“As nutty as a fruit cake”
Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12
The three bible readings today talk of the world in relation to God’s promised gift of Him sending a Saviour. In the Old Testament reading the prophet Isaiah forecasts and talks of the Messiah King that is yet to come. In the Gospel John the Baptist is heralding the arrival of that very person, Jesus Christ who is now on their doorstep and in the Epistle from the book of Romans, Paul the apostle tells of now having received through Christ the foreshadowed promise mercy and forgiveness, that we can now live in harmony with each other in hope, joy and peace.
Three periods of time apart from each other in the history of our world. Before Christ, meeting Christ for the first time and then the result of realising His presence. Three periods of time in history experienced by three different sets of people. Those looking and waiting for a Saviour, those walking with the Savour and those affected by Him. Separated apart by large chunks of time but not unlike us ourselves on our own individual spiritual journeys of before, meeting and then the after effects of Christ in our own short journeys in this world.
Before, meeting with and after. Three stages of Christian life and I wonder which one you are in at the moment?
Charles Wesley, a great servant of God, a great missionary and one of the initiators of the Methodist Church travelled by boat to preach the gospel to parts of the world that had not heard it and on his return after being asked how we went replied “Yes, many souls have been saved, but who is going to save mine”.
Before, meeting and then growing in Christ. I wonder which one you are in at the moment, just like I wonder which one I’m in.
When our son Josh turned three, I took my long service leave to look after him while my wife Cathy started some part time work with the Bendigo Bank.
It was six months of the most cherished time in my life but one Saturday morning, while playing computer games together the phone rang and a man said that Cathy had been involved in a car accident on her way home from work and that she was fine but a little shaken. We jumped straight in the car and after telling Josh of the situation I could see that he was a little worried for his mum. So I told him the truth of what I understand the man ringing had told me. It’s fine Josh, it’ll be just a small dent in the car and after we give mum a hug she’ll settle down and she’ll drive her car home.
As we turned the corner looking down a hill, about 500 metres away I could see two shiny cars, both written off in the middle of a very busy intersection. Two tow trucks, a fire engine, an ambulance and several police cars and I said to my three year old son, Josh this is worse than I thought so mum will be really upset and maybe even hurt, so both of us are going to have to be strong for mum. He looked at me and said, “But dad, I’m just a boy”.
After my dad died a few years ago, I was looking through some old stuff and there before in an old black and white photo was my dad with his two boys at the beach. He was fit and young but what stunned me was the look of joy in his eyes. The joy in his eyes that I never really remembered a great deal off. I loved my dad but pain of others ultimately plays out in those closet to them and after having just started my pastoral studies, I went from full time in my bank job to part time as allowed for in the first years of your study to help pay the bills. Two weeks later my brother tragically died and fearing for how my mum and dad would deal with it and having accumulated over twelve months sick leave went to see a doctor to state the situation at hand and get a sick certificate for a few weeks so that I could look after them.
What I didn’t reckon on was that it would play out a little like the scene from the movie Tin Cup, where Kevin Costner having fell for the charms of the new physiatrist in town, decides to try and get to know her under the guise of needing her services. Unfortunately for him, she does her job and he departs saying I didn’t come here to be told stuff about me I didn’t want to hear.
As to me with my doctor, a “normal” doctor but who I was to find out had an interest in the health of the mind and after she had written out my sick certificate started meddling in not just how I was dealing with life at that time, but also how I had dealt with life in general and that she seemed to suggest that from want of a better word “I was somewhat a tortured soul” was not what I went there for and like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup went in feeling fine only to walk out knowing I was as nutty as a fruit cake. Thanks for that.
In 1985 the Aussie band “The Divinyls” released a song “(It’s a fine line between) Pleasure and pain” and in our day to day worldly moments it most certainly can be. The fine line between rain and drought, the Jockey checked in the home turn to lose by a nostril, a millisecond in the Olympic 100 metres final and in the 2005 AFL grand final where the Sydney Swans defeated the West Coast Eagles by only a few points, I remember that within minutes the commentator asked “so where did it all go wrong for the Eagles”.
When he was Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser once famously said to those angry at his political party’s decisions that were affecting their lifestyles “that life wasn’t meant to be easy”. So too, although Jesus talked of hope, joy and peace never actually said that life would be easy. In fact far from it as he talked of how we too like himself, will bear our crosses of pain, hurt, trials and tribulations in our own lives.
Jesus did not say life would be easy, but he did say he will get us through it and that is the difference and that we be still waiting to meet him, walking with him in our lives now or still trying to work it all out can change yearly, daily, hourly or in every given minute of our lives as we enjoy the best of times or endure the worst of what life can throw at us.
Our lives and times, how we are treated and how we treat others and how we act can change due to circumstances. That’s just how it is. But I do know of one who doesn’t change towards us, and be we a little boy told to be a man before his time or a strong man in his twilight years still carrying the same fear from the hurts of life, before Jesus Christ we are as one. And as one, in happiness or sadness he comes to us with outstretched arms, not to push down but to lift up, not to add to the weight of our lives but to lift it off. Not to bring judgement on our sins and wayward lives, but to take our sins and judgement on himself as he did on the cross.
Today in our small church, through the joyous gift of baptism our numbers have swollen and truly we are blessed by your company today and that some of you I have not met before, and that some I will not see again is of no consequence to you because I am anything but a role model to be drawn to and most definitely, sooner or later would disappoint you. But should now in your life you stand still waiting to meet Christ, still asking questions of him or walking with him, Jesus Christ will not disappoint you because like in the promise he has given today in Baptism to Sophie, Luke and Tyler he offers to us all.
Not the promise that in ourselves we will always know hope, joy and peace, but the promise that in him, regardless of what we have done or where we are at, that He came to be given as a lamb to the slaughter and die on the cross that whether it be Sophie, Luke, Tyler starting their journey with Christ or a long time person of faith at the end of their journey or you and me, Jesus Christ the messiah offers His hope, His joy and His peace to you and me today and should we accept it or not, he does not and will not change as He continues to do as he has done in the past. To walk with us, carrying us in need that we come to ask for what he begs to give. To receive what He offers, that as we are, turn to Him and ask His forgiveness that He can without jury, judge or evidence to the contrary take our hand in His and say welcome home my dear child, your sins are forgiven and as I will most certainly carry your heavy load as I walk with you in this life, so too most certainly will you walk with me in the life to come which has no hurt, no pain, no tears and no end. Amen.