Christian life week
“God’s Jigsaw Puzzle”
Growing up in South Australia back in the dim and dark ages when I could manage to participate in sport without feeling like a I’m about to have a heart attack, there was no such animal as is the case now with the Australian Football League (The AFL).
Back then each state had its own league that wasn’t just a recruiter’s field of dreams; but was the pinnacle of the sport. The pinnacle that if you reached you may get selected to play against the enemy-the dreaded Victorians. If fortunate enough to make that team, it didn’t matter if the week before you had beaten each other half to death, against Victoria, all past grievances were forgotten as the whole state came together as one. It was them verses us. Much like the emotion NSW and QLD still are fortunate to be able to enjoy in State of Origin Rugby League.
Years later at the urging of a friend of mine I went to Melbourne to simply watch some Football at the MCG, and it was all that he had said it would be, even empty there is something about that stadium-it seems to breath, to be alive. But more than that, the thing that got me was whether it be checking in at the motel or shopping at the markets, that when I replied to their question of why I was visiting, being that I had simply come over to watch some football, I was accepted like a prodigal son. It was amazing. Make no mistake they are fierce in support of their tribes, such St. Kilda vs. Collingwood and so forth. But under the banner of Australian Rules Football they stand side by side. The rich and the poor, the upstanding and the not so highly regarded by society stand together, unified in their love of the game.
Indeed I experienced the same thing in Coober Pedy when a football team was started for the first time. A team that brought together those with light skin, with dark skin and all the shades in between, and during that season we became as one. Far from them and us, we came to understand and enjoy the uniqueness of each other’s outlook on life. Through that initial bond of wanting to play football it became much more and on the five hour bus trips each way to and from our home games (there was no grassed oval in Coober Pedy) we got to know each other-to understand each other and to respect each other-and I came to love those guys-Just as they were.
(As a side issue, the police told us that by the end of the season, crime rates had dropped by 50% in the town).
In our reading from Ephesians Paul talks of our unity in Christ:
“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
We are all called to the one hope, our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. On our last day when we meet in person our Lord and Saviour, we won’t be ushered into the Anglican, Roman Catholic, AOG, the traditional Lutheran or Liberal Lutheran sections and so forth, we will be as one-as we are now. One in Christ, and all saved in only the one, Jesus.
Just lately I’ve seen the same here in our region. In the seven months since arriving I have been part of funerals of the Lutheran, AOG, Anglican and Church of Christ denominations-and from what I could see, there was only one thing in view, one thing that truly mattered-more than hope, but the surety of salvation in Jesus our Saviour. But those words of Paul, what doesn’t he say. He doesn’t say that we have to be like clones. And nor should he, because our individual thoughts and gifts are unique to us, they are gifts from God.
We are all many parts of the same body of Christ. From denomination to denomination, parish to parish and within, each particular Sunday gathering. Each is unique, as is each of the people that gather. Each with gifts that God uses in various shapes and forms so that His message of salvation in His Son will be heard and received by people in various shapes and forms. The absolute and over whelming love of God for each of us, no matter who we are or where we’re from is seen up front and personal in His Son Jesus, that he gave that we may live. But also we see His sincere love displayed in His giving us a brain, the ability to think and make decisions for ourselves and dare I say it, the ability to make wrong decisions-to bring division, to harm others and to follow the way of sin, the world and its flaws. That’s just how it is, because we carry the burden of sin. We sin and make mistakes, yet, we are still one in Christ.
During the American Civil war. Robert E. Lee the leader of the South was attending worship and during communion he rose to approach the alter to share in the Holy Feast. As too did a black man, a slave who upon seeing the general rise, sat back down. As he walked past this man, Robert E Lee, the leader of the South who among other things was fighting to keep slavery legal-put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said come up with me-before our Lord, we are all equal. In our world, through earthly eyes and judgements we are far from equal. I could have been born in a struggling country that may have seen me on a leaky boat risking my life to get illegally into Australia, but I wasn’t-I was born here. I could have died at a young age like some of my friends, but I’m still here. If situations were different I may have made a living from playing sport, but now I talk to you as a Pastor. If I had met a nice young Anglican girl instead of a nice young Lutheran girl I may had taken this address earlier on Sunday night at the Anglican Church. If I had turned that way instead of this way-I may be lying in the gutter with a near empty bottle of cheap wine. But I’m here, as are you.
We are what we are and how that came about doesn’t really matter. What matters, is that whether it had been one those other outcomes or what has actually eventuated, is that we know the truth-that no matter what seems to be in our world, it is nothing when compared to what is, that Christ died for our sins and that on our last days-we will join together in unending joy before and with our Lord and Saviour. That is the truth, the truth that has set us free-the Lord has given us the freedom to live today among his other children, those found and those yet to be found. The freedom to live among those found and encourage them in their faith that we may remain one in Christ, and the freedom to live among those yet to be found, that with our different skills, gifts and placements given to us by God, that when he brings them before us-they too may hear the truth, and that they too may become one in Christ. Amen.