Reflections on A Different Way 2011
I went along to A Different Way last December with a friend from church, and it truly was one transformative week. I’m a 22-year-old studying nursing/midwifery, and go to Ringwood Church of Christ, and over the past few years I’ve felt that God has been opening my heart to the life-giving truth found in His Word. It was a beautiful experience to see so many of the things I’ve been thinking, questioning, talking and reading about being lived out, and discussed so openly.
There was a huge mix of activities; it was great having practical aspects to every day (such as planting buckwheat, pulling apart computer keyboards at the Green Collect warehouse and harvesting many delicious raspberries!), and really be a part of the experience instead of passively observing and listening. I loved having a taste of what intentionally sharing life with others can look and feel like. My head was full all the time, but with such good things to be thinking about! Every day we spent time opening the Bible, in silence, worship and prayer together, which was such a vital part. I found that I left A Different Way with more questions. Being surrounded by people to talk things through with, hear different insights and realise through their stories that when we take risks for God and are moved to loving others in all that we do, there will always be new and old questions to grapple with, and things to learn and discover, was really encouraging.
I found that the week helped me become more aware of my actions and the local and global effect seemingly small decisions can have on others, and the importance of personally caring for God’s creation. I also grew a greater appreciation for the way my parents have been an example of this to me all along. A commitment that was sparked from A Different Way was to only shop at Op’ Shops this year to help me not get lured into a realm of comfort, consumerism and apathy. A few years ago I would have seen something like this as a big sacrifice and struggle, but now it just makes sense, and is all intertwined. I’m learning through actually taking small steps, that when we try to live from a place of God’s grace, the motivator changes from guilt to a love for God and others, and that’s where the freedom is found.
There were so many glimpses of what life looks and feels like when we partner with God to be a part of His upside down Kingdom. Hearing from different people over meals and seeing different expressions of the gospel being lived out both in the Cudgee and Footscray communities, and being open to hearing from God about how I can be a part of it all where I am, was all really exciting. Despite some of the group journeying for so long, I found everyone to be so humble, and keen to hear from me too. I was blown away by the hospitality, honesty, realness, and hope in the lives of those sharing the experience of the course, and those who opened up their homes and lives to us.
Before going along to A Different Way I was a little worried I would leave feeling overwhelmed by all the changes I could and should make. Instead my experience since being home has been shaped around the truth that Paul shares in Ephesians 3 that God doesn’t work through pushing us around, but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Moses never lived to see the promised land God gave Israel…but he did leave them with quite a choice before he died: “See I set before you life and death. Choose life.” Jesus must’ve thought Moses was onto something - he echoed this sentiment when he said “I have come that you may have life, and life in all its fullness.”
I can’t stop longing to know what real Life is like. Obviously it’s more than sustaining a pulse, or neither Moses nor Jesus would have bothered to say what they said. Late last year a group of 10 or so of us were privileged to spend the week together, asking the question “What does this Life look like?” Led by Kim & Jon Cornford & Elvira and Greg Hewson, we explored many different angles to the question. Eye-opening Bible studies were followed by practical logistics as we unpacked what this life in Christ, this new vision of a new Kingdom, has the potential to look like in real terms.
Questions were asked: if our discipleship is a journey, what do we need to leave behind? What are we being saved from, and being saved to? How do we work out our salvation in real life? How do we renew our minds? How can we create a new culture for this new Kingdom? There was resounding evidence to suggest that we are not called to any of this alone, but God always has and always will work through us together as His body to bring about His Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”. And this Kingdom seemed to have a lot to do with us finding life together, in all of its abundance.
Jesus’ vision for a new Kingdom appears to include such practical things as what we do with our time and money; how we look after creation; what we focus our eyes on; how we respond to the needs of others; what we consider to be ‘good work’. I was particularly challenged by this last one. Coming from a faith community that embraces many with disabilities of one kind or another, I’ve been left with the question, what is good work for someone who is on a disability pension and who has been told they have no use in a society based on our economy? What is the biblical understanding of good work, and how can this bring about abundant life for these fellow brothers and sisters?
A few years ago Jon wrote the following…
“…our task is not to imagine a society which is perfectly loving, just, truthful, free, communal and responsible; our task is to ask what love, truth and justice require of us now, and in which direction the principles of freedom, community and responsibility guide us now.” (from “Longing for a Better Country” by Jonathan Cornford)
The week spent on A Different Way was for me a week that took that task and gave it hands and feet. My sincere thanks to Kim and Jon, Greg and Elvira, and the other course participants who shared their stories, experience, and hope for a new vision in Christ together.
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