Archive for August, 2013

The forgotten years

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15, 16 & Luke 14:1, 7-14.

scholarThe rule of thumb for sermon writing is one hour preparation for every minute spoken (maybe that’s why mine are short). That may seem a lot but a lot of time needs to be spent to make sure we’re talking God’s lessons and not our own and when I first started sermon writing in my last year at the sem. I spent endless hours studying the text in to ensure that be so. This went on for months until my mentor pastor said “what you’re doing is good, but you must also remember that the message is to you as well, so firstly you need understand it personally for yourself and how it speaks to your own heart”.

Resultantly, that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Though at the time his remark “of having been moulded through life experiences to preach God’s Word” made about as much sense as when hearing of my first placement-here in Dubbo, and being confused of just who and what I was meant to be I rang a friend of mine to ask his advice (who I might add is the pastor I would like to be) and his advice was “just be yourself”. A lot of things don’t make sense to me and that was certainly one of them.

At the recent pastor’s conference and synod, hearing and seeing all these people smarter, nicer and godlier I had that same sense of feeling inferior and asking just “what am I doing here”. So what do you do when you’re really got no idea what’s going on. Pray, pray and pray some more: and in my prayer I asked God just what is the deal and begged for an answer.

Two days later I read todays Gospel about after having being forgiven in Christ, God accepts you-and-me-as we are. So for now it looks like we’re stuck with each other.

At first reading, the gospel comes across as not getting ahead of yourself in places of prestige and most certainly Jesus uses the situation of the day to get his point across. Being that in the synagogue, should you have arrived early to take your seat in the correct pecking, there was always the chance that someone higher up the food chain might arrive and be asked forward at the expense of your own seating arrangements and accordingly, public humiliation.

In my previous job I led a team of 30 people. One of which who was a middle aged lady from overseas with limited English. Everyone was nice to her but her role was considered on the lower end of the scale and people didn’t give her as much respect as maybe they gave to others they thought more deserving. One day talking to her, I found out she was only working there to fund her studies. Being that in her home country she was a medical surgeon but having come to Australia had to do another twelve months transitional study to re-commence her occupation in the medical field.

I never told them because a.) Why should it change how people respected and treated her and, b.) It was her life to report back to others should she felt so inclined. But she never did and that she for want of a better word was “running menial errands” instead of clearing arteries did not seem to faze her in the least.

That lady shone a light of the humility of which Jesus talks. Not a false “I’m worthless” type of humility, but the humility to not place ourselves on a pedestal and look condescendingly on others.

And Jesus is big on humility as in heard in the Hebrews text today where we are told “to remember those in prison as though in prison with them”. Now if we don’t guild the lily that’s a pretty hard call unless we look outside ourselves and to that of Jesus himself and the how he humbled himself to be born as a perishable human to walk amongst the fallen. As Christians we just know this is so and rejoice that in his doing so and taking our sins on himself, that in simple trust and belief in him alone we are saved as we are. We know this to be true but we should never forget just how radical it was for in other god belief systems it is about not gods coming to them, but about them working their way up to the gods through works or enlightenment of the mind and body.

Thankfully God the Fathers saving plan for people through Christ is back to front from human thought because in him, the greatest serving the least it brings us the freedom to be who we are. The freedom that means that a well-educated scholar doesn’t need to feel they must have to talk like me, and for people like me not to feel that unless we get a handle on the big words we are some secondary human being. Humility in Christ in not falsely dumbing yourself down or falsely talking yourself up. Humility in Christ is realising that in the kingdom of God we are all equal. And being equal, should one’s place be at the top of the food chain as the world sees it, or at the bottom is of no consequence for either can rejoice in the one same truth like us here today.

That regardless of status or lack of. That given the gift of riches or the lack of: that to each of you here today, that in faith in Jesus Christ alone, that no matter how great or small your sins may be, you have been redeemed of them and are forgiven and free.

