Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Father of the Year

Hi guys, Fred here.

Something a bit topical this week, given that Father's Day is next Sunday. Cherish your Fathers and their memories - at least the good memories.

Nomination for Father of the Year
Stories sometimes come to our attention which confront us in a secret inner place. Recently Jon Stanhope, the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory put forward a surprise nomination for Australian Father of the Year. And who was this surprise nomination? No other than Terry Hicks, father of David Hicks, the young Australian who was caught fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Many applauded the nomination. Just as many were aghast.

Terry Hicks has been untiring and unrelenting in his efforts to get his son home. And in the process he’s been given his own psychological belting for being responsible for young David’s waywardness in the first place. But you know, if one of my kids had got into a terrible scrape, or a terrible mess, like David Hicks has, I’d hope I could be a father like Terry.

My own dad stood by me once when I’d really stuffed up. (And no, he was not responsible for what I had done). His action then has been an encouragement over many years. It was an inspiration in my own parenting of the kids. I’ve recently been working with a family where one of the kids involved himself in an appalling situation, where the outcome was endless trouble, with a very hostile public response. Joy of joys, and courage of courages, his family has supported him through it all, and that grace will be the making of him.

I know another father whose youngest son got into total rebellious mode, told his father to get stuffed and that he wished he was dead, demanded his inheritance, was surprisingly given it, and shot through with it. He went overseas and lived without a care, as though there was no tomorrow, got himself into alliances directly apposed to everything his father stood for. Everything he did mocked his father’s belief system and values. Broke his father’s heart.

When this young man had blown it all, and practically destroyed himself by his own blind stupidity, he began to do some soul-searching. There was deep dawning recognition of the dreadful thing he’d done to dad and family. Then he took the biggest risk of his life. He headed home, hoping for a chance to live on the margins of father’s life and of that of his family. Turned up, hardly recognisable, looking like something the cat dragged in. Got a real shock when his old man cut off his carefully prepared drivelling little speech. Hardly had time to catch his breath while dad was organising a celebration, got him properly dressed, arranging proper ID, and totally making the rebel welcome back home.

(You may read this story for yourself in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 15! And if I may point it out, the abominable behaviour of the son wasn’t the father’s fault either!)

Isn’t Terry Hicks response like the Father in that Prodigal Son story? The restoration is just such a surprise. Neither father approves, or ever would want to approve, of what was done. Both love their sons and want them home. Both want their sons with them.

Contrast that with the attitudes and actions of the fathers of our nation, who love to preach to us about Christian traditions and values. Think PM, MFA and AG. Throw the bugger to the wolves! Let him rot. He burned his bridges. He deserves nothing. We disown him! We’ll treat him as though he’s not a son of this Australian family.

Ahhh. Ahhh. Ahhh.

I hope you know the heart of your father.

“Blessed are the merciful…”
Matthew 5: 7
“Be merciful as your Father is merciful”
Luke 6: 36

- Pastor Fred

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hail to the King

Hi guys, Fred here. Hope you are going okay.

A couple of “firsts” happened (for me) here in Sydney this week. Yesterday we had a generous hail storm. This morning, for the first time, I attended the local pastoral workers gathering up near Kings Cross. These two events caused a strange little flash back for me.

Re this morning’s get together, the Anglican Rector for Darlinghurst, Hugh Cox, led a reflection time based on a story involving Paul and a colleague, in gaol in Phillipi. He pointed out that Paul and Silas (at midnight!) were praising God and singing, when an earthquake shook the area and all the prisoners chains fell out of the walls! Hugh went on to say that God often uses natural occurrences like earthquakes and hail storms as a way of achieving his purposes.

Well, it took me about 3 seconds and I was back in the counselling area of the church I was at in Canberra. This was about 16 years ago. We were just beginning a conversation with a young man (in his thirties!) who had experienced a terrible, traumatic episode of bullying when he was 15. He had just remembered that the day it happened there had been a hail storm. Well blow me down. As he opened up a hail storm hit our part of Canberra! It was the heaviest I’d ever experienced and the noise on the church roof was horrendous. It got heavier and noisier, and as it did his whole being began to shake as he relived the event that had so crippled him.

