Archive for December, 2012

Christ in Christmas?

Saturday, December 29th, 2012

Colossians 3:12-17.
If Christ came to you this Christmas??

 

Was Friday, and today for that matter, a holiday for you? Or was it a holy day? In other words, was it merely a day of relaxation, eating and drinking; an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a quiet time, or was it something significantly more? Yes, we could fit church in there somewhere, but in many ways, it was just a break from normal life; or was it a truly special day? If it was a holy day, it means Christ was born anew in you. Then that being the case – what difference does it make for your life? What does it mean that Jesus is a part of your life yesterday, today and forever? These are some important questions we need to ask ourselves now that Christmas day has once again come and gone.

It is obvious that many go through Christmas without any great change taking place in their lives. There is no renewal that has taken place:

Christ meaning no more today than he did last week. For them, Friday was merely a holiday: a festive day with family and friends: a day to eat, drink and be merry – for who knows, we might not be here next year. Yes, perhaps they went to church. After all, it is the right thing to do; just to let God know that we haven’t forgotten him completely. But that is not what Christmas is all about.

Christmas means, Christ come to be with us: come to be a reality in our life. And that is what happened on Friday; Christ came to every one of us. He came to share life with us: He came seeking to be the most important part of our lives. He came to do something about mending that relationship we had broken with God and those around us.

However, sadly far too many, were too wrapped up in the presents, Christmas dinner and other things, to recognize and even give thought to him. There were too many other things to do and think about: too many other cares and hassles that they were involved in.

But for those of us whom Christmas has touched: that Christ touched through his presence with us, is what made this Christmas special.

Again, there is now change taking place in our lives, with Christ’s presence bringing transformation for our lives.

Our reading this morning tells us something of what is part of this Christmas present that came to be with us. Christ’s presence among us means that we now become more compassionate toward one another;

Kinder and more humble in our living of life: gentler and more patient in our dealings with others. Now for some of us that is really something. But for all us, we could do with a little more of those things. Well, with Christ here with us, those things will begin to happen more and more in our lives. The more Christ is the centre of our lives the more these things will become evident.

But that is not all. In the hassles and difficulties that we have with others around us, we now bear with them and even find the strength to forgive as the Lord forgave us. And so the nature of our relationships with those people changes: our tensions and difficulties are overcome: Our Lords forgiving presence toward us, enables us to have a changed attitude in our relationships to fami1y, friends and associates. Now this is really something! And it is so much needed.

But even more: The love that God has for us becomes evident in our lives. Our community is drawn together by the selfless giving of ourselves for the benefit of others: love radiates out from Christ’s presence, through us, to others; and suddenly from the outworking of all these things in our lives, we begin to see some changes taking place in our society that is so much needed. Christ here with us has its effect through us to our community; and there then we begin to see more of the sorts of things that we know are good and positive – rather than divisive and destructive. All of this and more has come to us this Christmas – in this most wonderful of presents.

But, we are reminded here that there is still more to this gift. The peace of Christ now rules in our lives; so there is no need to get uptight and frustrated by what is happening around us. We can be at peace with what is happening in our world: the sickness, tragedy and events beyond our control no longer need to cause us to overwhelmed or afraid. We now have our God in our midst, giving us peace: bringing peace to our community through our changed attitude.

And with that comes thankfulness: Thankfulness for all the wonderful blessings that are there in our lives. Now that we are able to see beyond our cares and hassles, to all the great things happening around us as result of God’s activity, we can more and more give thanks to God . So instead of being negative and finding fault and being gloomy, we are also able to see and be positive about life. Thankful for all God is doing in and around us.

But in this reading, there is still more. Assured of our Lord’s presence, love and goodness that he has for us, we also find that the Word of Christ becomes something that is of greater value for our lives. Suddenly Scripture becomes important for us; helping us to keep close to our God. There we are reminded again and again of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Along with that, we also are given directions for living our lives in a way that is good and helpful for our relationship with him and the people around us. That means that we will now see the Word of God as being more important to us than what the philosophers and educators of today are trying to push down our throats. For now, we know that God has that which is truly helpful and good for all of life: Here we have that which is true and is able give us that which can be relied on.

