What now

“Now what?”

Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, John 20:1-18.

There have been many cases where extremely gifted sportspeople have retired to only make a comeback later. Boxing is one that certainly comes to mind and when we see it, one of the first things many consider is that it’s from the lure of one last big payday and that may be right in some sense but I’m sure that for most, it is that sense of loss and maybe even belonging when something they have dedicated their life to comes to an end.

James Hird, one of the finest players to grace the football field who is now the current coach of Essendon, several years ago while still playing and after having received steel plates in his head from a serious injury was asked by a commentator “You have won a Brownlow medal, won premiership’s and captioned your side. There’s nothing in football you haven’t done and nothing left to prove. You have four young children, you’re a smart man-you have a degree in civil engineering and have many flourishing investments and your doctor has warned that should you play on you risk grave irreversible damage”. His response, “yes-but I’m a football player, that’s what I do-that’s what I am” and in one of his last games he swapped his guernsey/footy jumper with an equality respected footballer of great ability and great courage in Glen Archer from the North Melbourne Kangaroos. The next day Glenn after noticing his wife in the laundry and putting his footy gear in the wash, with some urgency said “don’t ever wash that guernsey”. To which came her obvious question of a puzzled why? Only to hear, “Because that jumper has the blood and sweat of James Hird on it”.

Today the stain of our sin has been washed from us through the work, sweat and blood of Jesus Christ. His work, sweat and blood that has set us free, yet his work, his saving sweat and blood that cannot be removed from us by (Romans 8:38) “neither by death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

A person told me that his friend having lost a young child was in mourning and when visited by his pastor was so stricken that he could not get out of bed. After the pastor arrived and was ushered into the bedroom he simply took off his shoes, laid down next to him and they wept together without a word spoken. Sometimes what’s best said is to say nothing. When trying to write the Good Friday address I felt like I had nothing to offer and had a constant, almost overpowering feeling to just turn up, announce and hear the Word of God and say nothing. Not out of disrespect, but out of respect because when we stand at the foot of the cross we see we have nothing, not one thing other than sin and at best we go on just to trying to put one foot in front of the other.

In today’s Gospel verse 19 the disciples had assembled together in fear, and the risen Lord Jesus “came and stood in their midst and said “peace be with you”.

Peace be with you. This is the peace we offer each other every week in our liturgy when we say “peace be with you, and also with you”. This is not just said for the fun of it. This is the peace that Christ has brought to us in his resurrection. The peace that overturns our fears. A living unjudging peace, a peace that says you too are alive again, free from the fear of sin and free from deaths consequences. A peace that finally allows us to truly rejoice. To rejoice in our Lord and to rejoice for every second of the life we are given this side of heaven. It’s the peace of the Lord that makes things look different. It’s the peace of the Lord that make things different and instead of wandering and ambling along placing one foot in front of the other, we now walk with purpose and in the sureness as expressed by our brother in Christ St. Paul in today’s reading from Corinthians. Paul, a fierce opponent of Christians until he met Jesus Christ for himself. A meeting that changed his whole being from persecutor to being persecuted and was a loyal soldier to the end who amidst the constant storm of opposition against him, the clamour of his enemies and the desertion of his friends would look back to what happened on the cross and be given new enthusiasm and zeal to press on and tread the blood-stained path that Christ had trodden before him to spread the knowledge of the Saviour crucified and the saviour risen.

When leaving the sem. a lecturing pastor said to us “as pastors and Christian’s you are not asked to go looking to suffer persecution and death, but if it finds you and you are ‘ásked’ to be a martyr, you face it in Christ”.

Every person who walks this earth will at some time and at some level face persecution. And all will face death. That’s just how it is.

But in Christ what may happen is not what we dwell on; we dwell on what he has done. What has happened? That he has brought us forgiveness, has brought us eternal life, has brought us freedom and has brought us life here today, on this earth.

His love that cannot be taken from us by neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.

