s107g97 Somerton Park 20/4/97 Fourth Sunday of Easter

The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away -- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. (John 10:12.)

Over the years I have been involved in the Anglican Church one of the guiding principles is that clergy are not ordained without a living to go to, and congregations do not become parishes unless and until they can pay their minister. In the olden days we had mission districts and priests in charge. The Diocese supported these through the Board of Home Mission and Evangelism or those bodies that evolved into the present BHME. This enabled the Diocese could have a guiding hand where it was needed. This parish began the same way and as St Elizabeth's Warradale and St Philip's Somerton Park gained the necessary buildings and paid them off, the congregations became large enough to split and become two parishes in their own right.

All of this seems to be rather too mundane and business like and contrary to the spirit of the hireling that is criticised here by Jesus. These words of Jesus can seem to cut at the heart of those called to the sacred ministry, and through very necessity, make a "living" out of it. I have often heard sentiments expressed such as the only valid ministry is one where the minister is not paid - that is - lay ministry.

However a more careful reading of Jesus' words and an examination of Jesus' own ministry might actually reveal a rather different picture.

Let us look at Jesus first. There is no evidence what so ever that Jesus supported himself by having a secular job while he travelled around. Matthew (13:55) tells us: "Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?" modifying the parallel passage in Mark (6:3) which says "Is not this the carpenter?"" which might have implied a continuing secular job. That Jesus followed in Joseph's footsteps was likely, but there is no evidence that he continued to ply this trade to provide for himself during his public ministry. Instead, a number of women provided for him out of their means, along with numerous meals from those he met along the way, meals he seemed to have enjoyed, along with drinking. Indeed it was precisely Jesus' willingness to attend anyone's home and accept anyone's gift that brought him in sharpest conflict with the religious authorities.

So Jesus himself was a professional and a full time minister, totally reliant on the goodwill and gifts of those who wished to give. However he made no effort to solicit funds for himself. He accepted anything that was offered but his words to the rich young man were: "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor". (Mark 10:21) He didn't ask for it for himself.

Secondly the words in John 10 do not criticise the hireling for being paid. If criticised he is, it is because he doesn't care for the sheep, running away when danger comes. But even this criticism is modified - for it is explained - the sheep aren't his. Of course he won't care for them in the way an owner would.

So the Church doesn't get closer to the words of Jesus by not paying clergy, but by giving the clergy the responsibility for people - he or she "owns" them. The individuals in this congregation are my own - I have a duty of care.

One of the most important aspects of "duty of care" is that I have boundaries to my competancies. So my "duty of care" does not mean that I advise people on medical, psychological, financial or other matters. In fact if someone came to me with a gynaecological problem, I would be failing in my duty of care if I didn't refer the person to a gynaecologist. Similarly a nurse is not allowed to administer drugs which haven't been prescribed by a medical practitioner.

I have heard of some quite inappropriate, indeed sometimes bizarre, advise given by well meaning lay people, advise which ran quite counter to what a doctor may had prescribed. Such advise, particularly if given in the name of the Church, only serves to bring the Church into justifiable disrepute with health professionals as well as alienating them. Of course advise should never be given without being requested. Unsolicited advise is 99% counter-productive, which is disastrous particularly if the advise is good. To get people's backs up, so they resist a particular course of action which will bring them relief, is reprehensible to say the least.

I was interested to read on the last page of the Adelaide Church Guardian this month, the article about the appointment of a parish nurse at Norwood recently. I am sure the person appointed will be cognizant of the sorts of issues I have been talking about today because she is a Registered Nurse and will be well aware of her particular competancies. But lay people in general tread on very dangerous ground when advising others in a capacity of a ministry. One of the first things I would say if someone asked my advise on any matter, medical or any other field about which I have had no training, is to ask what their doctor or other professional has advised. I was however a little taken aback with the article which proclaimed "Adelaide's first Anglican faith community nurse has been commissioned ..." Surely she is not the first community nurse who is a Christian?

I also wish to express some concerns about the opposition the Churches are levelling at the Prime Minister's "work for the dole" scheme. I wish simply to say that there are many worthwhile things which this could achieve. If there was nothing to do to improve the environment and society further, then perhaps it would be fair to describe the jobs as "pretend" ones. But the reality is that there are so many good things which could be done to improve our environment and society. To label the jobs as "pretend" is to devalue any effort to raise their own self esteem - which to me seems cruel to say the least. I feel sure that the words of St John from our epistle reading today have some relevance here. "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?" (1 John 3:17) when we consider the most pressing need is for self-esteem.

With payment comes responsibility. With payment, the link of becoming "mine" and "yours" is made.

The Church begins its ministry talking about the care of souls. It is terribly unfashionable to talk about parish boundaries, but it attempts to delineate what is mine, what is ours. For the words of Jesus tell us - we care for what is our own. So anyone within the parish boundaries, whether they give or not to the Church, can (within reason) expect to receive the ministrations of the Church if requested. Someone outside the parish boundaries can expect to be referred to their local parish. You as the congregation (whether you are within the parish boundaries or not) are in my care because you choose to be here. There is a similar corporate owning of the ministry through your presence and giving. I am no one's personal servant because a particular individual may give - either a little or a lot. I am here for the corporate health and salvation of us all - those who live in the area and those who choose to worship here, for whatever reason.

We are bidden to care one for another because of our corporateness in Christ - because he "own us" - we are his. This care does not mean that we have to live in each others pockets, knowing each other's business, giving advise whether it is asked for or not, or getting all "huggy and feely" with people with whom we really don't have much in common - or indeed don't really like much at all.

By care I mean:

1) Respecting other people's space and privacy.

2) Respecting other people's way of living and choices in life.

3) Respecting that other people, just as much as we do, hate being told what they should do, and being treated as less than adult.

4) And simply to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." Ro 12:15

The things I am advocating are really not all that difficult to do, indeed they are in the power of us all to do them, yet they are, in my experience, the things which will be most appreciated by people. Trying to live in each other's pockets, knowing each other's business, giving advise whether it is asked for or not, and getting all "huggy and feely" with people is fraught with danger, makes a Christian virtue of brashness and is the quickest turn off for anyone with any sensitivity what so ever.

We might also remember the Jesus said: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold." (John 10:16). So when I say that we need to respect people and not giving them advise it means everyone.

1) Respecting other people's (not just other Christians) space and privacy.

2) Respecting other people's (not just other Christians) way of living and choices in life.

3) Respecting that other people (not just other Christians), just as much as we do, hate being told what they should do, and being treated as less than adult.

4) And simply to "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." with all people, not just other Christians. Ro 12:15

 

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