Message based on Matthew 12: 28-34
“The day that stopped the world”
It seems a little ironic that on Tuesday the people of the united states will go to elect their president and on the same day Australia will confront the “Day that stops a Nation” the Melbourne Cup with the favourite being a horse called “Americain”. I can almost hear the press clichés now.
Mark Twain the American author of the Tom Sawyer books once said:
The Melbourne Cup is the Australasian National Day. I can call to mind no specialised annual day in any country, which can be named by that large name-Supreme. I can call to mind no specialised annual day, in any country, whose approach fires the whole land with a conflagration or passion of conversation, and preparation and anticipation and jubilation. No day save this one; but this one does it.”
And Australia’s own Banjo Paterson, born in nearby Orange adds:
“Before the North Pole was discovered, some cynic said it would be discovered easily enough by advertising a race meeting there, when a couple of dozen Australians would no doubt turn up with horses.”
It is indeed “The Day that stops a Nation”; unless you are unfortunate enough to be in a similar situation to a gentleman I met last year after returning from the North Adelaide paper shop. As I approached him sitting in front of the church, directly across from the police station (Law and Gospel you could say) he asked if I knew what time they opened. I didn’t but I stopped for a chat and he mentioned that on every second day he has to check in with the police and amongst other things spend some time with a therapist. We talked for 10 or fifteen minutes and in between his stories he continually finished each with “I can’t believe I have to come here the same time as the cups on, a bloke can’t even watch the cup”. He was a good fella but I couldn’t help but inwardly ponder how that even in his myriad of troubles and problems, that day-because of the day it was- that they only seemed secondary.
When meeting people that have migrated to Australia or simply visiting I’m always intensely interested to see how they see Australia through their eyes. A big strong barman in Coober Pedy told me that during the cold war he had risked his life crawling on his belly through patrolled paddocks to escape from a country behind the iron curtain. His response to my question of how or why he ended up in Australia was that the “word on the street” amongst the asylum seekers of the time “was to get to either Canada or Australia because they had heard from word of mouth that these countries would give outsiders a fair go” struck my heart to the core.
I hope and pray that our great country never loses our “sense of fair play”, or maybe even regains it, as for many of us, we are but the by-products of those sent here against their wishes, or by products of those who risked much to travel to the “Land down under” to start a new life knowing that it was improbable that they would ever be able to return to see those they left behind.
I came from the dream-time, from the dusty red soil plains
I am the ancient heart, the keeper of the flame.
I stood upon the rocky shore; I watched the tall ships come.
For forty thousand years I’ve been the first Australian.
I came upon the prison ship, bowed down by iron chains.
I cleared the land, endured the lash and waited for the rains.
I’m a settler; I’m a farmer’s wife on a dry and barren run
A convict then a free man…..
I’m the daughter of a digger who sought the mother lode
The girl became a woman on the long and dusty road
I’m a child of the depression, I saw the good times come
I’m a bushy, I’m a battler……
I’m a teller of stories, I’m a singer of songs
I am Albert Namatjira, I paint the ghostly gums
I am Clancy on his horse, I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda…..
We are one, but we are many
and from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian
That song is my Amazing Grace of what we stand for as a nation, and as with Amazing Grace I never tire of hearing it.
As most of us here were once outsiders in this nation, so too were the gentiles-our ancestors who were considered outside of God by the authorities of the day before Jesus walked this earth.
But in Mark 12:28 one such person asked Jesus “What is the greatest commandment of all?”
“Jesus answered, The first is you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Sometimes we read something that should not be tampered with but should just be retold as written. This is one (By Rev. Donald F. Hinchey):
“Our sin separates us not only from God but also from living out our faith in life. We sinners segment life into real and religious, stained glass and office. God bridges the gap with a cross. God gave His own Son to death to bring life with God into the streets. Jesus was crucified outside the city walls but in the midst of the people. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, You are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days (Mt 27:39-40). Faith and life meet in the crucified and risen Son of God. Faith, the gift of God, is meant to be lived out on earth. God’s Word and Sacraments stoke and nourish the fires of faith so that we might be the church in the community. We are all sinners, but in Christ alone we are saints through what he has done for us. Saints put flesh on the faith. This Christian life is no pie in the sky matter but is living here and now. A saint “preaches” by the way they walk and the way they stand and the way they pick things up and the way they hold them in their hands. A child was once asked what a saint was. She thought of the stained glass windows with pictures of the saints in her church and responded “A saint is a person who lets the light shine through.
In the darkness of our world’s brokenness and sin, the saints shine forth in hope: Christ is risen and we too shall rise”.
There is a school in a country town in France that has written upon its entrance “We will never forget Australia” and on Australia Day every year they gather in remembrance of the thousands upon thousands of young men that died in the paddocks that surround their town. Young men that gave the ultimate sacrifice in a foreign land. How our Lord must have wept to see the pain and loss of life on both sides.
As a grown man, for whatever reason when hearing a child crying in hurt as parents argued I always near driven to tears and when completing this message yesterday I again heard this play out in the street I live.
Our Savior Jesus Christ died once and for all for our sins yet he still suffers the pain of our world. Pray that we too hear our neighbor’s pain, that they too see the light of Christ. Amen.