Today is a very significant day, historically. As you may be aware, it is Hiroshima Day – the anniversary of the dropping of the first Nuclear bomb – on the city of Hiroshima in japan, in 1945. Whether or not it was the right decision, is still being debated to this day. Did it change the outcome of World War II? Did it have an influence on the Japanese authorities? History says they decided to ignore it, and therefore, a second bomb was deployed over Nagasaki on the 9th of August. These things are a part of history. The dreadful tolls of death, destruction, disease and hardship are hard to quantify; impossible to justify; terrible to contemplate.
Yet, in what ways have we learned from them? Are the powerful countries of the West less warlike? Are we more merciful? Are we a better society than we were in 1945? In a way, it is for subsequent generations to judge. What will future generations of Australians have to say about our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.? What will be said about our Government’s attitude to climate change, and the refugee policies? I wonder. More important to me, as a Christian, is what would Jesus say about them?
We know that human society is broken, and ours is no less broken than others. In fact, it may be more broken than many. Change has come upon us. The recent Royal Commission has exposed dreadful abuse in almost all aspects of our society; abuse of the most vulnerable people – especially children, disabled people, the elderly… we are right to feel ashamed of these things. We are right to put into place, changes which will help prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future. We would be wise to discontinue all such abuses immediately. Is that possible?
Over recent years, as I have become more aware of these things, I have questioned many of the ways the Church has acted, too. I’m very pleased that the Anglican Church in Australia has put many things in place to protect the innocent – and to make it much easier for people to recognize what is wrong, and oppose it. In our Diocese, we have a Professional Standards body, which is independent of the Church, and can be accessed easily by all. This goes under a new name, now: Kooyoora Ltd. You can find an advertisement in the recent TMA on Page 2. (the number to call is: 1800 135 246.) The Diocese of Melbourne has also now become an Incorporated body, which means that it is an entity which can be held responsible for the behaviour of its representatives. This is a very positive development – allowing for some redress, if abuse has occurred.
As a Christian, and as a priest, I take the teachings of Scripture very seriously. During my Theological education, I gained a major in Biblical Studies, as part of my Bachelor of Theology. I still study the Scriptures regularly and thoroughly, taking note of scholarly research and wisdom, old and new. I believe it is my duty and calling to do so. Part of the work we are called to do, as Christian people, is to enter into the Mission of God. Someone once said:
“The Church of God does not have a Mission, the Mission of God has a Church.”
So, the big question is: What is the Mission of God? Last week, I attended the Diocesan Ministry Conference, in Melbourne. The theme of the conference was “Mission in the 21st Century”.
What a wonderful conference it was, with many excellent speakers, great Bible Studies, and interesting workshops. I have been reflecting on all I heard, and plan to share some of it with you all over the coming weeks.
For this week, I would like to encourage you to think about Mission in a new way. It seems to me, that it is no longer relevant or helpful, to see “Mission” in the way it used to be. Taking the message of the Good News contained in our religion to those who have not heard it, no longer means what it used to. There are so many negative connotations around the idea of teaching Bible stories, or even about the life of Jesus. A young mother from one of our play groups recently said to me, that the image of a man with a beard and long white robes, taking little children on his knee, is rather frightening and alienating, these days. She certainly would not want to teach that to her children. Our message is still vital, still relevant – but we need to distill the essence of it, and translate it into a language which is understandable and inspiring to the people we wish to engage.
What is the message of Jesus, for this generation? What is going to be helpful, in the next few years? The message of God’s love for all people is still as fresh and vibrant as ever, I believe, but we need to do Mission from a different perspective. We will soon be entering a new Church year, and preparing for our AGMs. November is not so far away!!! It is time to think about what our mission means for us.
More over the next few weeks.
God bless you, Jennifer