Now lastly and most importantly, this reading points us to the greatest change that takes place for us: everything that we now say and do, is done in the name of the Lord Jesus. Not in the name of what I want. Selfishness and self-centredness has gone out the window, because it is no longer important to us or for us. For now, we realise that what I want and what I think is good and important, only leads to heartache and distress. With the Lord Jesus as our leader, guide and friend, we now know that we are on the right track. He alone holds the answers to all of life and death. He has a reason, purpose and meaning for all that happens in our life. Everything that we have, are, think, say and do only has any importance and value because of him and what has done for us.

Now there we have only very briefly been shown what we have now as a result of Christmas. Christ with us, means all this and more is becoming a part of life for us. What a present – what an event is Christmas. All of this and more is there for us, all because our Lord chose to come and be with us. Let us not forget this great happening as we go on. Let us not turn our backs on all of this by getting too involved in all these other things in life, so that Christ becomes crowded out once again. Instead, let us make the most of what our Lord is seeking to do in and through us. Let us live ever mindful of the wondrous gift that has been given to us. Yes, with the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives this is what is in front of us. May he bring to us all these great changes that he has in mind for us and then may the true peace and joy of this season go with you now and always. AMEN.

 

Christmas message

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Christmas Message

A work colleague and friend of mine, when if on his way to or from work happened to notice a bird doing what birds do, simply a bit of flying or worm hunting, would shout out the window to “go and get a job”.

He was a very smart and upwardly mobile young man but his jestful harsh words towards our feathered friends showed clearly that although he was “in the system” he could clearly see the clay from the other substance in our world, and if you’ve ever worked for a multi-national company you’ll know there are plenty of both substances.

In one such company an essential part of our day to day operations was the use of a printer and as it would be, ours broke down. So as per instruction I rang the overseas third party that handled such technology who advised me to fill in the appropriate form in triplicate, send one copy to them, one copy to the Australian head office and the third to the American Head office. After explaining the severity of the situation and that I as can actually see an unused printer no further than twenty metres away and my desire to acquire said printer, I was advised that no such unauthorised activity was possible.

So after I moved the printer and restored operations I pondered over my friend’s advices towards those birds hunting for worms whose indifference towards authority and refusal to submit the required forms before acquiring the new found worm made them virtually unemployable.

When I was fourteen my school mate suggested to me that religion was an organisation that hunted on the vulnerable and those with limited mental faculties in order to swindle them of life and possessions. That was a long time ago but if you read the current newspapers you will see that he is clearly not alone in his thinking. And a Pastor once said that as is the way in life, that after shopping at the same butcher, going to the same post office or sitting at the same seats at the football each week, eventually conversations would start, then introductions and after some weeks or months talk of families and then after replying to the question of “what do you do for a living” he remarked that he could nearly always sees the cogs turning and the thoughts of “but you seemed quite normal”.

As a Christian all this talk of religion, intelligence, being normal and unemployed magpies is a little confusing. Firstly I’m not sure what religion is, I’ve never professed to have anything other than the barest amount of useable brain matter. As for being normal, whatever that is, according to one of the lecturers at the seminary whose task it was to see how we tick, apparently I’m not. And as for the magpies eating worms-I thought that was their job.

You can see why I’m so confused and that our world technology’s change so quickly does not help the situation as I’m still dumfounded by how fax machines work.  That I can fax someone over there the same thing as I have here is so mystifying that if it was done back in the dark ages I would have been burnt at the stake for being a witch.

A legendary football coach once said to another aspiring coach that “when you talk to your player’s, keep it simple and look at them like bricks with ears”. In regards to my Christian belief, maybe my friend was right. At times, I certainly feel like one of those bricks and when looking in the mirror I do see I have quite a good set of ears.

