The Anglican Diocese of Sydney has just held its annual Synod. For those outside the church the most exciting item on the agenda was the loss of $160 million from the money controlled by the Glebe Administration Board. You may have been following it in the paper.
Every article, every letter to the editor, every opinion piece had a viewpoint to pursue. Some said the church had been greedy, others said it was bad management. Fingers were pointed, at the church, at the Board, at the Synod, at God – the loss had to be somebody’s fault. The Archbishop said that he felt grieved at the loss, and anger and puzzlement. He told the Synod that we would have to cut back on various projects, including Youthworks and Anglican Media. The Regions would no longer have Archdeacons, except for Wollongong which will have an archdeacon, but no bishop.
Let me tell you, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In the end, however, the Archbishop and Synod agreed that although the loss was huge, there were other more important things.
I heartily agree. Money is very useful, but it is not indispensable. Instead of travelling by Rolls Royce, we’ll have to ride a bicycle, or walk. The real point is that we must keep moving, we must keep doing the important stuff.
I divide the work that people do into Kingdom of God work, and other work. Kingdom of God work is anything that works to make the Kingdom of God real in the life of the world. Telling the Good News of Jesus Christ is Kingdom of God work, proclamation, praise and worship, baptism and the Eucharist. Even preaching and teaching can be Kingdom of God work if it’s good and helpful. St Paul gives us some lists of Kingdom of God work: He gave the Galatians this list: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. There are eleven other lists in the new testament, all much the same. Paul calls them, “the fruit of the spirit, or sometimes, “the ministry commended by God”, “a thanksgiving to God”, or “the fruit of light” and “the imitation of Christ.” I call all these good works, the work of the Kingdom of God. Jesus used the Kingdom of God to describe the work he was doing. He said to the disciples, “As you go, proclaim the good news, The Kingdom of God has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”
And when John the Baptist sent his disciples to find out if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus answered, Go and tell John what you have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them.” In other words, if you want to know if the Kingdom of God is active – look and listen – what you see and hear will tell you.”
Now, today is All Saints Day, when we particularly give thanks for the lives of St Luke, St Augustine, The Blessed Virgin Mary and all those who have been called saints, from St Barbara, who may not have existed, to Oscar Romero and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who certainly did exist. We call them saints a word which means holy or hallowed. God’s name is hallowed, or holy, and last night was Halloween, the evening before All Hallows, all God’s Holy One’s. So Halloween is a Holy evening.
The reason we call people like Luke and Augustine and Oscar Romero and Mary Mackillop holy is because they did their very best to put the kingdom of God work before anything else. Of course they were human, and had many of the human failings that we share, but by the grace of God and their own love of God and their willingness to serve God, they did manage to put the Kingdom of God first and everything else second.
We remember them and honour them not because they were perfect, nor because they performed miracles, but because they showed by their words and actions that the Kingdom of God is near. “Go and tell what you see and hear.” said Jesus. We remember what the saints said and did, and we know the Kingdom of God has come near to us.
Now the question is: Will people know that the Kingdom of God has come near when they see and hear what we do and say?
Money is an important thing in our world today. The Diocese needs it to pay the Bishops and the staff of Church Office. It is needed for mission programs, for Anglicare and overseas assistance. We need money her at St Luke’s to pay the rector, to restore the Organ, maintain the church and to give to ABM, the Al Ahli Hospital and the other missions we support. People know we need money and they expect good stewardship. They get pretty cross if they think the church is wasting money.
But what people really do expect to find in the church is the Kingdom of God. The kingdom is, of course, the core business of the church, as Jesus said, proclaim the kingdom by word and deed. This is what the saints did, the holy people of God and when we say, “We are the body of Christ.” we make it our task too. And people expect us to be doing the work of the kingdom.
If people see kindness, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control that is good, but unless we speak the words, they will not hear that the Kingdom of God has come near. And if we say, Behold, the Kingdom of God! how will they know what that means unless they also see kindness, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
So, as we go about our daily work, we need to do care for ourselves and our family and those around us; our money is needed to feed us, clothe us and shelter us, as well as to keep the church running. October has been a month of high expense and low income, so generosity is called for.
But the example of the saints shows us that it is the work of the Kingdom of God which is most important; the “show and tell” where we, who want to follow Jesus, show people the fruit of the spirit in our lives and tell them that the Kingdom of God has come near.