Stand up and be counted
On Friday night I had a thought about getting ready for my next service, and decided I needed to look into it, thinking it was a little way off I asked Alan, who was standing up to see if I had marked it on the calendar by him. No it wasn’t there nor on the one in the passage. I had some idea it was the 11th and so I looked at the readings for July and August - none rang a bell. However as I checked the dates for the Sunday the 11th I realised it was this very Sunday. Where had all that time gone and how was I going to come up with something for today? Poor Avis - no hymns as yet. Well God is good and he set me forth on a pathway that I am to walk today so here we go....
In reading the papers and watching the news I find myself struggling with all that is going on around me. So much hate, so much violence in families and communities and so great a determination to deny the Christian Faith and the existence of a mighty God. So what becomes important, do we bury our heads and hope all these horrible things will go away if we refuse to acknowledge them. Well they won’t! Ever remember a time when you tried to pull the blankets over your head hoping that you wouldn’t have to go to school or the dentist, or face that bully down the road? Your mother would come in and pull the covers back with an encouraging word that all would well once we had faced our demon for the day. Hiding didn’t do any good then and it won’t change anything now!
Stand up and be counted. Yes you are one of us, you have heard the call of God, you have accepted Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be your guides and mentors. You are a chosen one of all the people here on this earth and you should be encouraged by that fact, not discouraged by all you see around you. Look beyond the square or circle of your life. Be challenged and stand up. Throughout history so many men and women have left their mark on the world by daring to stand up in the face of what seems like the highest mountain or is it just a mole hill that has gotten out of proportion. We know it is not a mole hill but if we keep plugging away we will be able to shift that thing, one spade full at a time.
Who inspired you with their story?
May be it was someone in a fairy story, but fairy stories have for most part a moral and a happy ending. Was it a hero from the bible, one of the men or women that stood out for their deed or action and believe it there were plenty of men and women who played huge roles in the divine drama that is the history of God and creation. Maybe it was someone who stood out as a hero in history, someone whose courage and determination lead to making great changes in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. People who had faith that there was a better existence for us by them exploring in science and medicine, by spreading the word of the Gospel, by standing up and being counted for what they believed in as basic human rights.
I have so many heroes and heroines it is hard to choose any particular one, and yet Jesus was and still is the top of my list. Once I began hearing of this man I was hooked. He became my friend, not an imaginary friend but one who lived on eternally, and while he cannot be seen, he can be relied upon when I remember to invite him to enter into my day. And that is the amazing and wonderful thing, I may get tied up with daily living and not call on him but like any true friend he is there, Just waiting for me to call and invite him to visit, just like any friend I have today or have had in the past. Just a thought away! Without realising I find myself wondering about what is going on in the life of one of those people and while I don’t always rush out or call to see how they are, by passing in my mind I will flick off a quick prayer for their health and well being. With Jesus it easy to blink and loose count of the times that I have called on him in a day, but it is as easy as breathing. A few of us have been going to the revised Alpha course and at the end of each session we get asked what we think and if we agree or not with the subject matter, it is casual and there is no pressure yet I feel the impact of things I don’t remember, rather than recalling what I do. What I do know is that I feel I am revisiting an old friend and recalling what we have done together in the past, the companionship in the knowing, the tacit agreement I have with the Trinity, that I am a part of it all, just as you are. We are not privy to your relationship, yet you have one, what you receive will be aimed at your needs from that relationship as you have your own covenant with them. It is in effect an employment agreement designed just for you and you alone can honour the terms of the contract or revise them as your circumstances change, you may need sick leave so to speak, where you need time to repair the damage the world has done to your soul or you have strayed from your chosen path. You may want to negotiate a bit more help or a reward. However you work with your faith and your faith works for you is between you. That is why it is your faith journey. But every journey starts with the first step, and if we choose to be a follower then we need to follow.
There are rules in play in every aspect of a journey to see it to a safe conclusion. To do that one must start out prepared, and if we are choosing to go out in faith we need to know what our faith is about. And faith needs to be positive, it needs to be studied and revised and have plans for all events, a band aid for a scratch, a crutch or sling for a broken bone, a salve for a broken heart and a tonic for a pick me up. Hard to believe that all that comes in one smallish package - the words from the pages of your bible; where ever and whenever you are in need of first aid it is right there waiting for you and you will be guided to find the comfort that you need. And what about all the things that are disturb us yesterday, today and no doubt will tomorrow. We have been given notice that these things will come, so face them head on, deal with what you can and leave the rest to God. He will be the ultimate judge but we can intercede on his behalf. In the face of the terror attacks going on around the world, people are standing up, they are putting other people first, they are being good Samaritans, they are not crossing the road but moving towards the problem. That is the key, they are moving towards a problem. In a day and age when the catch word seems to be “mind your own business” some of us are putting ourselves out there and confronting the issues of the day. We don’t need to risk being hurt, or worse but we can speak out, as a society where people go it is my right to do this or that, it does not give them carte Blanche to do as they please without respecting the rights of others.
Everyone has rights; some just see their rights in a different light to what it really is. No one has the right to threaten or harm others and yet they are the very ones who quote their rights when they behave in an antisocial way. And if we are not prepared to speak up then we are condoning their behaviour. It is in knowing when to speak out and when to remain silent that the balance of right and wrong is not addressed. Yes we have got very precious about what one can and cannot do. And while those who speak out do not always achieve the right outcome it is their very loudness that makes them heard. When Jesus was tried before going to the cross, the loudest were the ones that were heard because they were saying what people wanted to hear, when people were given the chance to speak in favour of Jesus no one wanted to speak up, rather taking the path of denial. Well denial is what allows a violent minority find strength to carry out their atrocities. How often have we heard lately that people have been on a watch list of suspected terrorist actions and not held to account for their behaviour until after the fact, when all is too late to prevent a disaster happening. Just as we look away when we see something that should be addressed. Why do we look away? For fear of being told to mind our own business! If people had spoken up when they noticed that things were not right in some relationships, some people may not have lost their lives. Children who were manhandled and died due to family violence may still be alive if someone had had the courage to offer help or advice to a parent or family member.
They are big issues for sure, but even reminding people to be considerate of others or respectful of the needs for others we are often given a mouth full of abuse and made to feel as if we are in the wrong. Well I think that the time is long past when we should have started being brave and standing up for what we believe. Don’t meet aggression with aggression rather try to avert the confrontation by putting a bit of humour into the situation or lightness into your words so that no offence can be taken and wherever possible loud enough for others to hear. Listening to the saga of he said this and he said that in the case of President and the FBI my advice to anyone is don’t put yourself in a position where you are ever alone with anyone who can manipulate or put words out of context.
When I got to here I wondered how to round off my thoughts for today, I covered my eyes and left it to God to come up with a solution and the words that sprang to mind came from the song by Fred Kaan..
Put peace into each other's hands
and like a treasure hold it;
protect it like a candle flame,
with tenderness enfold it.
Put peace into each other's hands
with loving expectation;
be gentle in your words and ways,
in touch with God's creation.
Put peace into each other's hands,
like bread we break for sharing;
look people warmly in the eye:
our life is meant for caring.
Put Christ into each other's hands,
he is love's deepest measure;
in love make peace, give peace a chance
and share it like a treasure.
May God grant us the wisdom and understanding to take heart from this morning’s message; Amen.