(Image used with permission from http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)
A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Israel. This, of course, was with the aim of visiting places important in the recorded events in the life of Jesus. Some places were busy with many pilgrims and this made it difficult to visualise or even think about the events which occurred there.
Adding to the difficulty was the erection of churches over places mentioned in the Gospel accounts. The traditional place of the manger has, for example, a magnificent and beautiful cathedral, which is a tribute to the faith and devotion of those who erected it. Similarly in Cana where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding. My surprise from this visit lay in the size of the flagons which held something like 20 gallons each.
In the Cathedral surmounting the traditional tomb in which Jesus was laid after the crucifixion the crowds were so numerous that joining the queue meant standing for at least an hour and a half added to which the continual movement of other visitors inevitably detracted from the solemnity of the moment. No, I didn’t join the queue. I did my best to see, at a distance this revered place and left.
Elsewhere, significant sites were easily visited such as where Christ faced trial, where He was imprisoned, the road along which he carried the cross to Calvary and the stations of the cross (recorded events/happenings).
Golgotha or the Place of the Skull turned out to be a rugged cliff face in which two holes represented the eyes, a jagged hole the mouth and rocky protrusions evocative of a face. The ancient olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane stood silent . There seemed little doubt they could have been there when the momentous events of the first Easter took place.
Nearby was a small entrance to what is called the Garden Tomb. This is believed by many to be the actual tomb in which Jesus was laid. One has to bend to pass through the entrance into the space beyond. Here in the small area involved were two, as I recall, rocky shelves. On one of these is believed the body of Jesus lay briefly from Friday until Sunday morning. Undoubtedly one felt that this could well have been His tomb. And so I, as did others, stand in silence remembering. And then, turning to leave, one saw the words written above the entry/exit hole. They were –
He is not here He is risen.
(By all means discuss the implications of this article with a minister or priest. SM)
During a speech, former Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, referred to Pitirim Sorokin, 1889-1968, a Russian-American. Sorokin noted of the Russian Revolution: “During the first stages of the [Russian] Revolution, its leaders deliberately attempted to destroy marriage and the family.
Free love was glorified by the official ‘glass of water’ theory: if a person is thirsty, so went the Party line, it is immaterial what glass he uses when satisfying his thirst; it is equally unimportant how he satisfies his sex hunger. The legal distinction between marriage and casual sexual intercourse was abolished. The communist law spoke only of ‘contracts’ between males and females for the satisfaction of their desires either for an indefinite or a definite period – a year, a month, a week, or even a single night. In short, a variation on that musical play, “Anything Goes.” Really? Does this ring a bell?
The social chaos, which followed the policy, caused its abandonment later in the 1920s. It doesn’t take a university degree to see what this could do to the social values of Western civilization with respect to personal relationships and individual attitudes. Could it happen here? Is it happening here?
Furthermore, one could be brave and state that in the West courtesy still exists. Certainly it exists but so does, increasingly, masculine aggressiveness (machismo) an example of which is the single, sometimes fatal, punch reported from time to time. Sledging in cricket is now accepted as a norm and the behaviour by some players of football needs no comment.
In short, the death of courtesy in Western civilization is noticeable. So what is courtesy? Simply the social oil which facilitates good relationships between people and peoples. It is not the only catalyst but it is a necessary one. It is what Christianity calls “Love in action” – courtesy – respectful kindliness in behaviour…
Without its presence male-female relationships are endangered; bullying can potentially exist in workplace dealings; in the twilight world of crime enforcing extreme violence becomes the norm. It is useless to go on as you already know where the bully boys operate. The practice of courtesy – EVEN A SMILE — as a habit — would make a real contribution to harmony and safety in the community. So? Simple ….. GET WITH IT — TRY IT. You could be really surprised at its effect. Better still find out what being Christian really means!
Been to worship in a Church recently? No? Try it – you might find the peace you seek. [Speak to a minister or priest if the above has interested you. – SM]
The poet, W.B. Yeats, has a most expressive line in one of his poems, “Easter 1916”, which says simply: “All changed, changed utterly.”
Everything is changed and changed utterly in our world from what it was.
Few people think much about our living in an era seemingly indifferent to the Christian message which was embraced widely by those who went before us. Christian faith has been decreased by the great flood of blood in World Wars I & II and the embracing of different ways of looking at what we call reality. In other words, we are in a Post Christian era. You can see it in the lifestyles depicted in film and TV and in society itself – an eat, drink, and go-for-it life.
Everything is changed and changed utterly.
Christian standards are irrelevant. Everyone decides what to do for him/herself. If you are a Christian OK but don’t expect the world to act or look at things the way you do. Christians think and act differently because Christians march to a different drum from society at large.
Everything is changed and changed utterly.
Why? Because of the good news. Hear it and get to grips with the heart of Christianity – the gospel (which means good news). But what is it? What is the good news?
SIMPLY THAT JESUS SAVES – BUT FROM WHAT?
From Hell? What and where is Hell? To answer simply – saved from DESPAIR where the Latin origin of “despair” means de = without & spiro = I hope or spirit. And, without limiting its meaning, you know that life without hope (despair) can be hell for some people. So we can be saved from that because Life is not a cosmic joke – ending in nothing.To be changed from Despair to Hope is to be changed and changed utterly. To be in-spired (or inspirited) is to get a life –to be changed utterly.