His love for us and joy of life he has given that cannot be taken from us by neither those who ridicule us, nor those who turn from us and treat us unfairly, nor the knowledge of our own sin, nor our self- loathing. For we are now free.

Free to cry and free to mourn, and free to live. Free to build up those who look to bring us down and free to love those who love us not. Free to climb the highest mountains or free to rest at the bottom.

“Born down in a dead man’s town the first kick I took was when I hit the ground, (and) you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much till you spend half your life just covering up”. The opening lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA”. A protest song about his country that he doesn’t much sing anymore since the tragedy of September 11 and instead wrote a song called the rising.

A song with biblical overturns directed towards his country, a song of rebuilding and a song of hope

“I make my way through this darkness

I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me….

There’s holy pictures of our children

dancing in a sky filled with light.

May I feel your arms around me

May I feel your blood mix with mine

A dream of life comes to me.

Come on up, lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising

Come on up for the rising tonight”.

Pain upon pain yet that brings hope.

A young boy who at age four or five in the middle of the night was more than once woken by his loving mum and told to run the two miles through the wheat crops to the neighbor’s house for safety. In some ways that boy, now a man is still running through the paddocks. But now he does not run along with only the light from the moon to guide him, but in and under the light of Christ.

Our pain upon Christ’s pain, that has brought hope.

Our rising upon Christ’s rising, that has brought life.

On Good Friday looking up at Christ I had no words to offer. Today looking at the raised Christ and knowing that there is nothing more I can do other than what he’s done, I see that I have everything to offer.

In Christ your sins died on the cross and in his resurrection so too have you been raised up. Towards eternal life you have nothing to offer as it has been done and in that knowledge and in that freedom-today, tomorrow and the next you have everything to offer-so wether the moments you have remaining are many or few-live, truly live and bask in every moment this side of heaven in the sure knowledge of what awaits for you on the other side.


What’s in a name?

“Arming the hopeless”

Philippians 2: 5-11

Robert Zimmerman, Marian Robert Morrison, Stefani Joanne Agelina Germanoth, Alecia Moore, Paul Hewson, Ramon and Carlos Estevez, Peter Parker and Rene Phillips. Or maybe better known as Bob Dylan, John Wayne, Lady Gaga, Pink, Bono, Martin and Charlie Sheen and Spiderman. And that last name, Rene’ Phillips was what the internet stage name generator gave me for our brother in Christ Tim Moult.

Wikipedia says stage names are often taken because their real name may be: hard to pronounce, already used by someone else famous, difficult to spell or unintentionally amusing or alternatively taken to project a desired image or to retain anonymity.

What’s in a name?

The meaning behind the name Timothy, Tim is “honouring God” and if ever Tim has or will live up to his name it is today as he honours the Saviour in his Baptism.

As a side, the 2011 list of most popular names in the USA puts Timothy in 123’RD spot, one ahead of Steven in 124 TH-what are the chances. Similar, as I was Baptised as a 29 year old and then both ordained and called as your Pastor last year, I make it that you will able to call Tim as your Pastor in the year 2032.

But today Tim honours God. But not by what he has done as it is not of us that we come to faith, but from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. But truly Tim, having been given free will honours God because he has not rejected the gifts of his Saviour, and given our human characteristics and tendencies that is no small thing.

Thirty or so years ago a professor concluded his historical studies regarding humankind’s quest for the “way out” or a “saviour/s” and identified four categories:

The “Creative Genius”; (2) the “Saviour with a Sword”; (3) the “Saviour with a Time Machine,” one dreaming of a utopia or an archaic past which never existed; (4) the saviour as a “Philosopher, Masked as a King.”

From these studies he concluded that eventually history rejects all four with the first to fail being the swordsmen, the next the archaists and the futurists, the next the philosophers, until only gods were left in the running. False Gods who fall away until we stand and gaze with our eyes fixed upon the further shore and then a single figure rises from the flood and fills the whole horizon, the God Incarnate in a Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday the Gospel reading tells us of the marked change of tone from Jesus entry and the joyful shouts of “Hosanna” to the tension filled hours of Christ’s Passion ending in cries of “Crucify him” and this is the background for the outcome of the priceless confession by the apostle Paul in Philippians and background for the confession thirty years ago by that professor and behind the confessions of Tim, me, you and all Christian’s today.

