John 21:1-19 & Acts 9:1-20
“Dave’s not home”
Those of my era may remember the comedians Cheech and Chong. In one skit they are two doctors and while looking over the waiting room they have a bet on whether one of the seriously ill people waiting will actually make it to his appointment. While they are talking, in the background you can hear the man heaving and stumbling as he gets his place in the queue at number 78 as over the loud speaker you hear them calling number 3.
It’s a satire but I have great respect for doctors, nurses, ambulance and emergency officers, the police and all the others that have to continually, with professionalism and empathy front up to the constant onslaught of circumstances that for the people involved, are “once only” and very emotional and fearful situations.
Once in Adelaide for the country cricket carnival and on our way to an infamous party street we stopped and talked to some ambulance officers having their dinner out the front of the main train station. They were very nice and as we departed one said, and in hindsight knowingly, “we’ll see you later tonight”. And they did as all bar three of us got a free ride to the hospital and I’ll always remember there was no I told you so or irate words of us bringing them into danger-they just did their job and I’ve heard the same about the salvation army people along those streets as they care for the same people night after night.
Often in society and in the Church we like to see, or even expect some positive changes in people when we extend our hand in help.
Well who said so? And for that matter what is positive change. Maybe the change needs to come in us. To have that perseverance and staying power when to us it seems a futile and lost cause. To just do our “job” as Christians and persevere and stay, knowing that God is somehow in that person’s life doing His job.
The same perseverance we suffer under in our own “stuff”. To persevere in our own hardships and disappointments knowing that God’s amongst it. To persevere in the knowledge of our sin, the stuff we detest of ourselves yet continually fall for, but stay clinging to what Christ has told us-that he is amongst it with us-seeing it and knowing it-yet staying firm in his commitment to bring us his grace.
And in these times of enlightenment and self-help, when we have to rely completely on someone else when we have no answer to the situation it can be the gaining of wisdom outside of “self”.
A man was a successful Wall Street analyst until drink drove him into deep depression which led to his mental disintegration. Following an accident which resulted from him being drunk, he decided to deliver himself from the depths into which he had sunk and became a member of an organisation called the “Moral Re-Armament”-an organisation that stresses do-it-yourself redemption. But instead of gaining his freedom through self-help, he sank deeper and deeper into the depths and after a three day drinking binge he ended up in a Manhattan hospital completely shattered. In his moment of complete and utter helplessness he prayed to God for help and said “suddenly, the room lit up in light and he was caught up into a feeling that words cannot describe”. This changed his life and what had been impossible for him to achieve was achieved in him through the power of God. From the depths of his defeat, degradation and despair he was “resurrected” from a living death and made alive. A “resurrection” that would be felt in the lives of millions, as this man Bill Wilson was to go on and be the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
A gift, a miracle-an encounter with God that saved him and countless others.
A gift, a miracle and encounter with God that changed the apostle’s Peter and Pauls lives and the lives of the countless millions others who saw and heard the truth of Christ in the lives of these two men who accepted his offer to leave behind their mistakes and live instead under His grace.
Peter who denied Christ three times and went missing in his time of need and Paul, a leader of those inflicting death and punishment on Christians who when they met the raised Christ came not to just know what he stood for, but what he came for-to set them free of themselves, of their failures, character flaws, and most importantly-of the things that they could not undo themselves-their sin.
These direct encounters, miracles if you like may seem reserved for the few but all who encounter Christ are offered his same life changing power.
A team mate of Shane Warne’s once remarked that no matter how much turbulence and media attention he was getting because of his personal life, when he walked onto the oval he left all his troubles on the ovals picket fence and was free to be the champion he was.
In our lives Christ is the picket fence that surrounds us. In our lives Christ brings the truth that sets us free:
“For I am the Lord, I change not. If you come to me, I will not cast you out. Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heaven burdens and I will give you rest”.
We may not seem to have that moment like the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Peter or Paul, but those same gifts and miracles are hidden in every aspect of our lives. In our joyous moments Christ is there just as he is there guiding us as we walk through the chaos and confusion.
Like Paul, we may have a thorn in our side that we wish wasn’t there, but like Paul we have God’s grace and that is enough because living in that grace, we have the sureness of the resurrection on our last day and the sureness, that now-today we can serve God the Father by leaving our mistakes, burdens and sins from the past with our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The knowledge of our inability and failure to live as we should is the start of wisdom. The knowledge of Christ’s power and love is the emergence of that wisdom. To live in Christ’s forgiveness and his total acceptance of you in every facet of your life is to understand that wisdom.
To give Christ our past and present burdens is to answer his call and whether we answer that call and lay them off to him or not, in his name we are still forgiven and free in this world-that will not change. But his desire is that we join with a man that God said “was after his own heart”, yet a man that fell to adultery and murder.
A man called King David who in his sin truly came to know restoration in the grace of God. That restoration is what Christ craves we know and join with King David in testifying, and giving evidence of in our lives: From Psalm 55: verses16 to 18:
“As for Me, I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me…He shall hear my voice. He has delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me” (Ps. 55:16-18).
The Lord has blessed you and kept you. The Lord has made His face shine on you and been gracious to you. The Lord has looked upon you with favour and the Lord gives you his peace.