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Now is the time to reset. It begins with our faith: Reset for a better 'normal'.

Reset Faith: Practices - Week 5

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Week 5 – Reset Faith – Connect

Re-connect with others, distant no longer, we are weaving new practices of hospitality and service.

Reflections written by Bec Wilesmith and Jon Owen.

Bec Wilesmith
Bec Wilesmith is Senior Advisor at Micah Australia.
Jon Owen
Jon Owen is Pastor and CEO of Wayside Chapel in Sydney.

Reflection

By Jon Owen

Begin by reading Jon Owen's reflection:

We’ve just had a year where we’ve been left alone with ourselves. And it hasn’t been a good year. We became more anxious than ever, and more disconnected than ever.

In the disconnection of 2020, we tried to embark ourselves on the project of the perfectibility of the individual. But this idea that we can perfect ourselves is a myth. When we are individuals we are incomplete. We need to be connected in communities, each contributing our gifts to the table. Living in a community, we can say: “I do this well and I need you to do this well for me too.” Ubuntu* wisdom says: “I am who I am because of who we all are.”

Let’s think about that word, connection. We are hardwired for connection. Connection with God, with each other and with creation.

How do we really learn the lessons about connection, about our identity and who we are in community? How do we begin to take seriously what it means to be God’s people for this world, in this day and age?

When we are individuals we are incomplete. We need to be connected in communities, each contributing our gifts to the table.

We often talk about holiness as being “set apart”, being different, being an example. I want to pose a different concept – holiness as being “set amongst”. It’s about being a member of the community. There’s a well-known quote that says evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. How do we have that humility within ourselves? And what is that bread?

It’s the bread of presence. It’s the bread of connection.

Reset faith connect table 2

As we break bread, we see Christ is present in the midst of us. That’s the lesson we see from the early resurrection narratives. Are “not our hearts burning within us” as we sit around meal tables? As we anticipate one day being at the great banquet feast in God’s hall? This year, may every meal that is shared be an anticipation of that great day, of that moment when we will find God through connecting with each other and through the breaking of bread.

An Aboriginal lady once told me that her take on ubuntu is: “You are who you eat with.” Who are we? Who are we eating with? Who are we sharing our tables with?

Here at Wayside Chapel, we have up to 400 people passing through our doors each day, seven days a week. However, at the heart of all we do is our actual chapel space. There we have an altar, a golden but scarred love heart-shaped model, the word “love” painted on the wall and a picture of Jesus. This chapel is our central point, because we always have to remind ourselves that no one is a problem to be solved. They are a person to be met. They are someone who is created in the image of God. They are someone who has a name, a story and a destiny. So we like to keep this front and centre as a very physical, tangible reminder of God’s love for everyone.

Last night we got a call from the hospital. A member of our community is in his last few days of life. When I arrived, the reception staff member recognised me as being a part of the constant stream of visitors from Wayside Chapel who had come that day to sit at this man’s bedside. The staff member expressed his amazement at what he was witnessing, saying: “Here you are, one after the other. It has been a constant procession. He has been surrounded by love.” Songs were sung, prayers and blessings were said. This world would say, “What a waste of time. Here is a homeless man in the last few moments of his life; what financial advantage does it present to any of us to be here?” And yet there was no place that any of us would rather be. Because we were saying “goodbye and see you once more”, to a brother. That was one of the most real experiences during what’s been a very surreal time in the world.

What’s real? Where do we invest? These are good questions for us to ponder. If we invest in the lives of people, we will always receive a beautiful return.

Beyond Sunday School, everything I’ve learnt about God, I’ve learnt from others. So my practice is the practice of breaking bread. It’s not just about breaking bread with people who are like ourselves, but it’s about having a wide, open, diverse table that has many people sitting around it from different ages, races, cultures, backgrounds and understandings of the world.

So this year, may we be set amongst, may we break bread and may we truly connect with those we share our meals with.


*Ubuntu a Nguni Bantu is a term meaning "humanity". It is often translated as "I am because we are", or "humanity towards others".

Watch Jon share on the theme of Connection:

Reflection

By Bec Wilesmith

Micah Australia’s Beck Wilesmith shares about the way Micah has sought to engage our political leaders with the message “Plenty to Share”. Beck goes on to challenge us to think about whether we are building community and connection or “social cliques” in the way we live our lives:

2020 was a year where we missed out on a lot of connection. Family gatherings, holidays with friends, the social BBQ, every part of our life connected to others looked different.

It exposed our tendency as humans to rush and be reactive, rather than slow down for intentional connection.

For me personally, even as an introvert, isolation taught me that I need other people. I missed face-to-face connection.

There is a flourishing that takes place when as humans, we intentionally take the time to connect with others.