So that explains how I got here. But what about these guys:

Albert Einstein who seemed a pretty smart fellow said:

“No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates.”

The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson:

“When Christ came into my life, I came about like a well-handled ship”.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, not that a vulnerable man I would suggest mentioned that in his opinion, that he “always considered Christ to be one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of humanity”.

I could go on and on but two of my favourites are from United States Presidents Jimmy Carter and Thomas Jefferson:

“We should live our lives as though Christ was coming this afternoon”.

and

“All the world would be Christian if they were taught the pure Gospel of Christ”

The pure Gospel of Christ can become confusing in a confused world where all things must be done in triplicate, faxed to third parties and authorised by some remote person on the other side of the world.

God did not look upon us as bricks with ears, he looked upon us as his wonderful creation, as his loved children and so he decided to keep it simple for us, that in faith and trust alone, to know that Jesus died for our sins-we are forgiven and given life.

God did not look upon us, send a third party and stay remote, he sent himself in His Son-to become flesh and blood and come amongst us.

And when we go outside His authority and break the rules, he doesn’t discard us to an unemployment queue, but employs all avenues available to bring us back to himself.

The world and we ourselves will continue to change. Today we are told certain foods are good for us, and no doubt soon enough we’ll be told the opposite. Once if your mobile phone was big you were out dated, but now they have grown in size again and one day fax machines will only be found in museums.

Things, and we change and I’ll still be confused but that’s O.K. because there is only one thing that is a constant, that the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are the same today as they were 2,000 years ago on that First Christmas.

God did the unfathomable, by doing it himself and bringing to us the pure Gospel in Jesus Christ his son, His Son the truth-the same truth given to us today as on that First Christmas.

His Son our Saviour who has promised us that:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.

“This is the will of Him that sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believe in Him, may have everlasting life, and I will raise them up at the last day”

“Because I am with you always, even unto the end of the world”

“And I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also”.

I wish you a safe, joyful and peaceful Christmas and pray that every day that each of us see that small child in the manger, every day we see his healing in our lives, every day we stand at the foot of the cross and see what he has done for us, and every day go forward living our lives in hope and jubilation seeing our resurrected Christ saying to his Father, they are my children, I know each personally and by name, and they are mine. Amen.

“Mary’s song is our song”

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Luke 1:46-56

“Mary’s song is our song”

In today’s Gospel we hear in wonderment of the lengths that Our Father in heaven was prepared to go to save the lost and if we ever ponder that a certain task may “be beneath us”, let us remember our God the maker of heaven and earth. Our God who made us from dust and breathed life into us. Our God of unfathomable power, might and wisdom, and our God who comes from on high and relocates from the Holy temple to the womb of a young virgin girl named Mary.

If ever you are led to believe that you are beyond the mercy of a powerful and judging God, look again to see him come to us in a small and fragile child. Our God the maker of the universe, the creator comes to His creation as creature. Our Father, who abhors sin and unjustness, yet comes to us so that he can suffer the wrath of our sin and its unjustness.

As our Advent preparations draw to a close, Mary the mother of our Lord provides us with a magnificent hymn that summarise what mighty acts of salvation our Father has done, and is doing for us. It is a fitting conclusion to this season because it not only recalls for us who he is, but what we have become in him. Mary’s song is our song as it describes our Christian life in Christ, in all its humility and all its splendour.

God the almighty came not through the religious prestigious of the day, but through a humble girl, who said of herself in Chapter 1, verse 25 “The Lord has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace”.

Mary’s song is our song because as with Mary, we too have been given His favour and had our honour restored by Jesus the Son of God.

Like Mary, we are blessed as we receive personally Gods mighty act of mercy and Salvation in Jesus.

May’s song is our song when we come to know our Saviour.