Johnny Cash wrote this of his Journey:

There were nights I don’t remember

And there’s pain that I’ve forgotten

Other things I choose not to recall

There are faces that come to me

In my darkest secret memory

Faces that I wish would not come back at all

In my dreams parade of lovers

From the other times and places

There’s not one that matters now, no matter who

I’m just thankful for the journey

And that I’ve survived the battles

And that my spoils of victory are you

Book ends of John’s life and the same may be said of ours. The pain of carrying the hurt of life and the hurt of carrying sin up and against when you are freed in the knowledge of the truth that in Christ alone YOU ARE forgiven and before me today God the Father sees you spotlessly washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

In Christ you are forgiven and given freedom with nothing to prove to yourself or any others. Forgiven and free to serve those he places before you trusting that while you may travel for the remainder of your lives in different earthly spheres, you travel as one hearing and knowing His Words for yourself both individually and collectively “To be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for it is I the Lord your God who goes with you and I will not leave you or forsake you. Amen.

 

Feeding those in need

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Luke 13:10-17

I’d like to begin to day by asking you to take a moment to look around you, I want you to look carefully at the people who are sitting around you. Do any of them look hungry; do any look thirsty, tired, lonely, unwell, incapacitated, or burdened in some way? OK now let’s focus our attention back here again. It can be difficult to see some of those things with a simple glance. If you noticed something and had the ability would you do something to fix them up right here and right now? Would you wait until after the service, or one day during the week or maybe the following week? It’s hard to say what we would do in any given situation unless we are actually presented with it.

Jesus was presented with a situation in our text; the woman appeared and had a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. He knew what to do, he called her over, he had the power to set her free from her ailment and he did. The time was right, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” and he acted.

The people who were watching weren’t so sure about what he had done though. The law states that we are to “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.”

Here was Jesus, teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath and then disobeying the direct command of God by healing a woman – their interpretation of doing work on the Sabbath! The leader of the synagogue was indignant and was telling the crowd what Jesus had done wrong. But Jesus answered straight back calling him and those who were supporting him hypocrites and explaining that they would all allow their donkeys to be lead off to have a drink of water on Sabbath. So it stands to reason that it should be OK to do the right thing by this woman regardless of what day it is, and even more so that it is appropriate that she be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day.

Jesus didn’t want the woman to suffer for another day longer, after all she had been suffering for eighteen years already, and he wanted her to be healed, set free, right then and there. He set aside tradition and law and did what needed to be done for her.

Everyone there rejoiced at what Jesus had done, it was wonderful, his opponents had been put to shame and the woman had been set free. Shouldn’t that be what happens on our Sabbath?

Let’s take a moment to think about our own Sabbath day. We celebrate it on a Sunday because that is the day of the week when Jesus rose from the dead, when he won the victory over death for our sake. How do your Sundays look? Do you do any work? Are you carrying any burdens, are you hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely or unwell? What would it take to fix them? Do you come to worship to be healed? Is this time on Sunday set aside for building you up and healing you or do you do it out of obligation or a sense of duty? Is it about setting aside time to worship God and give him thanks for all that he has done for you? Is Sunday a time of rejoicing for you or a day of burdens?

Sunday (your Sabbath) should be a time when Jesus sets you free. He wants you to come to him, just like the woman in today’s reading did and receive healing. He wants to take away your burdens and set you free from their bondage. He wants you to be joyful in all of the wonderful things he is doing for you.

You may be asking yourself “How are we set free through worship?” We begin our service with a confession and absolution, here we come before God, just like the woman did and tell God what ails us? The pastor asks the questions to prompt you to think about the things that are going on in your life that are dragging you down, that are crippling you. It may be that the situation you are in is making you angry at God, that is something to confess to him, seek his forgiveness and be set free from its bondage. There are people in our congregation who are unable to move around freely because of physical conditions, there are those who are unwell. Some of you are having financial difficulties or are tied to mortgages and loans that make you feel like there is a big weight hanging on your shoulders. There are work situations that are making life unbearable, some are contemplating their transition into retirement. There are loads of ways that Satan gets his grip on us to drag us down and lay blame on God. Our time of confession is perfect to name those things in your heart and give them over to God for his forgiveness.

