My brothers and I were born and grew up in a town where there was little class distinction. It was of no significance whether your father was a company executive or a railway fettler.
Kids took each other as they found them, and they soon sorted out anyone who fancied themselves as a bit special.
Our High School moto was una omnibus scholar, which when translated from Latin meant ‘One school for all’. Interestingly enough however, it was popularly translated as ‘All on the one school bus’.
We lived in a house which was one street back from the main street. Our back-yard faced onto the rear of one of the local hotels. It was not unusual for there to be a ‘settling of scores’ in the lane after closing time at 6 o’clock. For us young ‘lookers on’, this was an education in itself!
When it came to matters of religious affiliation, most of the population were ‘Bush Baptists’. Membership of the Methodist Church comprised those who were ‘regulars’, and those who in all sincerity understood themselves to be Methodists because they had a deceased great-aunt who was a Methodist.
The Anglicans were well represented (and had a pipe organ); there was an active band of Salvos, and a measurable number of Presbyterians, whose kindergarten was well attended by the general populace.
Of-course it goes without saying that the Catholics were very much to the fore. And then there were the Lutherans. We weren’t by any means unrepresented. We were well accepted by our fellow citizens across the broad spectrum of the community, and they knew we were definitely not Catholics.
I had the dubious honour of being the only Lutheran in my class all the way through school. And at the beginning of each year when religious instruction was being organised, I had to tell the teacher how to spell ‘Lutheran’.
So where am I going with all this?
Growing up up where I did, and in my subsequent years of interrelating with many people, reinforces my conviction that it is through the Spirit led ordinary every day journey of life’s interaction with people, that the authentic ministry of the Good News of God’s love for all people is proclaimed.
And why would it be any other way? After all, that’s precisely the way Jesus went about his ministry on earth. Sure, he preached, and engaged in robust dialogue with the pharisees and the teachers of the law. But the heart of his ministry was in the one-on-one with people.
He took people as he found them. He took the time to get to know them, genuinely caring for them, sharing in their hurts, needs and hopes. Teaching them and healing their bodies and souls.
When he sent out the twelve (Matthew Chapter 10), he said to them “Don’t begin by travelling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers, go to the lost and confused people right here in the neighbourhood.”
Which brings us to this point.
All people long to be valued as they are, not for what someone else expects them to be.
Only when we are comfortable that we are “all on the one bus” as fellow human beings, will we be comfortable in sharing our hurts, needs, hopes and joys. Only then, will the deeper questions of life’s meaning and purpose emerge.
In our local communities, people soon get to know what we are like. They know if we genuinely care about them. Christian laypeople who are well known in the community don’t have to wear a ‘badge’ to be recognised as genuine and authentic in the practice of their faith. People soon work out who it is that genuinely value them as fellow citizens.
And since the Holy Spirit walks with us and goes before us, we should not be surprised if every so often we get the opportunity to be the person whom a fellow citizen of no obvious religious connection appreciates help or support. It may be in a situation of bereavement. It may be a visit to a fellow club member who is in hospital. It may be fitting a new washer in a tap!
Whatever the situation, don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to practice genuine care. It may well be the beginning of a Spirit led journey of faith for both of you.
1 Peter 10:7 in The Message version of the Bible puts it like this:
“When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.”