Our Saviour whose ministry was a ministry of mercy. Jesus who came not as a God of vengeance but as merciful and compassionate. Jesus who does not punish his enemies for their sins and those against him, but places himself under the Father’s wrath and is punished as our substitute.

Our Saviour who showed his cards early by being born not of the high and mighty but of the humble. Not born in the temple but in a lowly barn.

Our Saviour that though we fail, go off track and continually fall to sin still shows himself through us as he did when he walked this earth: setting captives fee, healing the sick and raising the dead.

He still shows the same cards, he does not punish us for our sins but asks we give them to him. He does not come to destroy but to re-create by bringing us forgiveness not in ourselves, but in him.

Mary’s song is our song that we sing in our daily lives. A song that allows us to see Christ in those around us. A song that sees Christ with us among our hurt and a song that replaces the failings we see in ourselves with his overflowing grace, love and mercy.

In Christ our lives are a magnificent song like that of Mary’s when we accept our Saviour Jesus’ humility as ours, and his glory as ours.

Daily we come before God with mercy needed and mercy and forgiveness found. Hope needed and hope given, and life renewed.

We thank our Lord for his Immeasurable love and lifesaving action, given to us as to those of Mary’s time. Mary’s song is the Lord’s song and the Lord’s song is ours as we are restored in Christ.

Christ, the visible expression of God the Father eternal-who gave himself for our eternity as said eloquently by a poet, named Richard Crayshaw:

“That the great angel-blinding light should shrink

His blaze, to shine in a poor shepherd’s eye;

That the unmeasured God so low should sink

As prisoner in a few poor rags to lie; milk should drink,

Who feeds with nectar Heaven’s fair family;

That a vile manger his low bed should prove

Who in a throne of stars thunders above.

 

That He whom the sun serves, should faintly peep

Through clouds of infant flesh: that He the old

Eternal Word would be a child, and weep;

That He who made the fire should feel the cold;

That Heaven’s high Majesty his court should keep

In a clay-cottage, by each blast controlled:

That Glory’s self should serve our grief’s and fears:

And free Eternity submit to years”.

You are blessed because the Lord knows your name, has given you faith, and you are one of his. Let his song sing in your lives. Amen.

 

“Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall”

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Luke 3:7-18

“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”


All of us have been in situations where we have asked of ourselves “what do I do?” Whether it be a decision in a position of urgency or one of those labouring “tossing and turning in bed” decisions. A person I once knew couldn’t make up his mind and asked my opinion on which electronic brand to buy, both equal in price. A week or so later, on meeting him I asked how he went? He said he still couldn’t decide but then he saw a different bargain advertised and spent the money on that, being eight cartons of discounted Crown Lager beer. That’s one way to do it I suppose.

Last week we talked of the message of John the Baptist and our need for repentance. Of turning away from things that get in the way of God, and turning back to God. In today’s Gospel John continues in his message even to the point of calling his listeners “a brood of vipers”. In the day, harsh words which bring forth a very good question, “What shall we do then?” And after all of John’s “fire and brimstone” preaching his answer comes somewhat as a surprise as he doesn’t ask of any things that would stop them in their tracks, but seemingly simple things. “If you have two coats, give one of them to someone who has none. If you are a tax collector, collect no more than what you are meant to. If you are a soldier, don’t use your authority to oppress or threaten people, just do your job and be happy with your normal wages”.

Simple things, yet simple things that for John the Baptist to be able to be heard, he first had to jar his listeners free from all the build-up and corrosion that they had suffered and encountered through the years that had gradually led them off track to the point where to be told to just do the simple things is like a revelation.

A lady was once telling me that she was leading training courses overseas with some leaders of business. The type of training had some big words but she said a simple way to explain was:

“Say you’re walking over a bridge and all the cars are banked up in a traffic jam and a twenty dollar note falls out of one of the car windows and you see that the driver cannot open the door wide enough to get out. So what do you do? Go over and pick it up and give it back to the driver, keep it for yourself or just keep walking?”

