â€œA love no greaterâ€
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 & John 3:1-17
On Thursday I saw a teenage boy in his school cloths with an obvious mental disability holding hands with his grandma and my heart melted.
A musician and poet on tour and alone in his hotel room wrote these words for his little boy back home:
â€œMay you always feel the sunshine and take time to taste the rain,
May your friends be true and caring and I hope you are the same;
And in your fleeting passage, leave a little bit behind
For the children who will follow in your footsteps, along the sands of time.
I dreamed there was a world for you, without the rush of rockets
And the thump of khaki gunships in the sky
But there were rows of eucalyptus and trains for little boys
Tadpoles in a still black creek and playgrounds full of noise
and in my vision, fear and greed and anger were the only things to die
May the wind blow gently through your life, may your principles be strong;
May you stand up and be counted when you work out right from wrong
May your nights be short and peaceful, may your days be warm and long;
May your eyes be filled with kindness, may the seeds of wisdom grow
May you seek for truth and beauty and when you find it may you know
May you help feed those who are hungry, and comfort those who hurt
May you always fight for justice for all of us who walk upon the earth.â€ (John Schumann â€œFor the childrenâ€)
Beautiful words of hope and, yet words mixed with sadness in the reality of growing in our world of hunger, pain, fear, greed, war and anger.
Words of apprehensive hope that parents can relate to as they look to their children , and often words bringing unwanted sadness in reflecting of what has gone before that children can relate to as they see their parents near the end of their journey.
In todayâ€™s reading from Romans we hear of Israelâ€™s first great patriarch and a â€œheroâ€ of the bible in Abraham. A man called by God as recorded in Genesis 12 â€œTo go from your country and your relatives, and your fatherâ€™s house to the land I will show you and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessingâ€ and Abraham believed, trusted and obeyed.
Then later when camped at Shechem, the Lord appeared to Abraham and renewed his promise that â€œTo your descendants I will give you this land,â€ and that as Abraham surveyed the very land before him there stood a flourishing enemy stronghold, yet he believed, trusted and obeyed.
Later again God promises to the sonless Abraham that from his loins will come a â€œgreat nationâ€-as innumerable as the â€œdust of the earthâ€ and your own son shall be your successor and Abraham believed, trusted and obeyed.
Yet later again, the much awaited son Isaac has been born-only for Abraham to hear the call from God to sacrifice his only beloved son on one of the mountains in the land of Moriah. Words that if it were us and I would most surely believe for Abraham himself must have been the most unwanted of his whole life. But yet again Abraham trusted and obeyed in perfect obedience and even when asked by IsaacÂ where they will find an animal to be sacrificed? He answers â€œGod will provide himself the lambâ€ and as he raises his hand with Isaac lying on the sacrificial alter, at the last minute an angel of the Lord stops him.
What a journey. A journey of faith and of serving the Lord beyond reproach or criticism. In top gun speak this guy â€œis the best of the bestâ€ and yet the bible tells us not in his actions and deeds was Abraham saved, but only in his faith.
It almost seems unbelievable until I think of that boy in the shop holding hands with his grandma and ask myself, what of him-how does he earn his way to heaven. What of the kids living in the slums of a third world country-how do they earn their way to heaven, and then in turning to myself I see clearly that yes, there is no other way than in Christ.
The joy Abraham must have felt when Isaac was born, and the unfathomable pain he must have felt as he raised a dagger above his son on that mountain top.
The joy of God the father as he rested on the seventh day and saw that his creation was good, and his aching heart for what lie ahead when it was torn apart in sin.
His aching heart for those hungry, for those who cannot help themselves and for all that walk upon this broken world and how he must have felt when his own Son in the garden of gethsemane sweating blood in duress asked â€œFather, is there another wayâ€.
And as we hear his answer of, â€œno my Son there is notâ€ those famous words from John 3:16 come to our mind â€œFor God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal lifeâ€, and from our mind permeate through to our heart as we try to understand such a love that would see him knowingly hand over His only Son, his faultless and sinless Son for the wolves to devour that they be fed.
No one can come to faith through reason but through the Holy Spirit. But having been given the gift of faith we see there can be no other reason that we will surely reside in the heavenly life that awaits than through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
There is no other way, and in your faith in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone today you stand as the forgiven children of God and though we must work, our work is not for self but for those that the Father brings before us that we may do to them as he has done to us and help feed those who are hungry, and comfort those who hurt.
The rabbi in a small Jewish village vanished every Friday morning for a couple of hours. Devoted villagers boasted that during these hours their rabbi ascended to heaven to talk to God. A sceptical newcomer decided to check it out, so he hid one Friday morning near the rabbiâ€™s house to watch. The rabbi rose, said his prayer, put on the clothes of a peasant, and left with an axe in his hand. The newcomer followed and watched as the rabbi chopped firewood and carried it to a shack in the humblest part of the village where an old woman lived with her sick son. There he stacked enough wood for a week and returned to his house. The newcomer became a disciple of the rabbi and from then on when people would say that the rabbi ascended to heaven, he would add, â€œif not higherâ€.
God may have other work planned for you instead of gathering firewood, but getting to heaven is the work of God himself, which he has done for you through his Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen