Greg Ross, Regional Coordinator and minister in Western Australia shared his thoughts on Facebook Live on June 10 2020. Here are his notes from the morning (his evening!)
Bible story of the great feast
Jesus went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honour, he said, ‘When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honour. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then the hold will come and call out in front of everybody, “You’re in the wrong place. The place of honour belongs to this person.” Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left. When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes they may very well say, “Friend, come up to the front.” That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.’ Then he turned to the host. ‘The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbours, the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be – and experience – a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favour, but the favour will be returned – oh, how it will be returned! – at the resurrection of God’s people.’
Luke 14:7–14 (MSG) – Invite the misfits
A great story book by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Bob Graham that teaches this story in a useful way for unchurched or dechurched and churched people is ‘This is Our House’.
Here in WA
Here in Western Australia, like our cousins in New Zealand we are working our way down from level 4 and level 3 and some are now down to level 2 restrictions – and our prayer and hope is that all those who are still living in virus hotspots will be soon enjoying these kind of freedoms again too.
We are starting to plan for the re-opening of our church and community buildings
Our schools are all back – with new practices for hygiene now standard practice
Restaurants are back – now you have to leave your name and number everywhere you dine in
Some hospitals have now closed their dedicated COVID-19 wards
Cleaning and sanitising are now high priorities on everyone’s radar and the cleaning companies are doing multi-million-dollar sales.
Online training for hygiene, food handling and cleaning are all now pre-requisites for leaders and teams in every church and community gathering.
SO – how are you planning for the myriad of opportunities that running Messy Church while we live with coronavirus offers us?
What have you and your family and Messy Church GAINED in this time of coronavirus shut-down THAT YOU WANT TO KEEP?
What have discovered during the coronavirus shut-down that you and your family and Messy Church have stopped and don’t need to start again?
Washing/hygiene and baptism
Is there a way that we can use the necessary washing of hands, etc. and keeping of good hygiene as a reminder of the washing away of the old life and the gift of new life that we receive through the sacrament of baptism?
Serving – Jesus the servant
In our part of Australia, it seems there will be no self-serve smorgasbord buffets or feasts for the immediate future…
So when we have 60-plus people at Messy Church, we can’t have everyone coming up and breathing all over the food… Instead, a few trained people will have to serve food to each table group. I think this is a real chance to use table serving as a reminder of Jesus being the servant and his call to all of us to also serve others.
Most important seats
In our space, where we used to sit up to 80 at tables, we can now only sit 40 – so some will have to sit at tables in the church space. And each table group will need to sit with smaller numbers at our tables
I wonder how our leaders can model the parable of the banquet from Luke’s gospel – by the way in which they choose their seating for the meal and offer seats closer to the kitchen to others who may feel less confident in the church space ?
Who has not been invited/included? Who has been overlooked or not thought themselves worthy?
Some of the people who live in our communities who have really been excluded or overlooked or missed during this time of digital connection are those who are not digitally connected:
The less able
The sick and those who care for them
The single people
The single parents
The abused and scared
Those suffering mental illness
Eugene Peterson’s words from Luke 14:12-14 really hit hard here: ‘The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbours, the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be – and experience – a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favour, but the favour will be returned – oh, how it will be returned! – at the resurrection of God’s people.’
How can we use either of Luke’s parables of the banquets in chapter 14 to help people make room at the table for those who did not consider themselves welcome at first (for so many cultural reasons e.g. poverty, relationship status, housing status, skin colour, job or no job, disability, etc.) or for those whom ‘good solid people’ often find it hard to include?
you guide our leaps of faith,
our daring to be ‘different’.
Please give us the guts
to take criticism on the chin.
And when faith and guts desert us,
may we know your presence even closer.
When the desire to
or not raise a ruckus
or even an eyebrow
continue to steer us out of our comfort zone,
Remind us every day
that you are in us,
and above us,
through all the pitfalls
and dizzying heights of your marvellous creation
that we are blessed to call home.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Love of God,
And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all – evermore