Our confession of Christ the saviour. Jesus Christ, God’s surprising and amazing gift given to people who have looked to other “gods” for help. Jesus Christ, the divine one who allowed himself to be humiliated and suffer an agonizing, shameful, and criminals death to rescue our lost and dying humanity.

What’s in a name?

At Christmas we speak of Jesus as “God with us”. At Pentecost as “God in us” and on Palm Sunday and Easter as “God for us”. In Jesus our Lord we have hope, peace and joy and this Easter we should shout it from the mountain tops. Every day we should shout it from the mountain tops, but the problem with communicating the truth of the Gospel is the problem of getting out the way-of not confusing, not perverting, not exploiting and not manipulating it, but letting it be heard in its truth and purity.

A week before our class was to be ordained a Pastor said to us that when it happens, something will happen and you will feel different and in truth I did-for about ten minutes. Fortunately, how I feel is not the cornerstone of the Gospel. The corner stone, the only stone is Jesus Christ whose promises do not change due the whims of our sensitivities.

It is not our job to judge where people are at in relation to God for only he knows the heart and as evidenced by the salvation of the thief on the cross, God sometimes does his business in ways that we cannot apprehend or expect and we pray and carry hope for all those that come before us that too they may fall under his grace.

I carry that hope with me for many I know and have known. I even carry an expectation that God will shower them with His grace.

But Christ gives us something better than a “worldly type” of hope, he gives us his hope and when we read the word “hope” in the Bible (like in 1 Peter 1:13—”set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”), hope is not wishful thinking. It’s not “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, or I hope it happens.” That’s absolutely not what is meant by Christian hope.

Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass.

Christian hope, Christ’s hope is sureness-and so that we can live in that he gave a command to his apostles, to “Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt: 28-19), as “They who believe and are baptised will be saved” (Mark 16:16).

To be baptised and believe is what brings the sureness like we know when the storms and floods approach and threaten to overwhelm, yet amongst it we see a rainbow-a gift from God to bring us sureness against what may seem. In baptism, when the flood of our own sin threaten to devour us we see his sure promise in baptism and know that it will never devour us.

Last Thursday at men’s shed I heard a great comment I’d never heard by C.S. Lewis “Humblest in hall, fiercest in fight”.

Brothers and sisters in sin we stand at the foot of the cross of our Saviour and humbly admit that we have no power of forgiveness and salvation other than in Christ and this is most certainly true.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, though our sin, fear of death and the devils deceptions show their teeth and threaten to crush us, they cannot bite for the fight has been won by Christ and all who are baptised and believe are most certainly God’s children.

Friday night in Sydney I watched as Bruce Springsteen and his band performed at a breath-taking pace for three hours and ten minutes without a break. It was pinch yourself stuff and I knew that this was something truly, truly special. It was everything I expected plus much more and I will never forget it. But two things “particular” struck me. Firstly the guitarist had painted in big print in homemade fashion on his guitar “Arm the hopeless” and after about two hours Bruce said “while in Sydney we are supporting the NSW food bank in collecting for the needy, so when you leave if you can we would appreciate it if you could support those here tonight who are doing God’s work in the frontline”.

Tim, you and me, we are in the frontline carrying the knowledge of our sin, carrying our hurt and carrying the fear of knowing what we are really like. But “humble in hall” we know that in crying for mercy Christ bestows to us the release from ourselves and gives us his truth and his strength. And “fierce in fight” when you reminded of yourself and of your peril, turn to Christ and know that in baptism and belief you don’t need a stage name or to be something you’re not, for Christ has armed the hopeless that you know that your name has been written in the book of life.

Rejoice for today because we have seen something truly, truly special in Tim’s baptism. And I rejoice, that before me today I see a group of people living in the frontline of God’s kingdom, knowing the truth of Christ for themselves and in living in that truth, and in living a witness to that-maybe more of the “hopeless” will be armed and made free in the truth of Christ”.


