More than a mountian

Who will save me?

James 5: 13-20

Life trusting God and accepting total forgiveness in His Son, our friend and Saviour Jesus, it is so freeing. To think and know that God the Father, a God of total love would give His Son to such cruelty, and for His Son Jesus to say yes-I am prepared to be tortured terribly that those that you love so much, that those that I love so much will be given life.

That truth that we know is so true for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. That truth that we know will see them on their last day standing before the loving Father. The Words of Jesus from the book of John: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

To know that truth brings freedom from anxiousness and worry in this life here. Problems, difficulties, loss and hurt that where once like mountains become small hills. The truth of our Lord and His love and the peace it brings, it needs to be shouted from the mountain tops that all may hear it.

A great evangelist, a true servant of God journeyed to tribes around the world to do just that. A perilous journey in a boat on rough seas to announce the Word of God not knowing if they would accept that Word or respond to it in anger. To present himself to them, not knowing if they would accept him, or respond to him in life threatening anger. Upon returning to his home country he was asked if he had any success to which he responded “Yes, many have been saved, but who will save me?”

Words from songwriter Marty Robbins and sung by Elvis Presley:

“You know Lord I’ve been in a prison for something that I never done. It’s been one hill after another and I’ve climbed them all one by one. But this time Lord you gave me a mountain. A mountain you know I may never climb. It isn’t just a hill any longer; you gave me a mountain this time”.

You cannot write those lyrics without having lived them. The self-doubt, the struggle and the hurt.

“Yes, many have been saved, but who will save me?”

I look at you here today, and know with absolute assuredness, that the Lord has kept his promise to you. Your place with him is sealed-you are free to follow your dreams, to live, to really live just as you are. You can succeed or fail it doesn’t matter. You can be yourself and if others think you’re different or judge you on what you do in your journey, it doesn’t matter-you are free.

You are saved-there is not one doubt that no matter what each of you are, knowing Jesus you are covered in his righteousness and saved. But who will save me? And there’s the problem. We see those around us, yes and if we think hard enough we could dig up some dirt, maybe a lot of dirt. But nevertheless we know that they are accepted by Jesus. But we see our own piles and piles of dirt, that each of us only truly know, and that God the Father truly knows and are led to wonder that if Christs saving Words can be true for such a person as me.

In my second week at the sem., after having essentially been a novice to my brother for the past three months I received a call from my Father before I hung up were “It’s over” and for the next three years I had nightmares where I had buried my brother in a shallow grave, and that his body may be found and bring me to justice. Confused of where I was and was I meant to be there, one night I went to bed and prayed all night until eventually falling asleep. Over and over, tell me Lord is this what I’m meant to be doing, please tell me Lord. When I woke up my thoughts were as clear as if I had literally heard it, an absolutely non-judgemental but “It didn’t have to end this way, know my word.”

This time I’ve been given a mountain that I may never climb, my mountain of sin. I still do things I wish I didn’t, I still want to do things that I know I shouldn’t, that I carry like a curse. In my younger years our group of friends used to stay with one of the blokes Aunty in North Adelaide on our trips to the city. His aunty that would you believe was married to a pastor. His aunty that I met again 20 years later at the introductory tour of the sem. for new Pastoral students who after being a little stunned said “you’ll make a good pastor because you know what sin is”.

Fair go, give me a break. I felt like saying “O.K. O.K. but can you keep it down a little”.

But she was right, not about the good pastor bit but about the sin part anyway and for the next three and a half years of my five years studies I asked myself and God did you really call me or did I call myself. Am I meant to be here, am I just kidding myself, and dare I say it I could see plenty there wondering the same thing, like you here may be.

I look back and given the judgement that I sometimes felt from others, but more so of myself it was a genuine miracle that I lasted those first three or so years.

Martin Luther once received a letter from one of his pastors weighed down by his own sin to which he basically answered “welcome to the real world”. And somewhere in those years I saw the real world. That sins, doubts, hurts and so forth weren’t just carried by me. Pastors, devoted Christians and children of God were in the same boat and somehow through this I came to see that I was not unique in my flaws, to know longer have to ask “but who will save me”. Somehow I came to truly know that it is true, even for a sinner like me and to cling to that truth.

When spiritually attacked, when reminded of our sin, failings, our crap, to cling not to our own judgements of ourselves, but to those of Christ.

At the end of apartheid in South Africa Nelson Mandela gave Archbishop Desmond Tutu the job of reconciling the country. Not to punish, but to reconcile. To bring out the sins of the past so that they can go forward.

On such man was on trial for locking up a father and his son with savage hungry dogs. He confessed and after this terrible act was brought into the open the judge asked a lady present what should the penalty be? And she responded “This man has taken from me my husband and my only child, I have no one left, so he will visit me once a week and I will care for him”.

From today’s reading in James:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let them pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let them sing praise. Is anyone sick? Let them call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over them. If anyone among you wanders from the truth, bring them back.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all hurt and we all laugh. We all know joy and pain and we have all fallen short. We are all in this together. We all have mountains to climb, and the biggest is not in Jesus accepting us, but in ourselves-because we know who we are, and so does God. Who we stand before with all our sins on display. And God looks to His Son Jesus who responds “they are my sheep, I know them-every little detail. And I have walked there path and know there pain and hardships. I know what they do and what they should do. I know their sorrows and their joys and felt their sin on the cross. But Father you sent me to save them and I have. I have fulfilled your divine plan-all their sins, no matter how big or small I have taken from your sight, I have covered them over. It is finished that no matter when they fall again I will be there, that no matter what they think of themselves-they will not be snatched from my hands.

Don’t listen to yourself, listen to Christ. In Christ alone, it is over-you are saved and you can choose to laugh or cry because you are free. Saved and free if Christ. May you climb your mountains. May you walk through the valley of the shadow of death but fear no evil, because our Lord of goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our lives, that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That we fear not ourselves but see Christ who gives us green pastures and still waters on our journey home.

We are free of ourselves and free to lie in those pastures and bask in those waters. Free to live. Praise be to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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