Just as creation flourishes through nurture and connection with sources of life like water, so too we flourish through connection. We are an ecosystem needing relationship – with both God and each other. It is a source of life and hope for us.

For Micah Australia, a key concept for us around connection has always been the picture of the table.

The table represents relationship, it represents belonging. A table also symbolises hospitality; taking the time to sit down and connect, not transactional but relational.

Back in 2018, along with a group of young advocates, we set up a huge table and grazing board on the front lawns of Parliament House with the words ‘Plenty to share’ on a large banner. This was a symbolic action to show we believed Australia could step up in our generosity and do more to help our neighbours. It certainly looked incredible and got people talking!

But the table is more than a symbolic action – it is a part of our Christian tradition. The practice of hospitality, ‘breaking bread’, and sharing in fellowship has been practised for thousands of years, and modelled since the early Church.

Jesus too modelled this. He consistently prioritised connection with people – whether sitting down to eat with tax collectors, or meeting with the woman at the well.

These interactions required something of Jesus; they required him to disrupt his routine and plans, to extend grace and compassion, and to risk ruining his reputation by being seen with those who were deemed social and religious outcasts (a risk he gladly took!).

In other words, Jesus extended his table beyond what was convenient for him.

And he asks the same of you and me.

Living as ministers of reconciliation requires something of us.

It requires time.

It requires forward thinking and planning.

It requires removing barriers in our minds to people we may have written off or deemed ‘difficult’.

It requires generosity and an open heart.

As we look to reset this year consider: how can I extend myself in generosity and hospitality to others?

For Micah, this is why we take the time to go to Canberra and meet in person with politicians. There is something significant that happens through connection when it is not merely digital. To look a person in the eye and share from your heart why you believe Australia can do more for the world’s poor is a powerful moment. It shifts the power balance from politician and constituent to human and human.

It is also why we seek, wherever possible, to have a space at the table for those we advocate for, including our Pacific family. To have them ‘at the table’ with us, sharing their story, their experiences, their heart for their nation is a beautiful picture of connection and the Kingdom. It also challenges and inspires us as Australian Christians, and challenges our nation’s leaders.

The table is where barriers are broken down and humanity is shared.

As we look to reset this year consider: how can I extend myself in generosity and hospitality to others?

Is there room at my table?

My Senior Pastor often says, when talking about our church life groups (Bible studies) or social circles, if there is not room at your table for anyone new, you have ceased to build community and are only building a clique.

As ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of hope, may we seek this year to build genuine connection, not just ‘cliques’.

May we carry a spirit of openness that leans towards the needs of others, living generously and justly.

Consider setting another place at your table.

Watch Bec Wilesmith share on the theme of Connection:

Prayer

By Bec Wilesmith

Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me to build genuine connection in my life, to build community and not just a clique. I ask for the wisdom this year to be intentional in relationships. To slow down and reach out to others. Give me eyes to see those in my world who need you; who need your love and compassion. Let me respond graciously to disruptions, to see them as an opportunity from you to bring hope to someone. May I extend my table this year and live graciously and generously to others.

Amen

Prayer

By Jon Owen – A prayer of connection.

Bind us together, Lord. Bind us together, with cords that cannot be broken. You have created us for community and connection.

Please help us fear no evil. This year has felt like the valley of the shadow of death for many of us. Yet you never leave us nor forsake us.

Set us amongst each other, not apart from each other. Help us to truly connect; to know what it means to be in community.

We look forward to a feast in your courts. Help every shared meal be an anticipation of that banquet.

Give us an extra dose of love, peace, hope and joy, because we need it Lord, we cry out for it. Help us to remember your promises.

Help us to find you in the face of the least of these.

Amen.

Practice - Re-Connect

This week's Reset Faith practice is to make plans to share a meal with others. Christian hospitality is about consciously and practically making room for others, especially those on the margins: the lost, the stranger, those who are not like us.

  • For some of us that might be inviting a wide range of people over for a meal, maybe some we know well and others we don’t.
  • Maybe restrictions won’t allow larger gatherings or perhaps hosting people isn’t a possibility, so what about going out for a meal, or dropping some food over to someone who maybe needs some practical love and support.
  • The invitation is to make space because you never know who might show up.
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Community

Ideas for Small Groups and sharing the Reset Faith journey with others.

Transformation happens in community. Share the Reset Faith journey with friends, your small group, your tribe. Share a meal, speak honestly, pray together. Be changed together.

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Bec Wilesmith is Senior Advisor at Micah Australia.

Jon Owen is Pastor and CEO of Wayside Chapel in Sydney.

Reset Faith

What we once called normal wasn’t good enough. Now is the time to reset and it begins with our faith.

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