A fly in the ointment

John 12:1-8

“A fly in the ointment”

It’s the time of the Passover and Jesus knowing he is a marked man by the Jewish authorities, shows courage beyond belief and has walked into the lion’s den and gone to Jerusalem knowing the fate that awaits him. But this night, whether maybe yet again finding there’s no room in the Inn or just wishing to catch up with his great friends, he is sharing a meal in the home of Martha and Mary, and oh to be a fly on the wall witnessing such a surreal gathering of people.

Martha as usual is busy working and serving others with the meal preparations. Lazarus, who mind you has only been recently raised from the dead, is present. But the “staring” roles other than Jesus centre on Mary and Judas who seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum in their dealings with Jesus.

Mary it would seem, in her love for Jesus has thrown human convention of thought or society standards out the window. Firstly the ointment she applies to Jesus feet is not of the “black and gold variety” because it was worth in today’s standards a full year’s wages, and if we go by the bureau of statistics, this ointment she is plashing about is worth about 70,000 Australian dollars. Never mind you that in her act of wiping Jesus feet with her hair she is not just showing her humility and love, she has smashed any thoughts of her inhibitions as no respectable women would ever appear publically with their hair unbound as it was considered immoral.

Then at the other end of the spectrum is Judas who having been given the job of “treasurer” by Jesus says what would seem logical, to sell the precious ointment and use the proceeds to feed the poor and if we were there and unaware of the truth that he actually wanted to take some of the proceeds for himself, this would seem a reasonable and sensible suggestion. While this is going on Martha and Lazarus are in the back ground and as the family fortune one way or another is about to leave the building, seem quite content.

While for us to hear of the love and generosity of Mary, Martha and Lazarus is humbling, it’s also if we are honest unfathomable, because if we could truly put ourselves in that household, I’m not sure we could guarantee to be a Martha, Mary or Lazarus any more than we could guarantee not to be calculating and self-considering like Judas.

Yet right amongst this. Amongst Mary’s almost unparalleled throwing of “caution to the wind” in her love for Jesus, Martha’s dedicated work and support for all those present, Lazarus chatting with and entertaining his guest and saviour at the table and Judas, the one given the trust of and being in charge of the money yet who is pilfering of the proceeds and who will soon go one step further and give up Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. There in the centre of this condensed overview of society sits Jesus who will shortly not throw caution to the wind and hope on a favourable outcome, but will throw himself to his accusers in the sure knowledge that their response to him will be unjust, spiteful, cruel and terminal.

He walks towards them, and towards his cruel death in his love for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And he walks towards them and towards his cruel death in his love for the Judas’ and his love for those plotting against him. A man who after having experienced the love of Mary and the hatred of the authorities will ask his Father, ask the one with limitless power “To forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

Last week I watched a movie about a father and a son who could not see eye to eye. The father a respected doctor, and his son who dropped out of school and travelled the world as a back packer. The father who saw his son’s free-wheeling ways as irresponsible and his son who saw his father as structured and without spontaneity. One’s mantra was “this is the life I chose” and the others that “you don’t choose a life, you live a life”. It was an enjoyable movie and as I watched the final scene showing the father free and in full back-packer regalia walking through a busy market place in some far off Eastern country it indeed did provoke romantic thoughts of doing something similar to feel that sense of freedom within our world.

Ironically the very next day I read in the paper an article written by a world traveller that after he talked of the wonderful adventures he had had as a full time traveller, finished with the warning that if you are considering such escapades, don’t do it thinking it will bring you freedom from your issues in life because they will still be with you, only just in another part of the world.

Whether we chose to be where we are in our lives at this moment or just seem to have fallen here is not the point. The point is that because Jesus has chosen you, you can choose to live a life irrespective of where that may be. Whether with the open love of Mary or the hidden sin of Judas, when life is seen through the grace bestowed by God the Father to us through faith in Christ alone you are free “to shoot for the stars” or free not to, because in Christ you are following your dreams no matter what shape they take.

