“When it’s more than a game”
I was fifteen years old visiting my school friends house on a farm and we were playing backyard cricket with his three older brothers when there was a disputed decision. Somehow negotiations degenerated to the point that we found ourselves hiding in the nearby corrugated chicken shed while they were shooting at us with a .22 calibre rifle. Maybe seeing my apprehension of the situation at hand he comforted me by commenting “don’t worry about it, they know where we are and are just shooting around us to scare us. But when they run out of bullets I am going “*&$%”, (well, words to the effect of severely retaliating). Eventually the shooting stopped and instead of further aggression we just somehow resumed playing. I made a point of never disputing another decision.
My friend, and his brothers for that matter did not display a lot, if any fear in life and when his schooling finished he left to do a bit of travelling overseas and didn’t return. For twenty years he worked for six months and backpacked for the other and in the end in having run out of places to visit, with his friends threw a dart at a world map to see where to go. It came up next to a small village in Ethiopia which just happened to be in the middle of a severe famine. So they hired a chopper, got dropped off and said pick us up in two weeks and as money was no good because there was nothing to buy, they spent those two weeks fishing the nearby river with some homemade fishing lines to survive while in the process loosing half their body weight.
Walking to work at 8.00 in the morning in Coober Pedy back in 1992 I noticed this familiar face amongst some locals drinking beer on the side of the road. It was him and after introductions he mentioned that Australia was the only place he hadn’t really journeyed through-and so here he was. It was great to see him again but I did mention that he “was getting an early start to the day (drinking)” to which he responded “always good to meet the locals and get to know the lay of the land early in the piece”.
That night having tea together he mentioned that having visited his home town they asked him if he wanted to play in the local football teams practice match-to which he declined and said to me “have you seen those country guys, I could have got seriously hurt”. To say I was surprised by his rationale was an understatement and I couldn’t help thinking “what has happened to you over those twenty years”.
The world constantly changes, and so do we. Most often things change without us really paying much attention but sometimes, like when the Berlin wall fell you know right there and then, that things will never be the same again. Defining moments that change the way the world looks and acts and defining moments that change our outlook on life.
You cannot get much more a defining “moment” than those of the apostles we have heard off this morning where the risen Lord presents himself before them while they are in hiding. The same disciples who had deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter who had denied that he ever knew Jesus three times and others who has said they were prepared to give their own life for Jesus-yet fell away in fear. Here before the Lord stand his followers and allies. But his followers and allies who in fear failed to stand up when the time came to stand up. I imagine the saying “you could hear a pin drop” would have been appropriate for such a situation until Jesus “breaks the ice” and says “Peace be with you”. No reprimands, no criticism and no grudge to bear-only his words of reconciliation. His words of peace that heal their guilt heal their mistakes and heal their very being. “Peace be with you”, four words that he did not just say to bring a superficial peace, but words that brought his empowered peace. Christ’s peace that re-built them and changed their lives. The peace they came to finally and truly know that would see them dedicate their lives towards bringing the truth of Christ to the world. The truth of Christ that would cause eight of them to be killed as martyrs, but the truth of Christ that would be heard through the ages. The truth of Christ that we still hear today when in our sin and failings, in our fear and in those moments where we “fail to stand up”- comes to us and we hear the same lifesaving and life changing words of “Peace be with you”.
When Josh was only three or four years old we were having a kick of football and he hurt his hand to the point that he thought it might be broken. After looking at it and announcing that my diagnosis was that it was “only a sprain”, with a little indifference and annoyance he remarked “how would you know?”. After I’d mentioned those I knew of: Collarbone, nose twice, ribs, hands and so forth up to about twelve “Josh replied “O.K. it’s only a sprain.
When Jesus was talking to Thomas he showed him his scars from his crucifixion so that he would believe and know the peace he offered. When we are in despair of life and its hardships. When in despair of ourselves, our failures, the wrongs we do and the guilt they bring, Jesus doesn’t callously say “get over it because it’s only a sprain and I’ve had worse”. Rather it burns to his very core of existence as he sees the love of his life alone, scared and angry. The love of his life that he just wants to accept his outstretched hand and know the peace he wants to give freely.
On the Cross as Jesus was dying for those that despised him, ridiculed him and fell away from him he asked his Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. On the cross Jesus died for the love of his life. You are that love and he pleads that you know it. Jesus Christ died to bring forgiveness and eternal life for those that accept him, the prostitutes, the drunks, the criminal, the rich and the poor. He died for the mighty and the weak.
Jesus died for those he loved that they may know and live under his most assured grace and know his peace amongst the storms of their lives and sins.
Jesus Christ died for the greatest love of his life.
Jesus Christ died for you. Peace be with you.