Start up Sunday/Commissioning.

Sermon Title: Start up Sunday/commissioning
Date: 5th February 2017
Preacher: Rev’d Susanne Chambers
This is very important to hear.  Each one of you and all of us collectively, are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Huge isn’t it! It’s not saying you could be…since we probably have been told along the way that you are a sinner, or mediocre or a nobody… Jesus is saying: You are the salt …You are the light!

You don’t feel it? Don’t feel too salty? Or your light has dimmed? Well, that’s understandable when we have so many events happening in our lives.

Hugh Mackay, Honorary Professor of Social Science wrote a long article in The Conversation entitled “The state of the nation starts in your street” and is an edited version of the Gandhi Oration which he delivered at the University of New South Wales on  the 30th January this year.

It’s well worth reading (I’ve put a couple of copies in the narthex) and I will just mention a couple of his thoughts:

“After 250 years we are still trying to absorb the impact of the Industrial Revolution as it changed the way we lived and worked and we have struggled to adapt to those changes. More recent revolutions to cope with are: the gender revolution, an economic restructure amounting to revolution, an information technology revolution, and even a revolution in our sense of who we are – our cultural identity as Australians.”

The symptoms Mackay suggests of those revolutions are: changing patterns in marriage and divorce; a record low birth rate and interestingly an increase in pet ownership; the rise of two-income household, with a greater sense of ‘busyness” and less time and energy available to nurture the community; more car ownership, so less foot traffic; the IT revolution which can lead to increased isolation.

Mackay also see three big threats that also contribute to our present level of anxiety are: “climate change, international terrorism, and the threat of a major global economic disruption.” These things threaten us on such a large scale they seem utterly beyond our control – in the face of threats like these, we feel so powerless, so vulnerable, that many of us deal with our anxiety – or our fear – by simply retreating into a shell of self-absorption…

What Hugh is suggesting is that, under the influence of all these factors, we are losing our sense of human connectedness and therefore our sense of compassion…

He does go on to give examples of ways in how we can be, what I would call salt and light, and it can happen right here and now… that’s why it’s important to hear that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

We are a community that gather on a Sunday morning from all walks of life, with different political and theological views, educational credentials, different personalities and we try, don’t we, to listen to each other even if we disagree.  This is where it can start being what we are… salt and light by listening with respect and I believe we do that here. We will always mess up… but we give it our best shot!

Hopefully, like a pebble dropped in the pond, the rippling effect of being salty and shiny will be infectious!

We know that we can walk along a street and people just don’t smile or look at us… we could do the same or we could be counter cultural and smile at them and maybe even say hi!

How many of us know our neighbours? We may complain that neighbourhoods aren’t like they used to be, well, we could go and knock on the door of a neighbour and say hi.

Many of you are doing this … most of the time when we don’t feel salty or our light is dimmed is when we get into cynicism, quite understandable but that’s not what we are called to be like… we are bigger than that.

Salt brings zest and meaning to our lives.

Light draws people to light!

Yes, we have a lot to contemplate in our personal lives, in the church, in our society and the world at large.

We can gain hope from hearing stories of compassion and stories of faith and love. Let me give you two:

  1. Bourke St Incident showed that we are by nature, compassionate people. Many people came to the vigil and the memorials to be in solidarity with those killed, injured and grieving. The ambulance and police have publically thanked the public for their assistance. No one was left on their own. The Red Cross and the VCC Emergency ministries were there every day, to listen, to pray, to just be a presence. Do not underestimate just being with someone.

We are by nature, compassionate people.

  1. Saroo Brierley, was a 5 year old in India who became lost. 25 years later in Australia, he finally worked out how to find his way back to the place he grew up and his Indian family. From his book which I read back in 2013 and so glad to see the film on Friday night with many of you, Saroo wrote: “But my experiences have undoubtedly shaped me, providing me with an unshakeable faith in the importance of family –however it is formed – a belief in the goodness of people and of the importance of grasping opportunities when they are presented.”

For those who came to see the film on Friday night (I believe there were 26 of us from St Pauls!), we were transported to India and to Tasmania and the cold terror of young Saroo when he was lost and the longed for loving embrace with his mother.

You are the salt of the earth!

You are the light of the world!

Let’s continue to support each other in this calling to live out being salt and light, and so building community by including the stranger/the neighbour… wherever we are: at home, shopping or work place.

As Ghandi put it: “You may never know what results come of your actions but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

The Lord be with you.