20 November 2019
There is an old story about a sea captain who was at the top of his profession. He had a reputation as one who could make excellent decisions in times of crisis. But people did notice that just before it was time to give his orders to the crew, he would go to his safe, pull out a slip of paper and read it. Then he went back to the bridge and made the right call. Naturally, curiosity was high. It was no surprise, that, when he died, one of the first things the crew did after his funeral service, was to gather and watch while the first mate opened the safe and pulled out the well worn slip of paper. He read it aloud:
Port left, Starboard right.
In difficult times, the captain knew to remind himself repeatedly of the basics.
The captainís little slip of paper held information that everyone already knows.
But it was his secret, the basic source of his ability to act. ["The Secrets We Keep," Alyce McKenzie, Faith Forward, 2012.]
If you think that is too basic. There would not be a ship breaking up on Astrolabe reef, or 32 people dead and a huge liner lying on its side in Italian waters if their captains had remembered the basics about keeping on course to reach their destinations.
"Have you not heard?" Comes thundering into the seemingly hopeless situation of a people in exile. They were danger of giving up, of forgetting whose they were, among the captivating proofs of the power of the Babylonian gods.
If this was a Tui sign it would say
The Babylonians God have power - Yeah right!
But in the poetry of Isaiah written in the cosmology of the times. Don't you remember WHO your God is! Don't you get it yet! Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Your God is the one who has the heavens, The heavenly bodies, stars and sun and moon which the Babylonians worship, your God made those. And those in power, they are in God's hands also. Don't you get it? This is The God who gives you the power to keep on the journey. This is your source. See the world in a different way, don't let your vision of God shrink to the Babylonian agenda.
Remember the basics. You are not there on your own. This God of the universe will give you strength,- notice that eagles don't frantically race round flap their wings to fly upwards, they stretch out their wings and rise on the warm air currents, - so it has nothing to do with how powerful you are, it is all to do with who God is.
Sheryl and Michael today we have asked you to tell and teach Theo to whom he belongs in the big picture and in the everyday way of how we live.
Jesus knew about focus as Mark points out.
Jesus had just called Simon and Andrew, James and John. And after preaching in the synagogues and demonstrating the good news in the kingdom of God people are healed and set free. We find him at Simonís place where Simonís mother-in-law is ill with a fever. Jesus raises her up to health. She gets up and goes about her daily work and we are told, serves them.
What Jesus had started gathered a life of its own.. People crowded around the house and in the evening, when the sabbath finished, a whole lot of sick people turned up for him to heal them. Wouldn't you have been there if you were ill, in those times with no antibiotics or our modern surgical skills?
Its an impossible task, no one can meet all needs. So Jesus goes to the wilderness and prays, back to who he is and whom he serves regaining strength and energy. He stayed on track. "Jesus didn't have the need to respond to every need, he couldn't - he had limitations. Jesus might have met the needs of one or two per cent of the needy in Palestine of the day. Coming to terms with our human limitations in time and space and energy is crucial if we are to survive in ministry, as a congregation and as individuals each called to our own tasks and Jesus was no exception. Jesus did not exercise his ministry on the basis of his need to be needed. When loving or ministries of caring become self investment then something is wrong. People can feel used and abused and often are. A range of things can happen when people engage in ministry - only some of them are life giving; some of them are life-sapping and based in self-investment," [Epiphany 5 Bill Loader] a need to please or a need to be liked.
Jesus did he could do as a bearer of the Spirit, nothing more. That is always enough Ė and never enough to meet all needs.
If we think we have to do everything we are refusing to see the immensity of human need. We shrink the task or our world to a manageable size, because we are afraid of not being in control.
Nathan I'm addressing this to you and this congregation. We have just read out a document which carefully outlines what your purpose in being here is and what it is not. Each person here has their task and if we donít stay on track - our God-given focus- we don't do what we are meant to do in the bigger picture. The immediate need always has the ability to pull us off course as the captain of the Concordia discovered.
Crowds often dictate agendas; success spawns its own rules. In Mark we see Jesus acting deliberately in ways which will maximise the impact of the good news.
In a congregation we are each responsible for carrying out our own commissions, whether it be through our workplaces with our neighbours and as part of this worshipping community but we are all serving the One who calls us to follow and be a sign of hope in the world.
Today we have given that most important commission, in faith, to little Theo, on his baptism, the one we all share with him as we try to follow Christ.
And coming out of your baptismal vows, Nathan, you at this time have a specific commission, This is your task at present , and you don't travel alone for this community is alongside you for this part of your journey.
Every one of us is invited to hear from whatever situation we are in at present that we are given what we need.
" The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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