written by Rev Gary Heard

From half way through their primary education, each of our children has been sent away on an annual school camp, initially overnight, increasing in length with each passing year. And each year our child is returned to us “grown up”, the experience giving them a greater sense of independence and confidence. This coming week our eldest is away for five days camping down in Gippsland, his first secondary school camp for the year.

Parents universally report the increased sense of maturity which their children bring back from such experiences in much the same way they notice growth when their children shift up a level in school. Why is it that maturity levels seem to move forward in such quantum leaps?

One suspects it has something to do with systems. Each system generates its own levels of expectations, and we consequently find a level of comfort within it. It is only when we move out of that system into another that we are forced to think about issues and aspects which – in our “home” system – are taken care of by another. We are comfortable with our levels of responsibility and ignorance. These systems allow us to grow to a certain point, but hold us back in others.

Systems limit and encourage our growth in many ways. While they provide a sense of stability and certainty, and bring a unique range of challenges, most systems breed a degree of inertia. They need to be upset and overturned in order to create new opportunities for growth (I wonder if that is what Jesus was doing in the temple?)

Church communities are systems. Each offers a new insight and catalyst for growth as we come to join. Over time, unless we question and challenge the system, our comfort with it actually holds us back, and mitigates against our future growth. How do we ensure that the system continues to catalyse growth?

The stories of Holy Week contained in the gospels reveal an interesting interplay between Jesus and the religious system. Jesus’ desire to bring growth opportunities to people kept in place by “the system” is shown in parable and interaction. In the short term, the system won.

But then…

April 9, 2006
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