|Text: Deuteronomy 28:3-6
Obey the Lord your God and all these blessings will be yours: "The Lord will bless your towns and your fields. The Lord will bless you with many children, with abundant crops, and with many cattle and sheep. "The Lord will bless your grain crops and the food you prepare from them. "The Lord will bless everything you do.
In the mid 60s, Donald Horne, a commentator on Australian society, once described Australia as "The Lucky Country". I have heard people again and again express the same sentiments. Itís true Australian society has seen a good deal of change since the mid sixties, but in spite of that change I think you would all agree that we are indeed living in a country that has been truly blessed by God. (I donít like using that word "lucky" because it implies that things happen by chance, through a stroke of good fortune. From a Christian perspective the way Australian society is, is not a matter of chance, but a part of our heavenly Fatherís plan). Today as we celebrate the centenary of Australia as a nation, one hundred years since the six separate states joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia, we are reminded that the country in which we live has not been formed by chance, but is the result of the hand of a loving God that has been raised in blessing over this land.
Some of you have travelled the length and breadth of our country; in fact there are some of our members who are doing that right now. I have spoken to visitors from overseas who have travelled across Australia far more extensively than I have. Everyone says with one accord that we live in a beautiful country. God has blessed us with a country of contrasts. There is the hot and dry desert regions which have a beauty of their own, but when rain comes that desert becomes a spectacular display of wildflowers and wild life that would have been thought impossible in such dry and desolate places.
Look at our beaches, rich farm land, mountains, rivers, the outback, even our cities which donít suffer from the fear, the crime, the smog, the filth, the unemployment, the homelessness, to the same degree that are often seen in other big cities in other places around the world. We have never had to worry about famine, and starvation. God has indeed given us a wonderful place to call "home".
From itís very beginning Australia has been a multicultural nation. It was multicultural before the word "multicultural" was even invented. The first settlers, then the Gold Rush brought people from all over the place -- England, Ireland, Germany, America, China, Italy, and lets not forget the original owners of this land, the aboriginals. And over the years, many people from many different cultural backgrounds have come to Australia. We have done pretty well I think in being a "multicultural" nation.
There is a shameful blot on our history. History tells us that in some places the early settlers were determined to wipe out the aboriginal people, in fact at one time this was government policy. But these days any tensions between people of different cultural backgrounds are mild compared to some places around the world where racial conflict has continued over many generations. Children are taught to hate certain people who are culturally, ethnically or religiously different. God has indeed blessed our country and preserved it from cultural and racial conflict and made us the richer for having people from so many different backgrounds make up the Australian nation.
Through the guiding of God, the Australian constitution was
drawn up to ensure our freedom. Freedom of worshipping in the way we like,
freedom of speech,
freedom to travel where we like,
freedom to work and to enjoy our leisure time,
the freedom to work and take up whatever career we choose,
freedom to vote for the political leadership of our country.
We take this freedom so much for granted. We donít even give it a second thought most of the time, until we see on our TVs the lack of freedom that other people around the world have. We have seen the lack of freedom women have in some countries, the oppression of political dictators and cruel and unjust governments. God has preserved us from all of this.
Apart from the bombing of Darwin during the Second World War, Australia has never seen war on its soil. The transition from 6 separate states to a federation in 1902 took place peacefully through the vote of the people. We have never experienced civil war. Apart from the mistaken need to kill aboriginals in our early history, we have never seen one Australian take up arms in war against another. There are not many nations in the world that can make this claim. God has provided us with a land of peace.
Itís no wonder that some have called this "the lucky country". Itís easy to point to the pioneers, the explorers of our vast country, the early settlers who endured all kinds of hardships, the wise statesmen who ensured that the constitution and the laws of our country preserve Australiaís freedom and peace. Itís easy to say we are indeed "lucky" that such a rich supply of people have made Australia into what it is today. But as I said before, this had nothing to do with luck. God has provided us with these people, he has guided them and they have listened. They may not have been aware of God's guidance, they may have even denied God's existence, but that hasnít stopped God's blessing being poured out richly on this nation and its people.
Itís interesting that a text from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy was chosen for today. Deuteronomy has a strong emphasis on the idea that the Promised Land was a gift from God to the people of Israel. It was totally undeserved and unearned. Like all gifts from God, the land was free, received purely through the mercy of God. We know from Bible history that the people of Israel were anything but good and righteous people. Yet God gave them "a land flowing with milk and honey".
I think you can see quite easily that we havenít done anything to deserve this land of ours. No one could say with any amount of imagination that we have been such good people here in Australia and thatís the reason why we have been so richly blessed. Neither can we just say that it just our good fortune; that it was just good luck that we were born here in Australia.
The book of Deuteronomy got it right Ė this land in which we
live is a gift from God, an undeserved
gift at that.
He is the creator of its beauty, the good soil, the variety of crops.
He is the builder of a nation with so many cultures.
He is the one who has given us peace, and freedom.
He is the giver of government that is fair, stable and provides protection.
There can be no doubt about it. We have experienced the goodness and grace of God.
The book of Deuteronomy is quick to point out that God wasnít stingy with his gifts. Just as he was lavish in giving the people of Israel a rich land, that was fertile and productive, he has also given us a land that not only provides for our basic needs but goes well beyond that, giving us more than we need.
The Old Testament people were also reminded that because God had
been so good to them, they should always remember the Creator and Provider. This
year as we celebrate the centenary of Federation we are constantly reminded that
Australia is what it is because of the hand of blessing that God has held over
it. We should remember to thank our God for all that he provides for us daily.
We should remember to thank him for everything that we take for granted.
We should thank him for the abundance that he gives. He doesnít just give us enough to get by but provides enough for us to share with those places where people do not have what we have here in Australia. It is our role as the people of God to constantly remind our fellow Australians where the riches of this country have come from. He has given us the responsibility to talk about the God who has been generous toward us.
We donít always understand why God should be so good and gracious toward a nation that is always trying to forget that God even exists. For that matter we donít really understand why God was so good to the people of Israel. The only thing we can say in response to this is Ė thank God for his grace. Thank God he doesnít give us what we deserve, but generously gives us more than we deserve. We know that to be the case with his Son, Jesus. We donít deserve his love that led him to his death on the cross for us, or his resurrection to give us eternal life. But thatís God. He is gracious toward us beyond measure.
And that provides me with my last point. Not only are we to point our fellow Australians to the Creator of this great south land, but to its Saviour.
It wasnít a mistake that the Christian Church, including this
congregation, has become an important part of this nation. It was God's plan
before time began that the Christians of this country keep pointing to the cross
and showing fellow Australians that their God loves them with a powerful,
that their God has died for them to set them free from the chains of their sinfulness and give them a new life. This is the special job that he has given you and me.
So many Australians are ignorant of their God and live as if this land is what it is because of human effort. There are so many who need to hear the good news about God's Son who richly blesses us with real peace and true freedom. The peace and freedom that we experience as citizens of Australia is nothing compared to the peace and freedom we experience as citizens of the Kingdom of God. This land is just our temporary home, and what a beaut temporary home this is. But one day we will enter our permanent and real home in heaven. If living in this country is so good, living in heaven will be "out of this world".
We have heard the president of the USA say so often these past weeks at the end of his speeches "God bless America". But God's blessings reach further than America. We have seen his hand of blessing over our nation. We need only take a moment and reflect on the generosity and grace of God in dealing with Australia. And as we take another glance at the cross, we too can say Ė "God bless Australia."
© Pastor Vince
21st October, 2001
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.