for the Third Sunday after Epiphany
(Celebrating Australia Day)
|Text: Matthew 5:14,16
“You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”.
‘Harry’ Lasseter claimed to have discovered a fabulously rich gold bearing reef in 1897 near the Northern Territory and Western Australia border. In 1930 he formed an expedition to return to where he had found the gold but met with trouble from the beginning. Bad decisions by the leader, Fred Blakely,about which route to take, led them through difficult terrain. The slow progress meant they ran out of supplies so the main party decided to return to Alice Springs.
Lasseter and a camel driver Paul Johns continued. The camel driver returned with a note saying that Lasseter had found the reef. Lasseter waited for 2 weeks for the rest of the expedition to catch up but the base camp, now at Uluru, had been accidentally burned down and so main party returned to Alice Springs. When no-one came, Lasseter started the trip back. His camels bolted leaving him without food and so sheltered from the extreme mid-summer heat in a cave for a month. Lasseter then tried to walk the rest of way but died on about January 30th 1931.
Whether Lasseter’s reef of gold actually exists or not has been much debated. But his expedition to find it was one big disaster. Lasseter’s obsession about the gold and his decision to go on alone left him vulnerable and in danger especially in the outback in mid-summer.
As I look at Australia today I
wonder if we have become somewhat like Lasseter – obsessed – not about gold but
obsessed with ourselves, wealth, fun, earning, spending, protecting, keeping,
- making bad decisions that match our obsessions like – no-one else matters as long as I am fairly treated, or well compensated, or am having fun, or can exercise my rights, or possess what I want. The freedom and safety of the individual doesn’t matter as long as my need is being met. That might be a thug robbing a little old lady or a parent neurotically fearful of the dangers that might occur to their child. It might be said that it’s unfair to put a thug and a parent in the same sentence and that might be so but in reality they are both like Lasseter – obsessive about having their needs met and making decisions based on their obsession.
Do you wonder what our country
will be like in 25 or 50 or 100 years’ time?
What values and attitudes and morals will dominate the lives of people? We watch the news and we become concerned. Are we losing our way or have we lost it already? Most of the bad news on our TV news highlights some kind of obsession.
The need for speed ends up with a car wrapped around a tree and people killed and maimed.
The need for revenge, for pay back ends with a shooting, a stabbing.
The need to prove one person or group of people is more right or better than the other leads to racial violence, neighbourhood fights, family feuds, gang wars.
The need to claim the rights of the individual are greater than anyone else’s leads to one person killing another for no other reason other than that he/she wasn’t able to hand over the required amount of cash.
The need to prove that if you’ve got something that I want, then I have every right to take it from you.
Don’t get me wrong now. I’m not saying that this is happening every time we walk down the street but I am asking, “Are we a country becoming like Lasseter and his expedition and making so many bad decisions that we will end up with nothing but tragedy. Are we a country that has seen an increase in what I would call the evil side of humanity coming to the foreground in the everyday interaction between ordinary people compared to say 50 years ago?”
It can always be argued that this is happening everywhere and we can look elsewhere around the world and see the same or even worse things happening, but that is cold comfort really. Aussies have always prided themselves in their free and easy lifestyle, our freedom and safety, but when I hear people say they are too afraid to walk around their neighbourhood and parents afraid of allowing their children to play in their front yards, then things are changing.
Australia Day is about celebrating what is good about Australia and being an Australian and there is much to celebrate. Without a doubt, there isn’t a better place in the world to live. We enjoy the contrasting geography that Australia offers; it’s wildlife that amazes; its lifestyle, its freedom, the economy, the beautiful people. We enjoy peace, stable government, a fair system of justice, a steady economy and even though we complain about these often enough, when compared to many other places around the world, we are indeed blessed. We have sung songs this morning praising God for the many gifts that he has given us here in this country – in fact, far more than we have earned or deserved.
I’m not a pessimist when it comes to Australia and the potential and the future that this country has. I don’t want to diminish the goodness of God at all by adding a big BUT in my sermon today.
We have a beautiful country BUT it’s losing its way. Australians need Jesus Christ, preferably a personal faith in Jesus Christ and if not that, they need the influence of their fellow Australians who are Christians to set the tone and guide the nation when its leaders and citizens begin to adopt ways that do not respect the freedom and safety of the individual or protect those who don’t have a voice or ride roughshod over the people they have been elected to serve or ignore what are God's ways for the people he created.
St Paul wrote this to the Romans, “How can they call to God for help if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed?” (Romans 10:14). Let me repeat the second question Paul asked, “How can they believe if they have not heard the message”. When Paul speaks of “they” he means anyone who does not know what kind of God they have, or how he sent Jesus to be their Saviour, or God's willingness to help in times of need.
Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. … Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-14). Jesus is telling his followers how they can be a powerful influence for good in the darkness of the world that surrounds them, especially in the moral darkness in which people find themselves.
He is talking about people,
Australians, who don’t know God's ways – what it means to be guided in life’s
choices and decisions by the Holy Spirit and to choose a better way of living.
He is talking about making the love of Christ something that affects every single person whether it is directly through faith in Christ or indirectly through the faith of a friend or a family member.
He is talking about his disciples being a light; a positive and powerful influence and guide in the lives of those who like Lasseter are lost in the desert and are in danger of losing their lives because everyone else has deserted them or are indifferent to their safety.
Such a person could be
the neighbour in your street,
someone at work,
a parent of one of your child’s friends,
a grandchild who is curious about why you go to church,
a friend who is grieving or having a tough time.
Make no mistake about it; God gives us opportunities to show other people the greatest treasure that we can have in this world – Jesus. God opens windows of opportunity for us to help people in some small way find the true peace and the solid help that comes from knowing the Saviour we love who can also be their Saviour who loves them. Paul was pointing out the obvious when he said, “How can they believe if they have not heard the message?”
We are called to be the “the salt of the earth”, “the salt of Australia”. You know how salt works. It works quietly and unseen in a plate of food but it makes a difference. When food doesn’t have salt, you can taste it immediately. Jesus calls you and me ‘salt’ and by that he means as Australian Christians we are to make a difference in our country and to narrow this down he calls us to be salt in the community in which we live. Jesus says that if salt loses its saltiness then it’s not worth a cracker.
For salt to change things, for Australians Christian to change the culture in which we live then we need to get out there and let the love of Christ, the message of the Gospel, change people’s obsessions that lead to disaster, and guide them through soul destroying deserts. The salt of Christian witness, the light of Christ’s love that the Christian beams into the community does make a difference.
So how can we make a difference in the Australian community in which we live? Three quick tips.
1. To be able to tell others about the strength that God can give and the change that God's love brings into a person’s life then you have to first get to know what God promises in the Bible; let his love for you have a powerful effect on every aspect of your life. People will see something different about your life and you can help them through your first hand experiences with God.
The Bible says
that you are one of “God's own people,
chosen to proclaim the wonderful
acts of God” (1 Peter 2:9). There
is little point in saying that it’s someone else’s job to be light and salt to
the Australian community. Jesus
quite plainly says, “You are the light of the world”.
Let the Holy Spirit give you the mind of Jesus who loved the lost, the sinner, and the outcast,
and the love of the father who welcomed home the rebellious son.
Let the Holy Spirit help you to see that God loves every Australian and wants you to be part of passing on that love.
3. Pray for your country, its government, its people, and specifically for the people close to you who seem to be like Lasseter obsessed and lost and making bad choices and need God's help in their lives. Pray for them and let God use you to make a difference.
God, our God, take us and make us to be salt and light
so Australia is a nation changed by your love
and guided by your Spirit. Amen.
© Pastor Vince
27th January 2013