Psalm 122 & John 17:20-26 & Hebrews 13:1-3 NIV
Today’s three readings were ones selected by the Uniting Church to follow in the forty days of prayer leading up to today’s 40th birthday celebration.
What we associate with birthdays is something we associate with the season of Pentecost – Gifts. We think of the gifts of Pentecost with their corresponding service as we read in our very own Basis of Union – that we were presented with at our ‘birth’ day in 1977.
In John’s gospel brought to us today by Rhonda, Jesus has concluded his prayer for the disciples – the ones who will establish his first church.
He now moves onto those who will come after, including those of that Inauguration Day in 1977 and we here in this Kiama Uniting Church building on this day – 25th June 2017.
He gifts them and us a sense of unity with each other and with the Creator, Redeemer, Empowerer God. He gifts them and us the glory of Jesus in the body of Christ. He gifts them and us the Love of God – in us and through us.
Our very DNA has been touched and transformed by this love.
When we read Psalm 122, supposedly written by King David, he talks about what it is to step into the presence of God.
Jerusalem, for the Israelites, was a place where the tribes came together to worship in His presence. For the believer, church has the same function and being.
Here again, we see the gifts over the believers. The first is that of joy, then it is ‘security’ and ‘prosperity’ (in its broadest meaning) – finally leading to the gift of ‘peace’.
But in this psalm the idea of the purpose of gifts is more fully revealed – to use them to empower our responses to God and to serve his creation. We read words such as ‘I will seek’ and ‘let us go (to praise the Lord)’, I will say, we will pray.
In Hebrews, there is more about our response to the ‘birth’ day gifts we are given – therefore we love, we share hospitality, we visit those bowed down and seek justice for those mistreated.
We don’t do that simply as individuals for those mistreated. We don’t do that simply as individuals but as the body of Christ. It is the very essence of our church – its theology and creedal statements such as the basis of Union.
It has always been part of our tradition and heritage – and it’s still very much a part of the work of our church – both here and in our region in our Synod across our state and territory as well as nationally and internationally through the Uniting Church Assembly.
We still have a way to go. It’s why we are called the Uniting Church not the United Church.
During our time with the youth, I showed you two symbolic keys – that are given often at 21st birthdays and if the receiver thinks about that gift it is one to help him/her realise a transition point has come. Here is an opportunity to move forward, this is a time to start anew.
Thinking of that, as the Body of Christ that has just turned 40 – what must be do now to bring greater unity to our church and to God’s world.
Let’s read our Creedal statement together – while we reflect on the road ahead.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We proclaim Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen One,
confessing him as Lord
to the glory of God the Father.
In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
we acclaim Jesus as the Lord of the Church,
the Head over all things,
the beginning of a new creation.
We acknowledge that we live and work
between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection
and the final consummation of all things which he will bring.
We are a pilgrim people,
always on the way towards a promised goal;
on the way.
Christ feeds us with word and sacraments,
and we have the gift of the Spirit
in order that we may not lose the way.
We will live and work within the faith and unity
of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church,
bearing witness to that unity
which is both Christ’s gift and his will.
We affirm that every member of the Church
is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
Together with all the people of God,
we will serve the world
for which Christ died.
And we await with hope the day of the Lord Jesus.