Christ rose from the dead – that validated his message and changed everything in life utterly and forever. He is not still on the Cross. He is not still there sacrificing His life for any shortfalls in our behaviour (our sins) by giving his life to offset them. He is not still in his tomb. He is not dead. He is risen – ALIVE and now with God. People saw Him, ate with Him, talked with Him. His friends recognized Him by voice and face.
Dare to believe He did all that and is alive now. Then…pray and ask Him into your life and you will be changed utterly. You will have Hope that where He is you will be. What goes on in the world will pale into insignificance besides that Hope. Worry? Trouble? Sickness? Yes, still around because we are human. But, whatever happens, we go on as believing travellers in time to finally meet Him.
Dare to ask Him into your life? Try it. Talk to any minister if you wish and if you haven’t got one try ours at (07) 3831 7458 [SM] .
Strangely enough the words have much in common.
Christmas is short for Christ Mass which is another way of saying a Mass for Christ’s Birthday. If you did not
know, the Mass (and we put theology aside for the moment), is the Roman Catholic word for the equivalent of
our Communion. Other words, such as Eucharist or Holy Communion, have the same basic meaning.
Now, Communion as we know it wasn’t always conducted the way that it is in many of our churches today –
even with the minor variations that we might notice. If you haven’t read it, look at 1st Corinthians, chapter
11:17-34 and some of the following verses. After reading that it is easy to see why the conduct of the Communion
requires a prayerful approach and a realisation that we are in the presence of the Lord during its celebration.
In the same way the 25th December wasn’t always celebrated by Anglo Saxons the way we celebrate it.
For them Christmas was the middle of winter. So the Church symbolically took the middle of the long night of winter and
brought life into it. If a cold winter is a season of no growth, the relevance is easily seen. Into the winter’s night of the
soul – into the soul seeking its Creator – Jesus Christ comes and brings life.
Life? Yes, Life with a capital “L”. It’s a way of life which makes you see the world differently. Values change, people
become important, you become agents of love, people with a mission which never stops – people who don’t wait to be
helped but become people who help. Criticism gives way to helpfulness. Anything less than that is not the real Life.
Christmas and Communion – the seed and the fruit of that seed.
At Christmas we give thanks for the birth of Jesus. At Communion we give thanks for Him. In the prayer of consecration
of the elements, we seek again the benefits of His life and death and resurrection:
We ask God to feed our faith.
As He loves, so let us love.
As He is Life, so let us receive Life, and help others to have Life.
[If you wish, speak to your Minister or priest about the richness of what is offered to us through faith in Jesus Christ. SM]
You Have a choice
Job, in the Bible’s Book of Job, you may or may not recall, was successful, went broke but despite everything would not blame God. The story makes for strange and wonderful reading and might surprise you if you take time out to read it.
Life’s not easy and some still ponder ”Is life, with all its worries, worth living?” The sad, sad, toll of youth suicide shows those who don’t think so and give up early. It really depends on what we see as important in life – our values. The Christian looks at the life of Jesus and what he promised because Jesus Iived it too. He walked dusty roads; He became tired; He shared friendships; He saw sickness. He saw Lazarus die and wept for him and his sisters. He suffered but, before being crucified, still said to God, “…not my will but Yours”. And again, “In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.” So, for the believer in Jesus, the message simply is, “Hang in there”.
Blind George Matheson (1842-1906) believed in Jesus despite his blindness and at the end of it was still able to say about his Lord in a now famous hymn,
O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee,
I give Thee back the life I owe
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer fuller be.
He believed in the Bible’s promises and hung in to the end. A bit like Job, really.
Is this the kernel of the matter? Do we have to ask ourselves, “Do we really and truly believe in the promises of God in the Bible?” The promises of Jesus in the New Testament? Do they give a different perspective on or understanding of suffering and the ups and downs of life? Is that why so many people seemed to reach out to a seemingly caring Princess Diana and to Mother Teresa, who identified with the rejected and cared about them? Did they both, in some way, show Love being active in the world? Or has our “religion” become hereditary and a habit? Do we, in fact, fall in with the crowd and choose Pride and Power rather than humility and service to others?
But, you might remember, Jesus rejected Pride and Power at the beginning of His ministry and asserted that the darkness of a seemingly futile born-live-die cycle for …nothing… was not the case. His promise was simple – “Believe in Me and you shall not die but have everlasting Life.” He showed the way by caring for others during His life. So caring for one another is the hallmark of following Him. Loving others is the way to show you have Love in you – the real purpose of Life. God can use those who have love in them but His Love cannot flow through those who don’t.
Jesus, the Son of Love itself – God, came back from the dead at Easter.
St Peter saw Him. Mary saw Him. 500 others saw Him as well as others. They said, “It was no myth; we saw Him.”
So there’s a choice – a Life of Hope through belief in Jesus and following Him or — a seemingly purposeless life which inevitably ends in Death – for what purpose? What’s your choice? If you wish to, talk to your minister/priest about the above or get in touch with Rev. Paul Seiler at St Paul’s. (SM)