Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I didn't even have to try...

Cross Purposes # 70

13 December 2006

I didn’t even have to try…

A bright young man of 13 years, with whom I am acquainted, attended a wedding recently at which he was totally surrounded by a host of his older cousins. Many of them he had not seen for ages.

What astounded him was their acceptance of him inside all their conversations, their willingness to listen to what he had to say, their freedom to encourage him. He felt ‘at home’. He felt as though he belonged. He made a comment to his mother afterwards that tugged at my heartstrings “… and I didn’t even have to try”.

Don’t you love that? I didn’t even have to try! How many times in my life have I been wondering, “Do I even belong here?”. How often, over many years, in so many places and ways have I agonised over whether ‘they’ will like me, accept me, reject me or hate me? It creates in me (in us?) a conviction that I have got to perform because I can’t live without acceptance. ‘I’ is ‘we’, and ‘me’ is us. We long to be ‘at home’, sense we are not, and live with uncertainty and insecurity because we’re not sure we’re adequate, not sure we’re up to what is expected.

I didn’t even have to try. You know when I said that myself? When, after years of trying to impress and improve, years of trying to establish credit points, (which always evaporated because of bad behaviour on the other side of the ledger), it finally got through my entrenched ideas that God loved me absolutely not because of me but because Jesus Christ fixed it for me. At 3.00pm on Good Friday God changed the rules. “It’s not about behaviour any more – it’s about how you receive my Son! He is my expression of love for you. You don’t have to do anything to qualify!” As Paul wrote: “By grace you have been saved… and this is not your own doing… it isn’t something you have to earn… so there is nothing for you to brag about”.

I didn’t even have to try. God found me and had it all fixed before I even know about it. That’s Christmas love. I / we belong. We are accepted… we have been saved. You don’t need to impress me, says God. I have called you by name. You are mine. In fact, I’ve engraved you on my hands!

The way the cousins of my 13 year old friend treated him was a beaut example of the gospel. You’ve got that family name? – “you belong!”

May you all know you’ve got that family name! Name? Davidson!

Have a merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Curse of HECS

Cross Purposes # 69

6th December 2006

Hi Guys. Fred here.

The Curse of HECS

In year 7, my first year of High School, I won a “bursary” – a sort of scholarship that paid my school fees until I finished year 12. After that I landed a Teacher’s Scholarship, from the Education Department in NSW, which paid my Uni fees and gave me a weekly living allowance. The Tasmanian Government then gave me a Scholarship to do my Dip Ed on graduate salary! And after having taught for a couple of years, the Lutheran Church never charged me a fee to study at the Seminary, and gave me a married student’s living allowance!

Yes, I was especially privileged. Most of my fellow Baby Boomers who went on to study at tertiary level were looked after like I was. All the State Governments issued Scholarships and there was also a Commonwealth Scholarship.

If I compare that to you younger people I am almost ashamed to admit my good fortune. One of my son’s in law is about to graduate from the NSW Police Academy – and he’s going to graduate with a HECS debt! All our kids have had to settle HECs debts as they began their working careers. I can readily identify with the sense of grievance that many young people have about this ‘user pays’ system.

I’m wondering about the impact its had on your hearts. Believe me when I say that Rosemarie and I graduated with a sense of duty and obligation to somehow work and contribute in a way that honoured the gift to us. We were blessed and so felt it was right to bless someone else in turn. I couldn’t say that everyone saw it like us but many did – and set out to be net contributors to society.

The younger generation? I wonder if the message has been that “the first person I have to look after is me. I’ve got this debt hanging around my neck and I want to be free from it”.

It’s easy to see how that huge policy change might have helped create a real selfishness in our society.

True or not? We can’t change the policy! Then again maybe we can, and should work toward changing it. In there, as well, I’d like to encourage you to think past resentment and unfairness, and resolve that your heart will be driven by generosity – as Jesus’ heart was driven by generosity. I challenge us all to be counter-cultural, to be ‘Kingdom of Jesus Christ people’. Let it be his flag that flies in our hearts and over our lives.

Coming Up
There’ll be one more Cross Purposes before Christmas and we’ll go into recess until mid January. Hope this has been helpful this year.

For those of you in Sydney, our Christmas Worship Times are as follows
Christmas Eve 6.30pm
Christmas Day 10.30am

All Welcome

And here’s a good story about Forrest Gump


The day finally arrived. Forrest Gump dies and goes to Heaven. He is at the Pearly Gates, met by St. Peter himself. However, the gates are closed, and Forrest approaches the gatekeeper. St. Peter said, "Well, Forrest, it is certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot about you. I must tell you, though, that the place is filling up fast, and we have been administering an entrance examination for everyone. The test is short, but you have to pass it before you can get into Heaven."

Forrest responds, "It sure is good to be here, St. Peter, sir. But nobody ever told me about any entrance exam. I sure hope that the test ain't too hard. Life was a big enough test as it was." St. Peter continued, "Yes, I know, Forrest, but the test is only three questions.