The next step in our service is to hear the forgiveness spoken to you, As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I announce the grace of God to all of you. On behalf of my Lord Jesus Christ and by his command, I forgive the sins of all of you who repent and believe. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Go in peace. This peace comes from having your sins forgiven, from being set free from your burdens.

Then we are fed by God’s Word and after that we are fed with the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. This is a physical and spiritual gift from God to us, to build us up and to heal us. He feeds us because we need it. Without it we will shrivel up and die. This is spiritual food that gives us new life, each and every time we receive it. It is for our good that we come and receive it. Each time that we do we are healed on the Sabbath by Jesus.

Jesus was a bit of a rebel, he ate with tax collectors and sinners, he conversed with prostitutes and did work on the Sabbath. Each time he did it was for a purpose, to set people free from the bondage of sin and the devil. He has given us the Sabbath for our healing, to serve us and for us to give him thanks and worship him. He wants us to come and be fed and healed, he rejoices when we do and wants us to rejoice with him!

Don’t let Satan stop you being fed by Jesus and his Word and Sacraments, don’t let him stop others being fed. Jesus has power over all things, he has the power to save us from the grip of Satan, he has the power to heal us and forgive us. He wants to be in a relationship with us, where we come to him to be healed and fed because we are in need. He calls us to come and worship him. All we have to do is come, enjoy our time of Sabbath rest, and be prepared to go out into the world and shine his light in it.

Amen

 

The truth hurts.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

“Though we may Bolt, His Aim is endurance”

Jeremiah 23:23-29, Hebrews 11:29-12:2,
Luke 12: 49-56

Grace, Peace and Hope to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and may the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you Lord-Amen.

Some years ago a football club known for its party culture yet yearning for success enticed a legendary coach out of retirement. He accepted but by the third game was sacked and I still remember the president of the club saying (from how I remember it) “We had too, because while we knew that he would bring some hard truths to the club, to see some players in tears because of it was too much”, and I remember thinking no wonder they are unsuccessful, and still to this day they are looking for that elusive championship.

The truth can hurt, but so too can be not listening to it.

Early in my banking career I was invited to dinner with senior staff and valued customers and when one of them arrived late he was greeted by all at the table rising to greet him, except for me. Later in the evening he publicly and embarrassingly tore strips off me for not greeting him with the same respect that the others had shown him. Fair enough and it was a very good lesson for me that I’ve never forgotten. The problem was though, that what he didn’t realise was that the reason I didn’t stand and greet him like the others was because I considered myself inferior to him and to the other guests, and so thought it was not my place not to bother him by extending out my hand because why would he want to acknowledge anyone as lowly as me.

When I think of him and his public degrading of me a certain word comes to mind that is best not said here, but the point is that even though his manner of teaching was appalling and really about himself more than me, he did teach me a valuable lesson.

In our lives sometimes the saying “it’s not what you say but how you say it” is appropriate, as too is sometimes the reverse in that “it’s what you say, and not how you say it”. As Christians adhering to the belief that God has revealed His eternal truths to us in His inspired, inerrant word, the Bible, and that it alone is the basis of Christian faith (2 Timothy 3:15-17, John 17:17) and the source of all inspiration and teaching, I would suggest ours is “that it’s both what we say and how we say it” and after hearing todays scripture readings I find myself today and daily needing to pray with fervour our opening prayer and request that “the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you Lord”.