The hail went on and on. And all the while more and more of the buried memory got rattled loose. Eventually it was all out, like puss out of an angry wound. And as he got there, exhausted, the hail ceased. We prayed with him through his trauma, his forgiveness issues, his shattered dreams and his sense of hopelessness. He took his first emotionally healed steps in many years. He’s been walking since.

So there! Strange, weird and wonderful things happen around us. Often they come from left field and surprise us. Rarely are they expected and anticipated. But we have a Lord who uses them to get us going and heal us..

So all hail to the King!

Keep well my friends,

- Pastor Fred

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

God Meant it for Good

Hi guys, Fred here.

A lady I knew well used to write a weekly column for her local paper under the heading “Just a Moment”. She had been at it for thirteen years when she produced the following devotion:

Just a moment
Some time ago Joe applied for an insurance policy for accidents. In the interview the agent asked him if he had ever had an accident. The man thought for a moment and said, “Nooo, but a horse kicked me in the ribs, and another time a snake bit me”. “Wouldn’t you call those accidents?” replied the agent. “Nooo”, said Joe “they did it on purpose”.
That may be an amusing story, but the truth of the Bible remains, that there are no accidents in the lives of God’s children. In today’s Bible verse, Joseph interpreted a dreadfully trying time in his life as a great test of his faith, and from the human standpoint it appeared to be a case of injustice and not a blessing at all. But Joseph learned that God had planned the whole experience.
Maybe you are having a time of great hardship in one way or another. Maybe your children have done the wrong thing to you, or you have suffered an accident and feeling absolutely miserable. Sometimes those trials are for a special blessing. Be patient, and trust God. Even try to praise him for the trial. It may be the hardest thing to do that you have done for quite a while, but it will work, and God will transform your trial into a blessing. “God meant it for good” (Gen 50: 20).

On the very day this item appeared in the local rag, her husband of 36 years was killed in a road accident!

That news rattled my cage, so to speak. I knew it brought a devastation to her as she entered deep into grief and its attendant disharmony. But she hung on! She hung in. She continued to write! – as far as I know until she died. In faith!

“Commit your way to the Lord – Psalm 37

As another lady once said, reflecting on her years in the German concentration camp “it was in the camp that I discovered God and was able to anchor my faith in him”.

Bless Ya,

- Pastor Fred

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

God has Cross Purposes for You

Hi guys, Fred here.

Out of the mouths of babes
Teaching 8 year olds is not my natural gift. I get undone by the endless fidgeting and ‘off on a tangent’ thought processes that this age group can produce. Give me a bunch of thinking, aware, engaged adults anytime!

That said, I’m currently running a class on Saturday afternoons with eight youngsters, six of whom are aged around 8 years old. This is our ‘get ready for your first Holy Communion’ class. It might be a battle but I don’t mind because it’s my first chance ever to have these kids in a class situation.

During our second session I was using a colourful transparency about how humans do their level best to build bridges back to God and about how God builds a bridge between us and him through the Cross of Jesus. I told the little blighters that Jesus took our sins to himself (like a super-sopper) so we could have his life and be reconciled to God!

One of the kids, a boisterous little man who didn’t appear to be paying much attention, suddenly swung around and confronted me with a bold declaration: “If Jesus took our sins then he should go to hell!” (As if to say – “there’s a hole in your story!”)

Silence. Awed amazement for the Pastor. Jack, Jack, Jack you’re right! You are right. That’s just what happened. He did go to hell for us.

Almost the Lord’s last words on the Cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – that’s what it was about. He was lost so we could be found! He was forsaken so we could be embraced. He went as far away as possible in the spiritual realm so you and I could be brought near. He became the collective unworthiness and evil of all humanity so all of humanity could be holy and without blame in God’s presence!

Oh the Gospel – how sweet it truly is – once it’s understood. For just those few moments 8 youngsters ‘got it’ and were themselves awed by the knowledge.

Do you get it? God has Cross Purposes for you!

- Pastor Fred

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