disaster were mostly women and children.

The Australian Government claimed it had no prior knowledge of this tragedy.
But today, as the result of an “accidental whistle blower”
(Kevin 2004),
we know that is just not true.

And today we now know this ‘incident’ was to become
a re-election ploy by the then government.