Toorak Uniting Church

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God’s garden

Exodus 18: 5, 13 – 23   1 Corinthians 12: 4 – 7
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
22 February 2009

The story about Moses and his father-in-law is one of my favourites. It reminds me, every time I read or hear it, that sharing the load as well as proper organisation and good management are necessary aspects of our journey with God as a community.

Here they are, fresh out of Egypt, liberated from slavery and on their way to the Promised Land. Not moving an inch because their leader is trying to sort out all their private trials and squabbles – with people doing nothing but lining up from here to way over the next hill.

Then his father-in-law Jethro arrives on the scene, takes one good look and decides something has to happen here.

Pastoral care clusters, elders, councillors, a congregational meeting, lines of management and communication are organised, and some order starts to emerge.

And you know what? At the end of the story not only Moses is feeling much better, but everybody else is too! Not only because they are able to share the load and help Moses, but because their life suddenly has a lot more meaning and purpose as they are enabled to take responsibility and are allowed to co-determine their lives.

I love this story! Because I think is tells us how we can work together, how we can travel together without being bogged down and lose focus. Share the load, organise ourselves sensibly, and get on with it!

Here in Toorak, and in most Churches of the Reformed tradition, we seek to involve as many as possible in the running of every aspect of our organisation. That makes it a cumbersome operation at times, but it also enables us to share and to take responsibility for our journeying together.

The congregation is at the heart of our organisation, and delegates to Church Council, which has the overall responsibility for running the day-to-day. Church Council appoints staff, and delegates some of her tasks to Executive and its committees, and some committees will appoint sub-committees if they deem it necessary. This structure is supported by rules and regulations which are part of a code of good government practice devised by the wider Church.

From under this umbrella everything else branches out, and in Toorak's case, quite widely. Outreach, pastoral care, our various centres, the groups that rent our spaces, they all, somehow, are part of that greater community we call Toorak Uniting Church.

And on this level that community is not unlike a large and varied garden with an orchard, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a corner full of natives, and a bed of roses. There is beauty everywhere, and the bees that visit the garden really enjoy the variety. Not all bees will visit every part of the garden, however; some will find what they are looking for in a limited area of that garden and others will be more adventurous and range a lot wider.

In the Church there are people who only visit on a Sunday, there are people that only visit on a Tuesday, or any other day, but others will be here nearly every day enjoying what the Church has on offer. All are part of that same garden.

Central in that garden is the big beautiful building with the stained glass windows in which we have gathered this morning. Here Sunday worship happens, and also the bigger community events that sometimes take place.

It is a place of hospitality and warm welcome, a place of peace, of quiet, of music and song, of prayer and spirituality, a place of care where people look after each other, a place that is open to the world, and motivated to change that world into a better place.

It is at the heart of who we are. We aim for every other aspect of our community life and activities to be inspired and be given some of its colour by that.

This is not just any other place, this is a Church. Our Church, which we try to give shape together, to enable our various and varied journeys through life and with God.

A healthy body is as much part of that as a healthy mind, leisure as much as hard work, commitment and involvement as much as knowing when to take a step back and let others do the job.

It is all part of that same, complex thing we are all part of: A community of people called to live their lives and follow whatever the call is God put on their lives. A community richly blessed with a wide variety of gifts and people, creating an abundance of opportunities for everyone to not only enrich their own lives, but also those of others, in the process.


© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2009

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