You are not Mary, Martha, Lazarus or Judas. You are who you are and that is who Christ loves. Thinking of you as you are today Christ went to the cross, not for what you should or will be-but who you are today. So live life, walk in the rain in your shorts or use an umbrella it doesn’t matter as either way you do not walk alone. That the outward love of Mary we may not have, but the love of Christ to Mary we do have, and that’s what matters, and knowing that is living a life.

Two thousand years ago Jesus in his love for those who knew him and loved him he walked to the cross. Two thousand years ago Jesus in love for those who neither loved him nor knew him he walked to the cross and asked the Father to forgive them “for they know not what they do”.

Two thousand years ago Jesus walked to the cross knowing that a group of sinners will be here today needing to be forgiven. And as he sees us groping in the dark with our sins. Sees us make mistake after mistake and sees us in our “Judas” moments as we selfishly turn away from the need of others. Yet in hearing our cries for help and forgiveness and our throwing “caution to the wind” to know that he is our only chance he sees our faith like that of the precious ointment that Mary placed at his feet. That he sees us trust in nothing other than faith in him alone and risk being ridiculed by those around us, he turns to the Father and says “you know what they do, but forgive them-for you know what I have done for them”.

So should that confused fly on the wall in Mary’s house visit yours, let it be confused no longer and let it see the freedom that comes, when a man named Jesus visits.


There’s no place like home

Luke 15: 11-32

“There’s no place like home”

“See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans, wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile. Once he had a future full of money, love and dreams. Which he spent like they was goin’ outa style. He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned. He’s a walkin’contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction. He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars, and he’s traded in tomorrow for today. Takin’every wrong direction on his lonely way back home”.

Words from the Pilgrim-A song by Kris Kristofferson that could apply to the prodigal son in today’s text. A man that seemingly had it all, a good life on the land, financial security and a loving family.

The word prodigal means to “live extravagant and wastefully” and indeed it seems the younger son was “A man that had a future full of money, love and dreams, but which he spent like they were going out of style”.

I’ve seen several times, particularly in farming where a son asks for his share of his inheritance so that he can be independent. But this young man, the prodigal son gave his father the greatest insult and hurt you could imagine. Not so much by his leaving home, but back in those times in him asking his father for his share of the inheritance, he was effectively wishing that he-the father was dead. This was like an act of treachery that could result in the son being in physical danger should the locals get hold of him.

Yet, his loving and generous father, much I would imagine to the disgust of locals and his family agrees to his request and once received, the son promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his fortune on wild living. When the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son finds himself in dire circumstances. He takes a job feeding pigs, and as pigs were considered unclean in Jewish society, he has fallen to the lowest of the low, never mind that he is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs.

The young man is destitute and without friend, favor or future and if he still has any pride he would have surely felt those eyes looking, yet not looking as he picked up cigarette butts or asked for a few dollars out the front of the IGA while his soul burns with shame knowing that he has no one to blame but himself. The shame and guilt carried that can consume a person and alluringly, almost teasingly entice further self-destruction. This man is on the knife edge but in his desperation he remembers what once was and by the grace of God sees a ray of hope in life, that of returning home. But not as a son to the man he hurt and insulted, but to beg to be his servant.

The father who had been watching and waiting, seeing his bedraggled looking son walking towards him rushes out, stops his son in his tracks and before his son can get out his planned speech, receives him back with open arms of compassion. He is overjoyed by the return of his lost son! Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a giant feast in celebration.

Meanwhile, the older son is not one bit happy when he comes in from working the fields and discovers a party going on to celebrate his younger brother’s return. And dare I say could we not understand this as his brother having sought his share of the inheritance returns with nothing and is smothered in love by his father. Maybe thoughts of now he will get another slice of the inheritance pie came to mind. But the father tries to dissuade the older brother from his jealous rage explaining, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” And we are left at the end of the parable to wonder the outcome of the older brother.