The Lords words today I would suggest are a bit of a wakeup call to me and maybe all of us. Firstly in Jeremiah God condemns the spiritual leaders for misleading people, that by not warning them of the impending judgement it has allowed people to slide into idolatry and immorality. Then, todays Gospel text smells of fire and warfare as Jesus in knowing of the opposition he would encounter offers no sugar coating to the apostles in preparing them for their own struggles and the crosses they will bear in following him. Finally, in the epistle which is always designed to bring light to how the gospel looks in our lives we hear of what’s been called “the roll call of the saints” that went before us and what they endured. Some tortured, mocked and flogged. Stoned to death, sawn in two and killed by the sword. Destitute, afflicted, mistreated and living in dens and caves. A chilling reminder of the past and with reports of an average of 150,000 + Christians martyrs each and every year still to this day, it is a chilling reminder to us today that gives light to Pauls words of encouragement for our lives “to run with endurance the race that is set before us”.

Paul speaking of the saints and how they endured said that in God “they were made strong out of (their) weaknesses. As Christians we are not to live our lives searching to be martyrs or mistreated, but in living and adhering to the Lord’s revealed eternal truths in His inspired and inerrant words of both Law and Gospel, should those situations arise we face them in Christ.

“Ultra-marathon runner Tony Rafferty said that during his run across Australia:

“He learned the significance of sub-goals. After struggling to complete 1500 miles, I realised I still had 2000 miles ahead of me. At this stage I was tired, sore, dejected and feeling sorry for myself. The task looked impossible. During this stage of depression I changed my thinking. I decided to run about 60 to 80 miles every day and try and repeat it as often as possible to see how far I could go. As soon as I made this decision my attitude changed. I started to feel confident and enthusiastic. I was confident that I could cover this distance each day. My mind was directed away from the huge distances ahead of me and it was focussed on my daily assignments. Because of this I was able to complete the run”.

So too could it be said of our endurance race. Most certainly in Christ the outcome is assured and the result decided. That of forgiveness and eternal life in faith in Christ alone. Yes in Christ that is assured, yet though we know what lies at the end we still have many hills yet to cross and only in keeping our eyes on Christ can we make that “60 or so miles per day”.

That 60 or so miles a day where “it is both what we say and how we say it”. That 60 or so miles a day that though not looking to suffer and be mistreated, are prepared to face such retaliation should our caring and loving words of the Lord to the world and our neighbours be turned back on us with hostility.

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said that “he came to fulfil the law”, and we thank God for Him because most certainly we cannot fulfil its requirements ourselves. Yet he also said “he did not come to abolish the law”, “because the law is good” and without us knowing the law and our outright inability to uphold it, we don’t truly know and understand the Gospel of saved in faith in Christ alone. The Word of God is both Law and Gospel. The law that kills and condemns and the Gospel that saves. Harsh opponents yet working in unison to bring people to their knees that they be raised in joy and hope both today and on the last day, and that we may not understand why some of His words should be so, seen through Christ we do understand the one who wrote them and trust in Him on our personal journey that he has put before us and endure and delight in and with Christ as he brings before us those in whom we must serve with His Words that He has told us. His word of truth that:

“does not return empty but accomplishes that of His purpose (Isaiah 55:11) and in knowing that the “Lord stands at their door and knocks and that if they hear his voice and open the door, he will enter (Rev. 3:20)” –our wish is that they may hear as we have heard and receive as we have received and know through Jesus Christ the peace of God which most surely passes all human understanding.

So in the sure knowledge of being raised on our last day: Grace, peace and hope to you from God our Father and our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ as you travel on your earthly journey hearing His saving words for yourself and bringing them before those he places before us that they too may open their doors to a waiting saviour. Amen.

 

Moments of clarity

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

“Moments of clarity”

Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Luke 12:32-40

The other Tuesday, while helping pack up after the breakfast at the primary school and looking out the window at the kids playing I was filled with a sense of both joy and sorrow. Joy in that they seemed so happy talking and playing together. Yet a little sadness knowing that sooner or later they will know of the sheer gut wrenching trials of life. Some more than others, but all will face that day when life seems unfair and confusing.

A physiologist told me that in murder suicide situations, often the parent involved resorts to such a tragedy because through their own pain, they actually think they are saving their loved from suffering the same unbearable hurt. Jesus knows life can be hard and so no wonder his greatest burning desire is that people allow him to walk with them through the valley of the shadow of death.