First: What two days of the week begin with the letter T? Second: How many seconds are there in a year? Third: What is God's first name?"

Forrest leaves to think the questions over. He returns the next day and sees St. Peter, who waves him up, and says, "Now that you have had a chance to think the questions over, tell me your answers."

Forrest replied, "Well, the first one -- which two days in the week begins with the letter "T"? Shucks, that one is easy. That would be Today and Tomorrow."

The Saint's eyes opened wide and he exclaimed, "Forrest, that is not what I was thinking, but you do have a point, and I guess I did not specify, so I will give you credit for that answer. How about the next one?" asked St. Peter.

"How many seconds in a year? Now that one is harder," replied Forrest, but I thunk and thunk about that, and I guess the only answer can be twelve."

Astounded, St. Peter said, "Twelve? Twelve? Forrest, how in Heaven's name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?"

Forrest replied, "Shucks, there's got to be twelve: January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd.... "

"Hold it," interrupts St. Peter. "I see where you are going with this, and I see your point, though that was not quite what I had in mind.....but I will have to give you credit for that one, too. Let us go on with the third and final question.

Can you tell me God's first name"?

"Sure," Forrest replied, "it's Andy."

"Andy?" exclaimed an exasperated and frustrated St Peter.

"Ok, I can understand how you came up with your answers to my first two questions, but just how in the world did you come up with the name Andy as the first name of God?"

"Shucks, that was the easiest one of all," Forrest replied. "I learnt it from the song, "ANDY WALKS WITH ME, ANDY TALKS WITH ME, ANDY TELLS ME I AM HIS OWN. . . "

St. Peter opened the Pearly Gates, and said: "Run Forrest, run."


Give me a sense of humor, Lord. Give me the ability to understand a clean joke, To get some humor out of life, And to pass it on to other folk.

And, Lord, let me eat a box of choc-o-lets just every once in a while, without regret.

Pastor Fred

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Ethics of Egg Throwing

Hi Guys. Hope you are well and enjoying the early summer.

Living in city / urban communities is accompanied by all sorts of challenges that are not necessarily present in smaller towns and villages.

My wife Rosemarie often has cause to cross Hyde Park at night. It’s well lit, but it does have some risks. Her strategy, as far as I’m aware, is to move quickly and, if possible, within range of other walkers.

As a regular exercise walker I’ve also discovered that there are ways of indicating to a woman who is walking on her own that you are safe. For example, if I’m approaching someone walking in the opposite direction I make a point of looking away and making space by moving sideways slightly. If I’m going in the same direction and need to overtake I try to indicate my presence with a cough or a scuffing of the shoe. And I also veer aside where that’s possible.

What I’ve not worked out is how to deal with people who get into my space but who become very threatening if they are approached in any way. It’s particularly young aggressive ego’s involved here, and sometimes wealthy and thoughtless egos.

A little while ago I was wakened at 1.30am by the thunder of deafeningly loud music and even louder voices talking over the top of the music. Since our street is well lit it was possible to see that it was a group of five or six young men, of non-European extraction, gathered around a car with its CDs on full volume. All had stubbies in hand. The attitude was clearly that if you don’t like what we’re doing you can get stuffed. I pondered, from my darkened house, what one should (or could) do. Approaching them was simply not an option. I haven’t the guts or the foolishness. One quickly becomes a target, along with one’s house if such egos are challenged. Calling the police wasn’t going to help either because that would only fuel the obvious aggression already fuelled by alcohol.

After about ten minutes, (and having forgotten to pray), I chose the egg option. Collected one from the pantry, eased open the front door unobserved, used an under-arm action not unlike that of Trevor Chappell, and lobbed the egg in their direction. I shut the door quickly so didn’t see what happened.

I heard though. Through the still open – but looking closed – front door there came loud exclamations accompanied by much swearing. At precisely that moment a lady just down the street appeared at her second floor balcony and demanded an end to the noise. They in turn raged about the egg, but knew it hadn’t been her. At least they did kill the music. But they stood looking upwards angrily – at the taller building behind ours, trying to locate the culprit.

You will understand that I wasn’t doing anything to declare my presence. But I was an interested observer as they glared over my head. I still hadn’t seen where the egg had landed but it was obvious they didn’t like the idea of being sitting ducks. They left a few minutes later. I went back to sleep. The next morning I wandered across the street to have a look. My aim had been poor. A cricket umpire would have ruled it a ‘no-ball’. In tennis terms it was a lob that landed just beyond the baseline. It had cleared the car by inches and smashed onto the footpath on the other side. I checked yesterday again. It’s still there.

The incident has also given me cause for thought. Such events often do. What would Jesus do? How would he respond to that sort of situation? Is there anything to know from or for Christian ethics? How do the defenseless, the fearful, and the outnumbered, defend themselves? Was there another way one could have responded? Does “Blessed are the peacemakers” apply? Or perhaps, “As far as it depends on you be at peace with all men”?

I dunno myself. I’d be open to suggestions and responses.