Whoever isn’t against us is with us.
At the weekend I was listening to a podcast. One of the segments was the replay of a documentary from around 10 years ago. About a man who had struggled with drug addiction and crime from a young age. The documentary was done by somebody who had known him and been a friend of his at school. Having been let down by him a number of times, when he reappeared in the neighbourhood again she had been sceptical, particularly when he claimed he was going to run a local kids baseball team. She followed his progress with the youths closely and was surprised to find he had gone clean and was running this group each week at the local park as he said. Initially the kids, from a rough part of a large city in the USA gave him some trouble. But three weeks in they were calling him coach. The local municipality who was funding the team regularly failed to provide what they needed, but he was absolutely committed to them. There was a point where the documentarist commented that he was saving those kids from a potential life of drugs and crime. He responded by noting that they were keeping him clean because he didn’t feel he could fail them. But sometimes the burden too great for one person – The funding the team had from their local municipality dried up – their coach carried on coming out to spend time with them in the park, but eventually he fell back into his cycle of abusing drugs and trying to get clean.
There needs to be a willingness to share the load – one person cannot do it on their own.
Of course in many cases a whole organisation will benefit from the collaboration of ideas and creativity that comes from sharing the load. There is a study of the way people work together which differentiates between what a team is and what a working group is. By the definition in question a working group is a group of people who have individual tasks dictated by a manager. While a team is a group of self-motivated individuals who are working towards a common purpose. In this model a team can, potentially, be less effective than a working group, if their purpose, their goals are not shared and they don’t trust one another. But if they do have a common goal and trust one another a team of independent individuals can be more effective than a working group. Studies show that when a team becomes very efficient – what’s called a ‘real team’ or even a ‘high performance team’ – the team will not be dependent on a manager to tell them what to do. They will be mutually concerned for one another – committed to one another’s personal growth. I remember when I was first told about these models and ideas I was struck at how the idea of a real team was similar to what a church community was meant to be. Sharing a common purpose, but each independently bringing our own skills and direction. Concerned not only for the goals themselves but also for one another’s mutual flourishing.
In today’s passage from the book of numbers the people of Israel are sick of eating manna every day. Much like they have been prone to doing ever since leaving Egypt, they are giving Moses some serious grief. Moses goes to God who tells him to gather 70 elders and the Holy Spirit descends on them and they all begin to prophesy. Moses and God have recognised that it is much easier to get the people to buy into their current situation if more of them are involved in the way things are run and in passing on the message. Two of these elders, however, were late for the meeting. But they still received the Holy Spirit and begin prophesying in the middle of the camp – sending people to alarm Moses. but Moses just wishes everybody could hear God’s prophets so clearly.
Jesus has a similar reaction when the disciples tell him that they have told somebody to stop casting out demons in his name. For Jesus if they are not against us – which they clearly aren’t – then they are with us, even if we don’t know who they are. Even somebody willing to help, even just by giving you a glass of water. I talked about hospitality last week, part of that hospitality is accepting help from others.
Allowing them to be a part of the story, a part of the mission, we need to allow our guests to help.
It is so important that we all know that we can each of us, each of you, pray for one another. That we are all fixed on a common goal, of living out God’s will for us. That we are all there to help one another to flourish. Much like the real team that I was talking about before. And then Jesus talks of saltiness. Salt is, of course, a striking flavour – one of our basic taste buds – it is it’s own thing. But it also has the ability to bring out the other flavours in food.
Part of being a community of individuals is that we each have our own saltiness, our own views and positions, our own ways of doing things. And what makes a flourishing community is when we are each of us being a bit salty. This may cause some abrasion from time to time, but it also brings out all the flavours of the whole community, So that there can be a vibrance and liveliness to our life together. Without that saltiness, any peace is a false one, it is a peace of what’s left unsaid, a peace where the elephant in the room is ignored, but is still in the room. Christ calls us to be real, to be honest, and to be salty. And by doing so, loving one another such that we can work towards a mutual flourishing. A world where all God’s people do prophesy, and we may flourish in the love of God.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams
8.00am Said Eucharist in the lady chapel
10.00am Parish Eucharist with choir and Sunday School
Said Eucharist on Wednesdays at 11.00am
Monday through Thursday at 5.30pm
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