Last week Janet gave me an article written by the son of a Vietnam veteran and how the emptiness and hurt played out in his life. Drinking to forget and taking out your anger on others. Conscripted randomly simply by his birth date into the tragedy of a war not of his making. A tragedy not for his two year tour, but for the remainder of his life and his son said that sometimes when drinking his father would quote a saying he brought back with him from Vietnam:

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for I am the evilest son of a bitch in the valley”.

So sad, and so frightening that given a different time and situation, that there bar the grace of God those words could have been emblazoned in our lives.

When I was sixteen, my friend and I while in Adelaide for work experience, each night would catch the last bus home from Hindley Street. On the last night at about midnight we were beaten up by a group of 15 to 20 youths of the same age. My friend particularly was in a bad way and though he was a kind and good hearted person when we got home he was in a fit of rage and though I talked and begged him not to, he said with or without me he was driving back to find them. Worried for him I felt I had no choice so I drove him around the streets of Adelaide where I didn’t think they would be and talking him down that he may decide against using the loaded rifle he had in his hands and it scares me of what would have happened and where we would be if we came upon them.

Sometimes we have no choice and when we do, take the wrong one and as I looked out at those kids playing in the school hard and knowing of what they will face I asked myself how could we ever think that our God does anything other than grieve with the grieving and cry with the crying. Our God that will do anything that we trust in His Son Jesus Christ to finally know true peace when we meet him on our last day.

Looking out that window I asked of myself, that though we may fall to great depths in the valley of our lives, how could we ever doubt verse 32 in today’s gospel that “it is God the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.

Looking out that window all I could see was youthful happiness, yet I felt sadness for what may come. A moment of clarity seeing Jesus on that same walk to his own death and now with us on our walk. Jesus having felt the pain for himself and now relieving it through us and I asked myself, how we can ever, ever doubt that we are saved only in faith in Christ alone and not of ourselves.

Looking out that window I saw the children, the Vietnam veteran and myself, and though I or you may fall on our walk through the valley, we can fear no evil, for it is his good pleasure that he walks with us with goodness and mercy on our way home when the last piece of the jigsaw be put in place and see that it is in the shape of a cross.

All three readings today are about trusting in God, both now and in His sure promise at the end, and in looking back over our journey we see that as Jesus journey did not end on the cross, but in his being raised so that he may walk with us.

Looking back to the cross we too see ourselves being raised on our last day, and if we look back on our lives so far, sometimes we have that moment of clarity and see it was him who led us this way instead of that way.

I have no idea why I’m up the front talking to you instead of the other way round and the only thing I can think is what my Vicar Father said to me “that God seems to make a habit of not picking people from the top shelf”. I have no idea why I’m here but looking back on how it would have only needed one outcome to be different from how things played out, and though being a poor excuse for a pastor, I can only assume this is what I’m meant to do.

If you look back over your lives you to will see a measure of Joy and happiness and a measure of hurt, pain and anger, some of which will still make no sense. But even before the last piece of the puzzle is placed on your last day, if you look closely enough you will see Christ in them with you. Urging you this way instead of that way. Guiding you, weeping with you when you weep and carrying you in need, that you be here today knowing that you are a loved and saved child of God the father.

In Romans Paul has told us that “the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory of that which will be revealed to us” on our last day. What a day it will be for when we meet again with those past, and what a day it will be for the Lord when he can finally give us the full measure of His kingdom.

That day will surely come like the silence after a storm and though today we know not all the answers, we are known by him. Though we may not always see him, we are seen by him for he has told us:

That “God is our refuge and strength and a very present help in trouble”. As every word of God is pure and is a shield to those who put their trust in him. Because the Lord is faithful and keeps you from evil. For he most certainly restores your soul and leads you in the paths of righteousness, and whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”.

All ye faithful rejoice, for in God we trust, for he most certainly rejoices in being faithful to us. Amen.