Admittingly this was to people living in the culture of a huge city with its hectic pace and concerns of safety. It’s climate of lifestyle that can create remoteness between people. The thing is many people realise things could be different but because it’s so commonplace, gradually fall into line and soon it’s their “normal” as well, and this is not just in big cities.

A young man I know moved to a small country town and in one of the shops he encountered quite a stern and even “borderline” rude owner to him, and apparently to everyone. But instead of returning fire with fire, he went the other way and was continually friendly to the point that gradually a smile came, then warm welcomes. Not just to him but in her day to day interactions. By not “burning” his own integrity and continuing to be himself, things somehow changed.

And there’s the question, “what price our integrity?” Is it worth giving it away like I saw at a hot dog stand when two people nearly came to blows over who was first in line? Road rage at the school drop off, people hurling abuse because they had to slightly use the brake pedal to give way to another, the parent with a young teenager in tow unloads the shopping trolley and just lets it go and it rolls into the next car and people abusing the sixteen year old attendant at the supermarket seem to be rampant. All of a sudden John the Baptist simple words of leading an honest, kind and giving lifestyle seem revolutionary.

Just where has all this come from. Could it be that the technology that was promised to give us more time in our lives has actually delivered the opposite to where it’s such a rush these days that we cannot afford to accept the extra minutes associated with a little understanding toward others? Certainly it seems we are busier than ever but is that really an excuse for a selfish, uncaring and rude lifestyle as this is exactly what John was preaching back in his day and as to my knowledge he didn’t even have Facebook, never mind twitter.

Remember John the Baptist was talking of these simple things to the God fearing Jews. But God fearing Jews who at least had the excuse that they were only beginning to hear the ways of Christ.

But what’s the excuse today when we hear of splits in churches between Pastor and congregation and Christian against Christian? This is not a pointed question as I feel blessed to be among people here who realise my many short comings, yet realise that it’s not about individuals, it’s about Christ.

To label Christians as hypocrites because of our actions is rubbish because we do not profess to be any different from others. Sometimes we make the same mistakes and do the wrong things, just like sometimes we manage to do some good. Being normal is not being a hypocrite, but being a Christian and not realising our need for Christ as our guide in this life is, because he puts things into perspective.

But perspective that like when at the amusement places and you look into those funny mirrors that change your body shape can get out of whack if not based on the truth. I always like looking into the mirror that makes me look taller and thinner, only to be reminded of my true self in the non-distorted mirror.

In Jesus Christ our Saviour we see ourselves as we are. Not hypocrites but everyday normal people. Normal people that display all the normal attributes of our society.

Kindness, not returning fire with fire, letting some-one else push in the queue without abusing them and reminding the shop attendant of their mistake without belittling them is not a lot to ask when we know the truth. That when we were lost Christ found us. When we didn’t want him he didn’t turn away. When we were unkind to him: he gave us himself. When we abused him: he stretched out his arms on the cross to be pierced and when we finally heard his call: the heavens erupted in joyous song that against the odds, another broken sinner in a broken world has looked into the mirror and seen themselves covered in the forgiveness of our Saviour. And although our acts of goodwill toward others may seem insignificant, tainted and distorted-we give in thanks to the Lord and trust that still against the odds in our world, that in his hands the heavens will again erupt in joyous song.

 

A voice from the wilderness

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Luke 3:1-6

“A voice from the wilderness”

As the days draw near to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the emphasis is that as preached by John the Baptist all those years ago, repentance-turning away from sin and turning towards God. A change in direction.

John had an extraordinary life as right from the start, in a preceding chapter we are told that when Mary, carrying the baby Jesus in her womb visits her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb-John, leaped for joy when they met. The next we hear of John is in today’s Gospel where he has been living in the desert, wearing a coat made from camel hair and living off locusts and wild honey. He would have been quite a sight for the many, many people who had travelled from the cities to hear him preaching of preparing for the coming of the Lord by being baptised and repenting.

