A friend was put on the spot, when someone asked her to tell her life story in one sentence. She goes onto say that we can put our story to a song, or a book, but a sentence is extremely hard.
What about you, can you put your life story to a sentence. If you can, how about sharing it with us.
My sentence is, “I am a normal Aussie bloke, who has lived and experienced a not so normal life.”
One of the things I enjoy about the Christian experience in Australia is the lack of patriotism in the church. Or perhaps I should say the low level of it. Some friends travelled to U.S.A around seven years ago to become pastors in the Methodist church. He had travelled there a number of times as a itinerant evangelist / musician. It was through his recounting of his experiences that he shared stories of people taking their guns into church. Congregations saluting the American flag and singing the national anthem.
I confess up front I like guns. I have lived all my life around guns. My dad taught me to shoot from a young age. I have used guns both for work and recreation purposes. I am also proud to be Aussie. I think I am blessed to live in the greatest nation in the world. I am proud to be an Australian, simply because I am Australian and don’t know anything different. Certainly there are things that our nation have done which makes me hang my head in shame – but there are many things about this nation that makes me hold my head up high and say, I am Australian. Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie – Oi Oi Oi!!!!
But, I found Mike’s experience rather disconcerting. I have never taken a gun to church. I can’t imagine a reason to do so. Not in the western world anyways. I have never seen the Australian flag in any church I have visited. Wait, I tell a lie. One church I went to, had a picture on the wall of every flag of the world. The picture was a reminder and was a representation that we were to pray for every nation and to go out to every nation and make disciples and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. But I digress.
Last night I came across the following story where a travelling family in America visited all kinds of churches in their travels. Charismatic, Reformed, Baptist, Liturgical etc. The style didn’t phase them, as long as Jesus was proclaimed Lord. They shared how they continued to hear the Lord speak into their hearts, “You can’t have two masters! You need to chose which master you will have!” They tell the story how this church they visited had some lively singing, which they thought was God honouring and they enjoyed it. Till, they started to sing the national anthem and other songs about America… Once again they felt the Lord challenging them, which master will you have, you can’t have two. So they stood up and left the church building and went on their way.
The truth is that God isn’t into nations that much. He is into his own Kingdom. A kingdom that comprises of all gender, nationality, age and social class. And more importantly in this kingdom, there is no distinction between gender, nationality, age and social class. All are equal in standing with each other and before the Lord. All stand before him as sinners, having fallen short of his glory – and more importantly, we stand together before him, forgiven.
It’s easy for me to say with shock horror, how bad is the church in America with its nationalism. And its easy for me to do so with an element of pride and self righteousness that we don’t do the same in our own culture. But, the truth is, we do have an element of nationalism within our Christian heritage and experience. For some, they use their Christian faith to push a political agenda. On one side the political agenda is one of social liberalism. On the other, the political agenda is one of social conservatism. On many levels, I too am caught up in the social conservatism. Currently we have a issue with muslims coming into our country. Not all of them are nice people. Many are caught up in what we call terrorist acts, both here and overseas. There is a fear that the radicals will have a effect on the stability of this nation and cause the same unrest and turmoil which is evident in many places around the world. And indeed, some of them have been caught in the midst of plotting such acts of evil.
I need to also clarify that not all refugee Muslims are terrorists. I have met many great peeps, who were genuine. I made friends with quite a few while I was in hospital. Our accountant is a Muslim guy. Our neighbours are from Turkey and are also really nice people. Once I met an older lady while fishing. Yes, she was wearing her scarf which clearly identified her as Muslim. She offered me a coffee and I tied a hook onto her line, after it had broken off. She shared how she and her husband were 19 and 21 when they came to Australia. They actually met on Australian soil as they disembarked off the ship and were later to get married. She shared with me how two of her sons were becoming radicalised by some unsavoury elements and so she and her husband took them with them on a holiday to see family back in Lebanon. During the two weeks they were there, they experienced gun shots every night, experienced bombs going off and the news was filled with maimings and killings. They both took their sons aside and told them.. hey, we left here as young adults to get away from this crap and start a new life. If you want Australia to become a place like this, then, we are going to leave you here, and you can live this lifestyle to your hearts content… As for us, we are going back home to the Australia we love and the lifestyle we enjoy
But, I digress from the theme of my post today. I have to ask myself, on what level is my social conservatism and on what level is my social libertarianism (And yes, call me complicated – I do hold and practice a measure of both – which does confuse many who know me :) ) I need to ask myself the important questions, and I believe in general every Christian needs to ask “Am I trying to serve two masters? Am I trying to achieve a political outcome through political means and if so, am I serving two masters?”
I’d ultimately like to be able to say in all honesty that I am serving only one master. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. But, in all honesty I can’t say I am. What about you. Can you likewise say that you truly only serve one master? Yes I know, its a hard question to ask, isn’t it.
I’m kinda thinking, or is that musing, or perhaps its more of something else or other about the issue of vagueness. I’m not really sure about what I’m thinking about it, as my thoughts have no real coherent substance to them. I’m not sure that you would or could relate to the experience of not being able to pinpoint just what it is I am thinking. Or even engage on a deeper level of meaningful conversation on the topic; if that would be even possible.
I have been reading Fast Forward to Mission by Alan Hirsch. My facebook friends can access a free download from a link on my timeline, but, for technical reasons beyond my ability, I can’t provide the link here. My paraphrase of this work is.
The gospel of Jesus connects our own story to the story of God, working through, over and within history, and in doing so, gives us meaning and understanding of our own place in the universe. Not only does it give us meaning and understanding – it connects us in meaningful ways with others as we understand the story of God who works not only through us and for us – compels us to engage with all of humanity allowing the experience of God to challenge, change and continue to draw all to himself …
Perhaps like me, you too struggle understanding the meaning of many of the stories that Jesus told. Some of his stories are easy to understand, while others are much harder. One story / parable that I have struggled to understand is one found in Matthew 13:44, where Jesus told a parable about a hidden treasure that someone finds in a field. He tells how the person who finds it, goes and sells all they have to buy that field; such is the immensity of the treasure.
I’m currently reading Dallard Willard’s book, Revolution of Character. On page 60 he gives an explanation of this parable which I think totally nails its meaning. Think about the treasure that is found in the field. It’s so valuable, the person who found it, gladly and joyfully sold all they had to buy that field. Do you think this person was sad and reluctant to sell all they had? No! Not at all!
The meaning of the parable is that Jesus is the treasure. He calls us to give up our life to come and follow him. He doesn’t call us to come follow him reluctantly. He calls us to come follow him gladly. He calls us to deny ourselves to come and follow him. But what is it we are denying? And what is it we are gaining? We are called to lose ourselves in his eternal immeasurable love. Allowing that eternal immeasurable love to change us, mold us, hold us, cover over, well up within and flow out from us.
Why would we want to hang onto our own lives – whether our life is good or bad – when, such a immeasurably valuable treasure is freely offered to us… all we need to do is deny ourselves, acknowledge the fact that there is a better way and accept Jesus.
Perhaps you would like to pray this prayer with me. _ Jesus, I need you. I need your love to permeate through me, cover me and flow through me. I turn from my ways and accept you. Help me to know what it means to walk in your love. To walk in your forgiveness. To turn away from my sin. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and show me the riches of your immeasurable love.