 

Gifted to gift

Monday, August 5th, 2013

 

 

“Gifted to gift”

Luke 12:13-21 and Colossians 3:1-11

For the past two weeks we have been talking about priorities. Firstly were Mary sat at Jesus feet and listened to him instead of busying herself with other good, but less important things. Then with prayer were God invites us to ask him for our needs, and though we may not receive things exactly as we ask, we will receive according to His desire to give us what is good for us and others in His will that we remain in, and others join us in His eternal kingdom.

Today we have the trifecta as Jesus brings up the topic of money and earthly possessions and as with how Jesus lessons to Martha and Mary and with how prayer played out, we see that earthly riches are not wrong in themselves but need to be kept in check as we are told to “Set our minds on things above, and not on earthly things”.

In 1978 Dr. Ron Sider wrote a much loved and sometimes despised book concerning the rich Christians, churches and governments of western nations and I suppose in summary you could say part of the book covered his view of the token effort in sacrificial giving to the poor and needy of the world. He made some very good points; as did a supporter of his book who went on to add this:

“Is it just Western Christians that are neglecting the poor today? No. I live in the Philippines which doesn’t have a very large percentage of Christians, but the population is probably 5 to 10 percent Christian. Even though these Christians live in the midst of poverty- it is my estimation that believers here are just as lackadaisical about caring for the poor as Western Christians are. This goes to show that the problem does not lie in wealth. Wealth is not evil. The problem lies in a lack of solid Bible teaching and a lack of compassion that comes from spiritual immaturity. Do you want to be a charitable Christian that models compassion and generosity? It won’t start with your checkbook, but it will start in your relationship with God that can only develop through the Word of God.”

It won’t start with your checkbook, but it will start in your relationship with God. Very perceptive because if we turn to the Bible we can see that many of God’s key people were in fact wealthy.

In Genesis Abraham was said to be “very rich in livestock, silver and gold”. Similar, Isaac we are told like his father “became a rich man and his wealth continued to grow”, and in 2nd Chronicles we are told that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah was a good king who did not worship the images of Baal and obeyed the commands of the Lord. And that the Lord blessed him and all the people loved and respected him so much that they brought him gifts. In fact they gave him so much that he became very rich.

Very rich people, yet God’s people just like the many, many of God’s people in the scriptures of very meagre earthly wealth. As that person I quoted eluded to: the poor can idol worship possessions as much as the wealthiest person and the wealthiest person can worship God as much as the poorest as best said from 1st Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. Note it’s not as many misquote as simply money being the problem, but the love of money that leads to what comes next in the verse: “(for) some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s”.

There’s the issue. Forget just money and possessions but add in status, a good reputation, sport, addictions and whatever else that gets you through the night-if it takes your eyes of Christ or gets in the way of your relationship with God it has become your idol and that’s the danger for as George Lorimer a well-known publicist wrote: “It’s good to have money and the things money can buy. (But) it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy”.

Well said, but understated as in living in our society of we, myself, I and its consumerism we must not just occasionally, but be diligent and vigilant in ensuring that our gifts and possessions don’t come to possess us rather than the giver and bringers of all things good: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Rich or poor, CEO or bottom of the rung and whether we do this or that is not the issue as it comes back to our relationship with God and His word, and that can look differently through different people.

Near being ordained my vicar father asked me if I would be wearing a clerical collar in ministry. After I said, and naively in a way that I wouldn’t be because of connotations of status he went on to say that he didn’t think I would but then added: “When I left the Sem. I didn’t wear one because of the same rationale as you. But my friend did occasionally and in later years he said that he always wore it because over that time after having been abused and spat on when he wore it publicly-he saw it as a lack of courage and trust in the Lord should he relinquish its use”.

Two different perceptions, but neither right nor wrong because both done not for themselves but in their personal relationship with God.

