Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CP 158 One story leads to another...

One story leads to another… CrossPurposes 158

The ladies are ‘verbalising dissatisfaction’ with the fridge in the church kitchen. The freezer compartment keeps frosting up. Rob looks at it, chuckles, and not concealing his merriment, says, “All you need to do is fasten the clip after you shut it!” Fred-of-the-smart-remarks chips in. “Ladies, I’m sure the reason he’s so aware that you need to latch the door is because he once forgot to latch the door of his delivery truck and half his load fell out.” Rob tells me I don’t know how close to the truth I am. There have been times when he didn’t secure the rear door properly and he did, or nearly did, lose stuff. Suddenly everybody has a story about other drivers who forgot to secure their doors and lost part of their load.

One had a contract for delivery of clean linen to hospitals and no longer had what he was supposed to have when he arrived. Another was to deliver a 44 gallon drum of specialised industrial oil. The poor man wasn’t even aware the drum had parted company with the truck on a roundabout. Yet another left his packs of insulation behind on the M5.

My own contribution happened when Rose and I were doing the 4WD bit on the Anne Beadall Highway through the sand dunes between Coober Pedy and the West Australian border. At one point I saw in the rear-vision that one of the side windows of the back compartment was open. We stopped to close it. 300km later we made camp for the night. I asked Rose to fetch the tent. It wasn’t there. I checked myself because I knew where I’d packed it in the morning. Not there. Click. Light dawned. It must have fallen out while the side window was flapping about. Slept out in the open that night.

The stories kept tumbling out. There was lots of laughter to accompany the tales. Everybody was interested. Story begets story. Memory triggers memory, which triggers memory, and community happens.

Something like that happened at an Alpha evening a while ago. We were talking about the circumstances in which we came to faith. Someone shared about a particular moment when the truth about Jesus became very personal. Among the listeners the gospel suddenly moved from being about Jesus Christ to knowing Jesus Christ. Someone else shared about the time Jesus became ‘real’ for her. Then another. And another. It was amazing how one story unearthed the next. Those present heard their Christian brothers and sisters speak of the Lord’s call and their subsequent journeys in ways they never heard before. Memory triggered memory, story led to story, community happened. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit became a felt thing among us. Everyone was encouraged.

Telling the story of our walk is good. More than that, it is necessary. In telling our own story we also confess the Lordship of the Lord of the story. In being free to share with fellow believers we find our voice for confessing Jesus Christ to non-believers. It’s called testimony!

Go check that word ‘testimony’ in a good concordance. It’s amazing how often the Word and testimony are linked. John, the author of Revelation, was banished to the island of Patmos ‘because of the word and the testimony’. (Rev 1:9)

For me, even though the gospel is always the unchangeable gospel, I find it much easier to listen to the preachers/speakers when I am given a sense of where they themselves are in the bigger story.

So lets keep calling each other to tell the story.

Be blessed this week. Fred

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"Nasty, brutish and short." CP 157

“Nasty, brutish and short?” You need Christmas. You need a Messiah!

Our political leaders are not always wise. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they even say things that many would consider wise. Then again, the political process seems to demand that ‘the other side’ treat opposite contributions with scorn and disdain. In the depths of your spirit have you ever felt that you have heard the cry of the population for statesman-like leadership?

Every now and then circumstances demand that a truce be called. It was during one such truce recently that Tony Abbott, the leader of Her Majesty’s Federal Opposition, said something that grabbed my attention. Actually it was a quotation he used, and the occasion was the Police Service Medal awards. (SMH 20/09/2011) In his speech, after that of the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott underscored the value of the Police Service by quoting Thomas Hobbes, the English political philosopher who died in 1679. According to Hobbes, man, left to his natural state, was doomed to a life that was “nasty, brutish and short”.

Hobbes wasn’t particularly complimentary about the human race, was he? Left to ourselves, life will be nasty, brutish and short? I doubt, with views like that, that he would be the darling of the modern humanists. The statement is so at odds with most contemporary thinking, and I guess that’s why it caught my eye.

How do you and I think of ‘man in his natural state’? I kept the article and a month or so later happened to be reading 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Here it is.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having the form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Well Paul’s not flattering anybody either. Then again, he knew himself to be the chief of sinners because of his persecution of the followers of Jesus, especially his ‘consent’ to the stoning of Stephen. On top of that, he became acutely aware of his own insufferable self-righteousness. When ‘he came to his senses’, he produced that remarkable summary statement about himself, in his natural state: “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh.” (Romans 7:18 RSV)

Is this me? Is this you? The ancients called this truth about humans, “Original Sin”. That is most assuredly an unfashionable idea. I went back to the Augsburg Confession on Original Sin and found the following;

“Our churches also teach that since the fall of Adam all men who are propagated according to nature are born in sin. That is to say, they are without fear of God, are without trust in God, and are concupiscent.” CA 11. (Check your dictionary for concupiscent!)

My guess is that most former Christians are not disposed to think of themselves in the natural state, (ie, without Jesus Christ,) with such shocking honesty. But you and I will only comprehend our need for a Messiah if we get real with ourselves like Paul did. Just take in what he wrote to those Christians in Ephesus:

In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from God’s people… and you did not know the promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. (Eph 2:12)

One thing I’ve come to believe. I can teach Original Sin as doctrine, and as a Pastor I do. In the end, however, it has to be taught by the Spirit into our hearts. When the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is in the equation we will arrive at that conclusion on the inside. Why is that important? Our freedom and joy to ‘know’ Jesus and the Heavenly Father, to know the full meaning of Christmas, the full meaning of the Cross and the joy of forgiveness it delivers, is dead-set linked to our awareness of who we are in our natural state.

So there. If the Holy Spirit starts stirring the pot about your heart don’t fight him. Welcome him and his work. It’s for your good and your joy.

Be blessed, the Father loves you.