Series: Our Neighbourhood
Theme: Does your neighbourhood matter?
Bible Reading: Isaiah 58: 9 – 12 / Matt 5: 14 – 16
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
Date: 16 January, 2022
How well do you know your neighbourhood? Our new second minister – Rev Kevin Kim – preaches his first sermon on “Does your neighbour matter”. Using passages from Isaiah and Matthew, Kevin will help us understand that we as a church exists in a local context to function as one part of the ecology of the neighbourhood or community where it is placed and how we can be more missional through developing a deeper relationship with our neighbourhood.
Last year I had a privilege to join a course called ‘Missional Leadership Hub’ offered by Uniting Mission & Education. This course is designed to train and help some new leaders, who wants to be more missional and innovative to bring a growth to local church context. I know a few people in our Turramurra community are part of UME team. It is an affirmation that UME does offer some good courses and this particular course is available this new year as well.
This photo included some participants, not all, half of them from Canberra presbytery and Sydney presbytery.
As I anticipated to move to a new church and be ready for new missional context and plans, it was very timely helpful course.
Two leaders of this course are Rev. Dr. Karina Kreminski and Dr Armen Gakavian. Dr Karina is a missiology lecturer at Morning college (Baptist). She originally moved to Surry Hills in order to start a church, but when she moved in, she felt like God said to her, “Don’t do that, don’t start a church, just love the community.” As she developed her connection with Surry Hills community, she and her husband, Armen started an initiative called “Neighbourhood Matters” to train and equip churches to reorient Christians to focusing on God’s mission in the neighbourhood.
My sermon series over the next three weeks come from what I have learned from ‘missional leadership hub’ course over the last 12 months, and I would like to invite Karian & Armen to our church in a near future.
You may have heard of the concept of missio Dei, which referred to Mission of God. It is a concept developed by South African missiologist, David Bosch. (There in that picture you may recognize archbishop Desmond Tutu, who recently passed away. When David brought new idea of missio Dei in 1991, it really shifted and transformed the understanding on mission.
Missio Dei also refers to the sending of God. Christ Wright writes that …
Therefore, we the church are called to participate on Mission of God.
Today’s two passages talks a lot about how we should live in relation to others and neighbours in our streets.
The Old Testament reading from Isaiah talks about the blessings God promises for the true worshipper. In other words, when we seek the common good, God promises that we will be a blessing to the whole neighbourhood.
God promises that the people of Israel will become the life-giving agent. So what would it take for our church to be life-giving agents of renewal as described in this passage? How can we employ our church resources for the sake of restoration, rebuilding, and the livability of our neighbourhoods?
Matthew’s passage talks about that Jesus’ disciples are not only “the salt of the earth” but also “the light of the world.” “Light” is an important theme in Scripture, normally emphasizing the removal of darkness in the unfolding of biblical history and theology.
Jesus later declares that he is “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5), who has come as the light that enlightens all people (1:4–14). Jesus’ disciples cannot be hidden because the kingdom life within them is living testimony to those in the world who do not yet have that light.
So why does neighbourhood matter?
First, because the church can only exist if it orients outside of itself.
We must understand that church exists in a local context to function as one part of the ecology of the neighbourhood. Once the Church begins to make its mission, programs and structures for the survival and self-glory of the church, it loses its primary call to be a light in this world and loses its fundamental call to be an expression of the mission of God for the redemption of the world.
Neighbourhoods are places where we can live out this mission of God to materialise beauty, justice, mercy and truth. In fact, radical things happen when we make a shift from asking “God what are you up to in my church?” to “God what are you up to in my neighbourhood?”
Why does the neighbourhood matter?
Second, because God’s Spirit is active outside the church.
Often we can be suspicious of the Spirit’s work outside the church in God’s creation. We can be more comfortable in discerning the presence and guidance of God’s Spirit in the church but we become paralysed thinking about how to discern the Spirit in our neighbourhoods. Writer Kathleen Norris says “The Christian religion asks us to put our trust not in ideas or theologies, but in a God who desires to be present to us in our ordinary circumstances.” The neighbourhood is a place where we live out the “ordinary”. Too often we get caught up in big ideas and fail to notice that God is usually at work in the daily joys and frustrations of life that we experience as a community where we live. God’s Spirit moves in the Church, the Spirit also moves, creates and recreates outside the Church.
Why does neighbourhood matter?
Third, because the neighbourhood is an opportunity to practice hospitality in a post-COVID world.
In a world where people suffer from isolation and loneliness, connecting in the neighbourhood has a healing effect. Interconnections and deeper relationships between neighbourhoods can be developed and can make our lives much healthier. Choosing to connect in the neighbourhood is something that can bring such a deep satisfaction.
(Living out) From a Christian perspective we know that the gospel is not primarily a creed or theological system, but it must be embodied in a local community and function as a witness to the love and mercy of God. The neighbourhood is a place where we can daily live out the gospel; the values of justice, truth and beauty.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, in many ways our lives have become smaller, more ordinary and local. Instead of expensive international travel, we consider a walk to the local shops as blessings. Rather than going out to enjoy the fancy restaurant, we are cooking at home, spending money locally and focusing on enjoying time with family and neighbours. If a community has strong relationships and social networks, it will be more resilient and will recover more quickly in difficult times. There are so many opportunities to practice hospitality during this pandemic and in a post-Covid world.
We have experienced this hospitality and welcoming from two leaders who represent the whole Turramurra Uniting Church community. This is photo of a lovely gifts from them (theirs is a card). When I received the toilet paper, I thought that was what we most needed as the new case numbers were increasing rapidly last week. But then they said they googled and learned that Koreans bring rolls of toilet paper and laundry detergent to house warming gifts. I realised I have forgotten that culture. Then I also googled why they are the traditional gifts for house warming. When Korea was a poorer country, toilet paper and detergent were pricy items that not every household could afford. In addition to that, the bubbles produced by the detergent and the length of the sheets of toilet paper represented prosperity. I learned something new about Korea from my new friends in Turramurra. And that was a great insight that if we can be just more welcoming and kind to new neighbours around us, if we are willing to learn their culture and customs, we really can be God’s missionary in our streets.
Does your neighbourhood matter? Absolutely! God has started great things in our streets. God wants you to participate his mission. Amen.