Throughout the Easter Season, we are hearing some of the stories of people in the Kippax community about how they are living their “next chapter”, following on from the unfinished resurrection story in Mark 16. This is Jill Robertson’s “chapter”
When I was asked if I would be willing to take a turn in this series about how we put our faith into every practice, I wondered what bible reading would be helpful for my cause. Then I discovered that the lectionary reading for today is none other than John 15 – one of my favourite and most inspirational sections of the New Testament. So then I felt it was going to be alright and that I could rest, almost easy! God is good!
The word that has always jumped out at me from this reading is the word “abide”. It is not a word we use a lot in everyday speech any more, but in the context of this passage and what it is talking about, it is a wonderful word.
Abide – living within, making your home with, staying connected with, feeling comfortable with, in that you know you are in the right place.
I believe that making a commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ means making our home with him, staying connected with him, knowing that the Holy Spirit nudges us into being in the place where we are needed and doing what fits our giftedness.
John and I have lived in Canberra for over 13 years now and in that time I have been involved in various activities. I think I had the experience or desire to be involved in them all, but the mixture of what I started out doing and what I am doing now has changed. For a few terms I taught scripture at Weetangera Primary School, but then I got the distinct feeling that it was not the best use of my time. I didn’t find much satisfaction from being there. Not because the program was bad, or the children undisciplined, it was just that I found it frustrating to never get to know the children well as I was only there for half an hour a week. That is when I think I first felt the pruning shears. Reading that part of the passage carefully, I note that it says:
He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Fair enough – if you are not bearing fruit. Then it goes on:
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
That is the verse that I find comes into my life more and more. It is not that what you are doing is necessarily wrong, it is that you could be MORE productive and usually get more satisfaction from concentrating on doing other things. I think that finding satisfaction is one of the clues to our being in the right place. Doing God’s will does not entail being miserable!
For me at that time, I received an invitation to be a Playgroup Grandparent helper. I loved that role. It gave me a chance to make deeper relationships with the parents and the children in the group and gave me great satisfaction for 10 years. However, the time came when the pruning shears were again evident. Significant people in my life suggested it was time I did less. I thought to myself “What’s the problem, I am managing”. But it took them to show me that I actually wasn’t managing to juggle all the things I was involved in, as well as being a reasonable wife, mother, grandmother and friend. When I took the decision to finish at playgroup, it was sad, but it felt right. I have had no regrets. This is when I feel it is God’s leading. Things feel right.
As you can tell, I feel a great love for young families. My previous employment was as a Family ministry worker, and I still feel a passion for being involved with them. My other involvement here with young families has been satisfied through Rock, Rhythm and Roll. We are just about to finish 10 years of this program. The idea of this Canadian program is to have time with parents and their babies or toddlers to learn to interact with them with no props. No recorded music, no toys, no puppets, no books. Just you and them. This gives the parents the challenge of learning songs, rhymes and stories off by heart so they can pull them out of their memory at any time at all, especially when needed in a difficult situation. Soothing children, bouncing with children, sharing songs with children, telling stories without books – all these skills are so valuable to pass on to parents. So, my heart is in that program and together with the other leaders, we sincerely hope we will be funded to continue presenting it.
Being involved with preparing and leading worship is another way in which I feel fulfilled. It is a great privilege to be able to do this, and very special for us at Kippax to have Gordon encourage the participation of lay people in these roles. Becoming a Lay Presider of sacraments was my most recent challenge, both academically and emotionally. I really enjoyed the course I attended, and find the leadership roles in sacraments truly awe-inspiring.
Outside the roles I have at Kippax I am also a member of the Wellspring Community, including a 4 year stint as national co-leader of that community. Wellspring is a group that is inspired by the Iona Community, and very much wanting to make the connections between spirituality and social justice. As you may guess, it sits very well with the values that we have at Kippax and the connections back to Celtic Spirituality.
Again, it felt right to be leader, and it felt right when the time came to stand down from that role. I felt confirmation from God at both ends of my time as leader.
One of the things that I take seriously about being a Christian is that once we have given our lives over to God, then that is it! Our whole lives are in God’s hands, not just the bits we may label as religious or connected with the church. Our relationships with everyone we meet need to be in accordance with the commandment to love one another. This doesn’t mean having a deep and meaningful relationship with everyone, but it does mean treating all people with respect. Sometimes quite a challenge!
One of the non-church organisations I am involved with is the Canberra Calligraphy Society and I have taken a committee position with them almost since I joined. Being involved with making things happen and not just being someone who takes, but does not give, seems to me to be at the heart of being a Christian every day of our lives.
A few years ago I was involved in running some church community weekends at Greenhills Conference Centre. They ran for a few years then came to a natural stop. That was fine, but I am now feeling the nudge to start retreat ministry again. To begin with I am interested in women’s retreats, and had arranged a pilot weekend away for last February. Well, life got in the way, and that one had to be cancelled, but it is still on my heart to enjoy time away with people who want to slow down for a weekend and enjoy time with each other and with God. With various health issues in our family, I think that project will be put back for a full 12 months, but it is still very much on my mind. Watch this space.
I guess I could sum up my ways of living out a resurrection faith, by saying it is living in the present moment and being prepared to put things back in the melting pot from time to time and making sure it still feels right to be doing what I am doing.
I would like to finish with a prayer I wrote many years ago that was stimulated by the John 15 passage. Let us pray.
Lord, help us to abide in your love.
To rest, to relax,
to work in your love.
Remove our struggling,
our self-centred efforts,
and turn us to centre on you.
Your love is enough,
your love is everything,
all things flow from it
to others, to us.
It is beyond understanding,
brings us peace brings us joy.
It gives meaning to life
both now and for ever.
Lord, we thank you
for giving us