Our relationship with God that Paul talks of in today’s epistle where he says to “Set our minds on things that are above and not on things that are on earth”. Here Paul is not despising the things of the earth but emphasising that this fallen world should not be our focus in our relationship with God through Christ. Verse 4: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”. That eternal life which we now possess through baptism will be fully experienced in heaven and that through Christ we are participants in God’s glory no wonder Paul exhorts us to put off our old self of sexual immorality, impurity, evil desire and covertness, which is idolatry. And no wonder he says in the verse that follows todays reading to put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience and bearing with one another.

So how are you going with that? If you’re like me you may say not so well because this side of heaven we are and always will be works in progress. Yet when we came to faith, even if we didn’t know realise it, but because of his blood and the healing through his sacrifice our lives have been changed, as through His will Jesus has come to us that we might have a new better and fuller life. Because of Jesus substitution of his death for ours God brushes aside our old nature and recycles us into something usable and new in a way. No longer do we need to wonder in the dark-stumbling, groping and unsure because Jesus has brightened the path of our lives, and because of him we are restored. Our journey in Christ that is given imagery to in this story I read:

“A number of years ago the world watched three grey whales icebound off Alaska. They took turns coming up and grasping for breath at a small, lonely hole in the ice. The only way they could survive was to get to open sea five miles away. A seemingly impossible journey. But volunteers took chain saws and began cutting a line of breathing holes through the six inch ice and for eight days they encouraged the whales from one hole to the next. One of the whales died, but the other two lived when a Russian icebreaker arrived and finished opening a path to the sea.

Did the whales understand that when the chain saws started to rip into the ice that they were saved? When they heard the sound of the ice breakers propellers, did they know they would soon be free? Did they understand through it all that their rescuers had a master plan which would lead them to safety? We assume no to these questions and that all they could do through it all was to take one day at a time, going from one opening to the next, trusting that someone would help them”.

Great imagery of our journey with Christ, but even more so of his with us, as that is what it means to be alive in a living Lord. We cannot understand God’s plan, but as living Christians, renewed and empowered by the Spirit, we can trust him and we can follow him and the path that he gives us.

Six years ago I was giving a devotion at a school to some grade six students about serving God in our lives. And at the end, a boy who I had heard spoken of by a leading identity as an AFL football player of the future put up his hand and asked some questions. And it became apparent to me that he was thinking that to serve God he might “have to run off to the ministry” or something.

That was not what I meant so we talked of how he can serve God in his life, maybe even as an elite sportsperson should that come to fruition. And that this week I read that he is being tipped to go in the top ten, maybe as even as low as the first picked in next year’s draft, should he trust in and openly process to his faith in Christ while in the national spotlight what a great witness to God he will be. And should he be drafted to Port Adelaide Power, I know my work will have been done (only joking).

But one day the stadiums will be empty for him as they will be for us, and we will see that there is only Christ who remains, and as Rich, poor, CEO, elite footballer or not, as in today’s epistle we are to put of the old self and put on the new self for now “There is not Greek nor Jew, uncircumcised nor circumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free; but Christ is all, and in all”.

We are to put on as God’s chosen ones the virtues: of compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Yet these are not chores or ours to accomplish, but are gifts provided by God to live in our lives.

For in Christ alone through faith have we been saved, and saved in faith he has told us:

From 1st Peter 4:10 that “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

And that from John 9:4, after the disciples asked Jesus whether the man before them with a physical impairment was caused by his sin were told, no “it was not that this man sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (and) We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; (for) night is coming when no one can work”.

On our journeys of sadness and our journeys of happiness, whether they be of much or of little earthly reward is of no consequence because we are all saved in Christ alone. All as one, yet all with different gifts from God, given to us not to accomplish for ourselves, but for him in the knowledge that through Christ we are participants in God’s glory here on this earth as we offer ourselves and our lives to him to use as he wishes. To keep our minds set on things that are above allows us not to serve the things of our world, but to serve his people. For as you are: rich or poor, CEO or not, God has given you the gift of Christ, and in your lives rich or poor, CEO or not, God has given you as a gift to the world, and to God be the glory. Amen.