Can you hear it? Listen carefully as you read. It is like a rush of air, like a breath, or, perhaps, a sigh of relief.
Half of the year – the church year – is over. The busy half has finished. (Breath) The church year begins in Advent, at the start of December. It bursts into flower at Christmas, slows a little in January, then picks up again during Lent in preparation for celebration of Easter. Then a few weeks go by and we reach Pentecost. Usually, things slow down after Easter, but not this year, not at Scots. No sooner had we caught our breath in April after Easter than May bounced in, like an eager puppy, full of energy, ready to play. May is over now and there are no more major festivals after Pentecost until the end of the year.
Take a moment and think back over our worship for the last six months. What services do you remember? Advent, with the traditional service of Lessons and Carols with The Cantabile Singers (weren’t they great!), and the non-traditional service of music and readings with Mark Parker Trio… Christmas Eve Candlelight service … Christmas Day…. Lenten reflections on community and identity … then we re-lived in worship the events of the week before Jesus died … excitement on Palm Sunday, quiet on Maundy Thursday, silence on Good Friday … and then the joy of Easter, with the golden beams of God’s life-restoring love reaching out into the church and our lives. The month of May contained four major celebrations – we marked 150 years of Presbyterian Union in South Australia, sang Gospel songs with Marilyn Keller and the jazz quartet, felt the Spirit move at Pentecost as we remembered the life of Ian Tanner and joined with Xiaoxiao at confirmation, and showed our support for Frontier Services. It has been a busy six months. It has been a marvellous six months. Breathe in. Breathe out.
What has impacted on you from all these worship services?
Recently, I came across a statement that believing, belonging, and behaving are the same in our faith. By believing, the writer meant the content of our faith; belonging was our membership in the community of God and behaving referred to how with live our lives in the faith. (The preacher side of me likes the choice of three words that begin with the same letter, but the ethicist side insists on pointing out that “behaving” is meant broadly to refer to all our actions, and not in the limiting sense of “not rocking the boat.”)
Believing is belonging. Belonging is behaving. Behaving is believing.
These equations lead to two thoughts. First, they imply equality between the three aspects. It is misguided to claim that one of these on its own is the determining feature of faith. We should not give priority to what a person believes – what dogmas and creeds they are prepared to sign on to, nor to what a person does – what committees or volunteer activities they sign up for, nor to what group they associate with. Each one of the three is inclusive of the other two, making the community of God a mix of all three. Second, if the three are aspects of the same thing, then in our life as an individual and as a community, we should take care to include all three in harmony.
I wonder if during the first half of this year, our life as the community at Scots has emphasized believing and belonging, as we joined together for worship that celebrated our core beliefs and community. Now that all those amazing celebrations are over, I wonder if it is the time for “behaving” – that is, for exploring what we can do as a Christian community and as individuals in showing God’s love in practical ways to others and to the world around us. Of course, we will still gather together (belonging) to hear the Word at worship (believing), but let us turn our attention to our actions and how to live as God’s people on our city street corner.
Listen … perhaps that rush of air is not a sigh of relief, but the Spirit blowing around us and in us, turning us towards the service of all creation, just as the wind turns the weathervane on our steeple.
Rev Dr Peter Trudinger
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