He was a powerful and bold preacher who didn’t “guild the Lilly” but just told it how it was and as we know in our world today that can take some gumption. But John took no prisoners in telling the truth as we hear later when he is imprisoned and beheaded after giving King Herod a going over about his adulterous marriage. But his greatest strength was his focussed and faithful commitment to the call of God in his life. John knew he had been given a specific call and set out with uncompromising singular obedience to fulfil that mission. We could imagine that he may have suffered ridicule like that of Noah when building a giant boat in the middle of nowhere. Because in those years, with no old age pension or superannuation nest egg, it was essential to have children as they would provide for you when you could no longer be self-sufficient. So even If not his parents, I wonder what the community thought of him when as his parents only child, he leaves them and wanders into the desert.

John just didn’t talk the talk; he walked the walk and certainly was the right man to be ushering in the public arrival of Jesus. His voice was a voice from the wilderness that many heard and responded to in baptism. But also a voice from the wilderness that was offensive. Offensive because just as Jesus later, his message was out of line with the times. It wasn’t the content of his words that offended as baptism was already in place within the Jewish society as it was custom that non-Jews had to be immersed in water under the supervision of a religious expert should they wish to convert to Judaism.

Similar, the Jewish people also practiced repentance in asking God’s forgiveness and determining to change when they did something wrong. But the ultimate repentance, the turning from a wrong way of living to a right way of living was when a non-Jew decided to obey their teachings of God. So to tell the Jewish people that they had to be baptised and repent the same way as non-Jews was offensive as it challenged their belief that if they were born Jewish and did not reject God’s law, they would be saved.

Even here on the banks of the Jordan, we can see why Jesus was to get such a hard time when he arrived on the scene showing no favouritism and hanging out with all manner of person. The messages from both John the Baptist and Jesus were not in sync with the expectations of the day, or dare I say it, of our days.

The Jewish, were God worshipping people and had been awaiting the arrival of the Messiah, yet because he didn’t fit their expectations, many didn’t understand him or his offer of salvation-just as many in society don’t today, as the Gospel of our Lord was foreign to the Jews and still is foreign to many today.

Our times need more John or Jill the Baptists to tell the world “how it is”. To tell us “how it is” because we too, like John himself can get confused with the world around us. Yes even for John, Jesus and his message turned out a little different than he had expected as we are told in Luke chapter 7 that upon hearing that Jesus has delivered his famous Beatitudes, cleansed a man of unclean spirits, healed the paralysed and raised the dead is still lead to ask him via messengers from his jail cell, “Are you the one?”.

And Jesus response? Not “you’re kidding aren’t you” but “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed are those that are not offended by me”.

And then, not “I thought he had it all together” but “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he”.

Oh to be in that number when the saints go marching in.

Recently a gentleman told me of two gifts he has received, one spiritual and one worldly. Both interconnected as the latter could only been seen as a gift after having received the prior-faith.

When in the womb John the Baptist leaps for Joy when coming into contact with Jesus. We too leap for joy in the gift of faith. Faith, that intangible thing inside that changes our outlook on our world. Hardships that seen in the light of Christ bring growth. Remarkable achievements and joys that can be seen as not from our “greatness”, but a gift from God to us, and those it effects. Faith that asks of us what we already know, the need to turn from our false God of self, and put God the father of our Saviour first.

Faith that says, even though you have fallen short many, many times and continue to do so-Jesus Christ died for your sins that when you stand before the father, in Christ His Son your sins are washed clean and glow in the pure radiance of His Glory. Hard to believe, but true.

Pray we daily turn back to God, and pray that one day our earthly brothers and sisters still searching will ask “Is he the one?” Amen.

 

At the heart of the fight.

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Luke 21:25-36

I once read that in the face of life threatening situations, people have a 50% greater chance of survival if they don’t panic and when thinking of going around a corner and coming face to face with a car on the wrong side of the road, to me that statistic makes sense.

