Who Do We Think We Are?
What is our Place in God’s World?
Rosalie Smith presented this devotion at the August Church Council.
August was National Family History month, when people were encouraged to start delving into their family’s past.
There is a program on TV where well-known people search for their past, looking for stories of their ancestors. They often find links with past family members. They find similarities of characteristics and interests. They always conclude that although they now live in different times and are different people, they are products of their past.
Throughout life, most of us try to discover our place in the universe. There often comes a point in our lives, no matter what our belief structure is, where somehow we have to try to fit ourselves in time, fit ourselves in space, and the only way to do that is to find our story and make sense of it.
When we search the stories of our ancestors, we may discover many things. We are not the same as our ancestors. We have genetic links. We share a common history. But over generations we have grown; we have become healthier; we are more educated; our community has widened to include not only our own village but our city, our country and indeed the whole world. Our family story, however, plays a large part in who we are today. It is the foundation from which we move forward, being true to the past, but continuing to grow, learn and expand our horizons.
During the months of researching and writing ‘The Memorials’ booklet for Scots Church, I became increasingly aware of the story of our past and of its significance: the story of our church family history. We have spoken often about our remembered past: the stories of the many ventures on which we have embarked – some successful and some not – and the lessons we have learned from these challenges. We have discussed the importance of some of our traditions and how these form our story.
However, we have a long history which reaches back long before our living memories. We can think back to those hundreds of people who believed so strongly in the importance of freedom of worship, particularly being free from control by the government of the day, that they left their homelands and headed for the freedom of South Australia, the free settlement of the great southern land.
Within a very short time, hundreds of these settlers planned and erected in 1851 a building on this site, in which they could worship God as they saw fit. The building was good, solid, built to last, handsome yet without ostentation. Importantly, it was built without government or other outside assistance.
These people, who became the first worshippers in this place, were impressive in the strength of their faith and in their belief in their future with God. They valued education; they were hard working and many of them became wealthy. Often their wealth was used for the benefit of their community. A university was established, schools and a hospital were funded, and over generations, other churches have been supported.
When we read the stories of the people represented by the plaques, windows and other memorials in our church, we cannot help but be moved by the commitment, faith, dedication and active service of so many people to the upholding of God’s word.
This is our story: not just the part we remember, but dating right back to those early dissenters whose beliefs were so strong that they left behind all that was familiar to make a new start in new territory.
This is our foundation; this is who we are; this forms our place in our community, our city, our world.
This is the platform from which, with confidence in God’s continuing presence, we must continue to grow, learn and expand our horizons.
I believe that we have a responsibility – indeed an obligation – to honour the story of our past by renewing our commitment to God’s work in this place.
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