One prodigal son has returned, one is still on his journey.

In our busy lives we walk past people. Stressed we have arguments and disagreements. Wronged we seek justice and when unloved we become unloving until that moment when it’s too late. To when if only we could have that one more moment where we could take that loved one in our hand and hold them once more. Not to forgive them because that’s not even a thought, but just to have them home again and be with them is enough. Even though we are sinners, we know that love. That love though which is miniscule and judgmental in comparison to God the Fathers who gave his own Son for you, that you may with him like the son returned home-so it is too you.

When the boy came home, he had everything he threw away restored by the good grace of the Father.

1. The Robe – His Purity – Here stands the son in the rags of his sins. He doesn’t look like a child of this father. But, the father orders the best of his robes to be brought and to be put on the son. This robe would cover all the stains and dirt of the pig pen. This robe would make him look like the father. Imagine a servant walking up, who had net been there when the son returned home and seeing this boy from behind in the father’s robe. He would naturally mistake him for the father! This robe served to erase all the visible signs of this boy’s sinful past. When a sinner comes home, they also receive a robe from the heavenly Father. This righteousness is not the righteousness of good works or of human goodness. No, this is the very righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to those who receive Him by faith. When we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, all the pain and the stain of our past is forever washed away! All the dirt and the filth of a life of sin is forever washed away from us!

2. The Ring – His Privileges – After the robe came the ring. The ring was a symbol of son ship and authority. The one with the ring could speak for the Father! The one with the ring had access to all that belonged to the father! The one with the father’s ring was in a position of great privilege! When old, lost sinners repent of their sins and come home to the Father, they are given the great privilege of being recognized as His sons, 1 John 3:1-2. They are given the privilege of speaking for the Father, Act 1:8. They are allowed access to all that belongs to the Father as well, Rom. 8:17, Psa. 24:1; Psa. 50:10. When we come to the Father, He opens the storehouses of His grace and gives us everything He has!

3. The Shoes – His Position – The father calls for shoes to be brought for the feet of his son. Only the slaves went barefoot, sons wore shoes! This boy returned home desiring to be just a mere hired servant, but the father is determined to recognize his position as a son! In the boy’s eyes, he didn’t even deserve to be a slave, but even lower, even a hired servant. The father, however, looked at him and said, “This is my son!” The father alone determines the position and worth of his children! Saved by grace, you became a child of God! He no longer sees you as a slave or as a sinner, but he sees you as His darling child, whom He loves like He loves His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ! We are right to humble ourselves in His presence, but let’s never forget that if we are saved by grace, that it is the Father Who determines our standing in the family and not we ourselves! What I am saying is this: Don’t let the devil or the flesh keep you down by telling you that you are not worthy to be a child of God. In Christ you are truly saved, you have been accepted by the Father in Heaven and He has called you His child!

C. V. 23-24 He Found Rejoicing – Ill. The fatted calf was kept for special occasions. The fatted calf was the Father’s way of sharing His joy with all around. Instead of a wasted life, the father was celebrating a life redeemed and restored! So it is when a sinner returns home to God tb he Father! There is rejoicing in Heaven. There is rejoicing in the House of God. And, there is rejoicing in the heart of the redeemed sinner!

All that have walked this earth apart from Jesus have sinned. Yet all those that once walked this earth in faith in Jesus now truly know his love in its fullness. For us that still remain, who still sin and make mistakes Jesus says come to me for I will give you rest and bring you my father’s love, for as I spread my arms on the cross in bearing your sins, my father’s arms are still spread in love waiting for those still wandering.

I have sinned and no doubt will sin again as will we all. Yet Christ walks with us that we know of God the Fathers love. His love that has no boundaries. His love that asks us not to be saints but makes us saints. His love today that comes to us in Christ Jesus who looks at us with loving and understanding eyes and says “I know how tough it is-so come to me and rest. I gave my life for you-that you may live in peace. I love you now, as you are-know that peace because I have restored you for in me you are that younger son, and what I did for him I do to you.