An elderly man once told me of fighting a fire by making a fire break in the Adelaide hills in his open roofed tractor. It was one of the “infamous” fires that due to its speed and intensity caused extreme loss of properties and many people perished. He said it seemed to come from nowhere and was upon him and due to its speed and the terrain it was impossible to outrun. He had but seconds and in those he had to fight his every instinct telling him to run, which ultimately would be to have run to nowhere, rather than back up his tractor and charge the fire at full speed hoping that its face was shallow enough to pass through. He said it was “the most fear he has ever experienced.”

As mortal human beings it is impossible to not experience some level of fear in the face of a threat, but as seen in this man and others, instead of overwhelming and uncontrollable fear creating panic, it is fear that triggers courage.

These are extreme situations and people that have faced them almost universally reflect that they do not know “how they did it”. Extreme situations like those we heard in the Gospel today. When and how these things play out we are not told except that they will bring great distress and unanswered confusion to the world prior to when all will become clear upon the return of Christ.

As Christians we don’t talk to the Bible it talks to us and in verse 34 Jesus gives us some good advice, to “watch ourselves”, to stay awake. Which is good advice indeed when from the book of Daniel we are told these “will be times of trouble such as never has been since” (12:1), “many people will waste their efforts trying to understand what is happening” (12:4) and “many will be purified, but those who are wicked will not understand and will go on being wicked, only those who are wise will understand” (12:10)

Sobering and heavy words, and indeed Daniel himself trembled when receiving his visions of the future. But sobering words that as they were to Daniel, are given to enlighten us rather than consume us. In the aftermath of such astonishing prophecies’, the advice given to Daniel is also given for us, chapter 12 verse 9 to now “Go your way to the end”.

And we go our way to the end, in the here and now, because as Jesus himself has told us in Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

In 1963 civil activist Martin Luther King Jr. gave his remarkable ‘I have a dream’ speech. Five years later in Memphis, Tennessee he gave an impromptu speech in which he referred to the story of the “Good Samaritan” and makes the following insights:

“Jesus tells us that on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho a man was attacked and felled by thieves. You remember that a Jewish Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him but a man of another race did stop and was not compassionate by proxy, but got down and administered first aid and helped the man in need. Jesus said this man was the great man because he had the capacity to project the ‘I’ into the ‘thou’ and be concerned about his brother. Now you know we use our imagination a great deal to try and determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop, like running late in getting to a church meeting(or being too busy)….But maybe it’s possible that these men were simply afraid. You see I have been there and the Jericho road is a dangerous road…and conducive for ambushing. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the ‘Bloody Pass’. And you know that’s it possible that the priest and the Levite looked over the man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around, or if the felt the man on the ground was faking it, a trap. So (maybe) the question they asked themselves was ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by and reversed the question: ’If I don’t stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’

And that’s the question before us now”.

The Reverend Martin Luther King concluded his speech referring to death threats he had recently received with:

“I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top. Like anybody I would like to live a long life….but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”.

Martin Luther King had been given a special calling, and as to Daniel and as to us, “He went his way to the end” and was assassinated the day after this speech. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonheoffer and others, given special callings that shaped and became their lives in “the here and now”.

We too are to live in our here and now. We have no need to go looking for our calling as it will find us. We don’t look or aspire to be martyred or put to great tests, but face them with Christ if they arrive.

We “go our way to the end” seeking to have the courage of a Samaritan man who asked himself “What will happen to this man if I don’t stop?”.

We “go our way to the end” stopping for those in need, yet passing in fright. We “go our way to the end” in courage, yet in fear. We go our way as best we can, rising above, yet falling short. We go as sinners, yet free and righteous in Christ.

Nelson Mandela said: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.

We go our way as slaves and servants to our fellow earthly brothers and sisters, yet as free men, women and children because we have had the chains of death removed by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We go our way knowing that on the other side of the approaching fire is safety, and we go our way today, knowing that come what may, Jesus will never pass us by. Amen.