The following message has been taken from Bishop David’s opening address at the recent District Convention of Synod, held in Tanunda on the weekend of May 15-16, 2021.
Two weekends ago some of us here today walked through the Barossa Valley as part of Walk My Way – 670 Christians walking 26km together in faith and in love for God and for the vulnerable children of the world. Persevering in the hope of reaching our destination and goal together, leaving no one behind.
I thought of “Synod” which means “walking together” – in the same faith and in God’s love for all his children. Persevering together in the common hope of reaching his promised destination, the goal of our faith, and not wanting to leave anyone behind.
Our theme as we come together is “The hope we have” (I Peter 3:15), and chapter 1 introduces the hope we have been given to live with.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
This letter was written to scattered Christians just like us – from Ceduna to “the Mount”, to the communities in the Centre and all the way to Darwin. Christians who feel like strangers in their own country – ignored and regarded as irrelevant at best, silenced and persecuted at worst.
“Is it worth putting up with?” they wondered. Peter reminds them and us that we have been born again in baptism to live with hope, a “living hope” through the resurrection of Jesus, hope we walk with, breathe in from our living Jesus and his Spirit, and breathe out to the world.
My dad used to say “Where there is life there is hope” (usually at ¾ time when the Maggies were behind at Alberton). I didn’t believe him then, but now he is 89 and into “time-on” in his life. “Where there is life there is hope”. I believe him now because we share the same faith and hope in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Where the life of the risen Jesus is there is always hope! And where hope in Jesus is present there is always life, even in the face of death.
Normally we receive an inheritance when someone dies and it is of no use to us when we die. Peter says we have been born again into an inheritance to look forward to – “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you”. An inheritance that blesses us now and when we die all because Jesus died and rose again.
I hear that Bill Gates’ children are not going to inherit $130b one day. Neither are my children. Bill’s children will reportedly only have $10m that they will have to make do on.
As God’s born again, baptised children we stand to inherit everything our heavenly Father has to give. Jesus said it is our Father’s will and pleasure to give us the kingdom!
Not only is this inheritance kept secure in heaven for you, Peter adds that you personally are kept safe and secure with, and in God too.
And even more, Peter says we don’t just stand to inherit it in the end, we have been born again in baptism to live in it already now, and one, day we will see it with our own eyes. We get to begin to enjoy life in his Kingdom now even as we live with its ultimate hope.
We may be uncertain about the near future but we are “dead and resurrection” certain about our eternal future, and that makes all the difference to how we live in the church and in the world right now. How we face small and big trials, how we live in a world of COVID and cancer and offer hope to a world that sees euthanasia as giving ultimate hope. (Yes I heard that).
God promises that living in Easter hope we can live through anything now, and this passage reminds us that is highly likely will have to. “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”
They are not a sign of God’s rejection but the opportunity for faith to shine like gold even if we are no longer young and shiny ourselves any more.
- Hope that keeps us from being crushed, overwhelmed and despairing of life
- Hope that enables us to push through and live through whatever happens in church or personal lives
- Hope that enables us to face the agenda in front of us today and in front of the LCA tomorrow.
- Hope that holds to what God promises, not what we might want.
- Hope that doesn’t give up on anyone in this world because God doesn’t
Don’t take that hope we walk together with for granted.
I heard the word “Jesus” on ABC radio while driving to Waikerie two weeks ago. Sadly it was an interview with a woman who had left the Christian church. She felt that her experience of church had been one of legalism. She said that when she left the church she felt she “got her life back”. A little later in the interview she said she was “still working on how to die in peace.” She told of standing beside her faithful Anglican father ‘s bedside as he lay dying in the peace of his faith. She said “I wanted to tell him as he died it was going to be OK – but I couldn’t”.
What she can’t do you can – and that is to tell people who don’t know how to die and who want to determine when they die, and who want to die in peace that everything can be ok in the end.
What she has given up you still hold to. It’s not wishful thinking.
It’s Easter thinking, Easter faith.
- It’s the hope we are born again to live with
- It’s the hope we are called to share with everyone
- It’s the hope we will one day die in
- It’s the hope we will one day enter and enjoy fully forever
All because of the risen life of Jesus, the life we now share in with him and the hope we have because of him.
At the LWSA Convention I heard about a 96 year old member of the church talking to a 6 year old about what dying is to her. She said “When we were born God took a giant breath and breathed it into you”. “When you die God takes your breath away… “
Our faith says that one day God will take your breath away – physically, spiritually and in wonder, as you will finally see and enter what we have believed in, hoped for, and kept living with together all along. Meeting Jesus, a new body, reunion with all God’s people, a forever life in a place we can hardly imagine, with no tear in sight.
Can you imagine the angels in heaven in charge of “contact tracing”? As each Christian enters glory they trace their contacts. Who were the people this new arrival caught faith from? Their parents? A friend? A pastor or teacher? A Christian in a hospital bed or their visitor? Or from a 96 year old explaining death to her great grandchild? Or maybe they caught faith and its hope from you, as you breathed in and out the hope you have been given io live with by your living Lord, and when given the opportunity you named Jesus as the reason for “the hope we have”.
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