“Conceiving the inconceivable”
Today we come together in our thanksgiving service to worship and thank the Lord for all we have. Our shelter, food, clothing, families and the gift of living in a country where we are free from religious sensor. If we take a step back and consider that when we wake and see no soldiers patrolling the streets or go to the shop and see row after row of shelves full of food we see we have been truly blessed in our country.
Real blessings from God that seem to be forgotten as instead of being gracious for our children receiving education and for our sick receiving medications that heal we chase contentment and happiness in the peripheral stuff that for those in countries of famine and bloodshed find inconceivable.
How does a soldier conscripted against his will to fight in Vietnam conceive returning to his home country and being abused for being part of a war not of his own doing or want?
How does an early Christian worshipping in the catacombs through fear of persecution conceive a current day church in turmoil because of the colour of the carpet and how does a lady daily searching amongst the rubbish for food to support her family conceive that in Australia we go to gyms to lose weight?
To conceive the inconceivable is to take a step back from ourselves and our situations and to see things through different eyes.
During his trial in 1964 after being arrested of conspiracy to overthrow the state Nelson Mandela stated “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Twenty seven years later he was released and when as Prime Minister of South Africa a journalist noted that “Mandela treated everyone with respect in equal measure irrespective of their station in life, be they royalty, foreign heads of government, with generals who planned to go to war against him, with gardeners, flight attendants or the unemployed….seen so clearly that while time short due to his presidential duties, still found the time to travel across the country to comfort his old jailor after his son had died.”
In our reading from Philippians the apostle Paul is in prison suffering persecution because of his Christian beliefs. Yet instead of asking why me Lord? He writes that “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, ” and in the book of Job we read that Job’s reaction to the news of the death of all his children and the loss of all his property is to remark “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return: The lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
To be brought low or lifted to abound we are to be content. Prepared to accept both the good and the bad, and often in quick succession and yet abiding in the inner peace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Sounds easy if like in the cartoons we are in heaven playing a harp and reclining on our fluffy cloud. Easy until the gentle music is interrupted by a phone call from a mother piercing your inner soul with the gut wrenching screams of loss and guilt from one who has lost a child.
In last week’s gospel Jesus told us that God the Father “makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” and so too would it seem on this earth that both Christian and non-Christian alike will feel both great joys and extreme wounds and with such a variance it can be inviting to desire to search for a way to be content amongst this mix of guilt, hurt and seemingly random unfairness of circumstances that we and others hear, see and feel.
Sometimes we may think if we build ourselves enough financial security or to improve ourselves so we can achieve all our dreams or even the opposite of falling out of society with its ‘competition and confusion we will be content, yet only to find that upon achieving such goals that then we find ourselves feeling discontent for just those reasons. That in wealth to feel guilt for those less fortunate or after having dropping out of society, discontentment in the guilt of realising we have not used our God given talents for the benefit of others.
One way or another we have all felt the discontent as felt by the apostle Paul when three times he pleaded with God to take away his thorn in the flesh only to hear the Lord respond “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”, and in knowing that truth, like Nelson Mandela was sustained in jail through the belief that South Africa will be free of apartheid, so to Paul in his jail cell in the truth that no matter his worldly situation or personal short comings, that he in trust in Jesus Christ alone as His saviour has been given the promise of eternal life in the heavenly kingdom.
The same promise that is given to sustain and give peace to all those who trust in Christ alone as their Saviour. The same promise given to you and me and should we take a step back from ourselves and the situations that block our view and look to Christ first, we see a God of love send His Son to die on the cross that you and me, regardless of situation be it of wealth and prestige or poverty and infamy, be it in shedding tears of joy or in tears of hurt see that in all things He travels with you that you see the truth that in belief in Jesus as your Saviour you have been forgiven and stand before the Father not as you may see yourself in situation or in sin, but stand before God the Father next to Christ, glowing in His righteousness and though our earthly room be meager or great, high or low, neither is worthy of concern nor comparison to the heavenly home that awaits you in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.