Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA led members of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA in worship, on the Sunday morning of the meeting.
Robert Watson preached the Word, and spoke about who we are, as people of Christ, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
“In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples that he must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts of his time,” said Robert. “Then he will be killed and after three days, rise from the dead. Jesus knows his own story and he does not make excuses about it.”
Robert asked those present to reflect on how they respond to sharing their story of faith in the wider world, noting that being a ‘follower’ is not usually encouraged in Australian society.
“No high school or university graduation speaker has ever congratulated the graduates on becoming the ‘followers of tomorrow’,” Robert said. “Nobody makes sweeping biographical history films about great world followers. Nobody gives awards to recognise the contributions of community followers.”
“In fact, when ‘following’ comes up at all, it’s usually negative: ‘Don’t be a follower, be a leader’; ‘Don’t follow the crowd’.
“It is for people who can’t think or act for themselves. Being a follower is for ‘losers’.”
However, Robert said, following Jesus is an act of faith.
“Following Jesus requires a lot more than clicking a button and keeping up with him, knowing what he says and does. It means actually going where he goes and doing what he does the way that he does it, which is crucial given how the phrase ‘take up their cross’ has been abused.”
Robert explained that to ‘take up our cross’ is not meant to be about suffering that is imposed on us, but is to follow Jesus even if it risks us losing our lives.
“To save or to lose our lives as followers of Christ isn’t always a dramatic kind of decision. In fact, that’s a pretty rare opportunity for most of us in the Australian church in the 21st century.
“But, it is no less real for that; a church that is focused on only saving its own life will lose it. A church that spends its energy and resources saving its buildings rather than empowering its mission is losing its life; a living church makes its building a resource for mission, not the object of it.
“A church seeking new members to save its budget or its influence is losing its life; a living church receives new members to nurture them as disciples, not so they can nurture the church as an institution.
“Every congregation should be a centre for Christian followership, a place where we help each other become losers, losers of anything that keeps us from following Jesus: our fears and anxieties; our pasts or our futures; our status or our schedules; our need to be in control of our lives and our faith; anything that keeps us from losing ourselves in the abundance of the grace that we receive, the love that we share, the ministry that we fulfill.
“It was Henry Ward Beecher who said that the door to tomorrow has two handles – the handle of anxiety and the handle of faith.
“Trusting in God means putting our faith into action. All we have to do is follow the leader.”
Members of the Synod shared Communion, led by Rev Nalin Perera, Chaplain at Presbyterian Ladies’ College, and prayer together during the service, before commencing their second day of business.