Brother and sisters in Christ, you are sons and daughters of God. You have been restored. Let it fill your hearts with peace and pray for those still on their lonely way home.


Not drowning, waving

Luke 13: 1-9

“Not drowning, waving”

In today’s Gospel Jesus is talking my language when he talks of people by using the imagery of them as a fig tree that has been fertilized with manure, and if you’re like me you know what it’s like to be in the manure with only the depth that varies. Yet Jesus uses this analogy as a good thing in that it helps the fig tree to grow, helps us to grow.

Before my current healthy lifestyle of a strict diet of all foods healthy (not) I visited a doctor and for the first time, told him how it truly was. Later when he received back the test results he remarked that “the positive results did not seem to make sense” and suggested “that physically it is a minor miracle”. Likewise some would suggest that I’m here talking to you as a Pastor may be a miracle of the same ilk. But somehow, I am here and somehow, you are here. Somehow, while travelling through the ever present manure of life we turned this way instead of that way-and that I suggest is the miracle because in those moments when the world closes in, in those dark, dark times whether we be a victim of others actions or of our own actions, the way out can appear a long way off-maybe even out of sight.

Something’s just don’t make sense and never will.

When I was in a remote mining town one of the first people I met was a charming and friendly young man at the cricket. Several weeks later he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment after a young tourist’s body was found in the foetal position down a mine shaft. How does either of the families of those two young people carry on in life? It is beyond comprehension the scars that they must bear and may we never know such pain and that saying “that there’s always someone worse off” rings true but the fact is, we all do carry our own scars of life with us. Scars that can destroy us, scars that can strengthen us and scars that are still open wounds.

I was speaking to a person once who was dying and was concerned of what his standing will be before God as he did not have enough time left to make up for the wrongs of his life and when Jesus tells us, tells me in today’s Gospel to repent or die I would be more than a little concerned if I did not understand the word repentance.

The word repentance, like sin is often used as a weapon and accordingly misunderstood in our world. And if you don’t agree try getting on your soapbox in Macquarie Street and voicing your opinions to those present that they are sinners who must repent or die. It’s offensive because it suggests that they are sinners and we are not and that the only way out is to maybe drop tools and join the monastery.

That they and we must repent is true. But far from being it being a curse that Jesus demands we do to ensure that we are miserable, he asks us to repent so that we know freedom, because to repent is to turn towards God. Not to be miserable, but free of our misery.

Jesus asks us repent to free us from the bondage of the scars we carry and says you don’t have to do that any longer. You don’t have to worry what others think of you or even what you think of yourself. You don’t have to prove to the world and yourself that you’re worth something.

Sometimes our lives can be a bit like starting pre-season training or renovating a house as when you look back you think if only I knew that was going to happen I never would have started. Yet somehow we are all here today scars and all. Scars that God did not bring on us. But scars that somehow he used to bring us to hear of Christ, to somehow bring us to turn towards God in repentance and be free.

As they say God works in mysterious ways and how he has worked through our “stuff” is unique to us all and how he has adapted to our situations is a testimony to His concern that we understand Him and know His son Jesus Christ who in his love accepts all how they are and says I gave my life for you, to bring you forgiveness and eternal life.

Yes God works in mysterious ways and indeed we have seen one today in the Holy Baptism of Hayden. Baptism is a gift from Christ to Hayden as he travels through this world knowing he won’t have to look over his shoulder. It is a promise towards eternal life and a gift for everyday prior knowing that Christ gave us a very straight forward message, “Be Baptised and believe that I am the Son of God. The Saviour sent to earth to bring you forgiveness and eternal life”.

Christ has promised to Hayden to know that surety and the freedom it brings and Christ reminds us today of that same freedom we have in him. So live, truly live knowing that in the dark Christ is there guiding you home and when in the light, revel in it in thanks for a man who gave his life for us.

Christ has given Hayden a promise signed with his own blood that on his journey he never need to wonder. A promise that he offers to all that they too may know peace.