Out of Place?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 02 December 2018.

FeathersAh, Ireland! The Emerald Isle, home to a well-loved accent, entertaining stories of leprechauns, the beauty of Celtic Christianity, and a monument to a tribe of American Indians.

Normally, a nation celebrates its home-grown heroes, or others who have played important roles in the establishment of the country. It may mark its gratitude to other nations or cities for help at critical times. But it is very odd indeed for a nation to memorialise a tiny people group from a different country, from a different continent...

Midway through last year, the ‘Kindred Spirits Monument’ was unveiled in the town of Midleton in County Cork. It honours a decision taken in 1847 by the Choctaw nation. Having heard of the Great Hunger, a famine in Ireland that stretched from 1845-49, they raised $170 to send in famine relief. They knew themselves what it meant to suffer, having been evicted from their ancestral lands in the previous decade at the cost of thousands of lives, and they felt sympathy for the suffering of the Irish poor.

It’s a beautiful story of human kindness, isn’t it? Something that has been honoured by the people of Ireland many times since, and for good reason. We can only admire the grace of those who are beggars themselves making it possible for beggars to find bread.

It was, of course, the Irishman C. S. Lewis who used that image to describe our task in evangelism. In sharing the gospel, we are showing a grace that can win the world’s admiration! It is not out of place to love others.

From the Garden

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 24 November 2018.

WeedsThough some members of my family will find that it exceeds their ability to imagine, I quite like weeding. It’s true, I don’t weed as much as I might, but it’s not from dislike of the task. It’s therapeutic, I think, in fact.

Many of the different tasks and responsibilities that we have are ongoing. We don’t get to take a breather from breathing. And as soon as you finish the washing up, you find the one item you missed seeing before you let the water out. Chores have a way of recurring with great regularity.

That’s why I like weeding. Once you take the weeds out, you’re left with a clean garden bed, or lawn that is composed only of grass. It’s a job that you can finish. Or at least it appears that way for a few days, until you see the weeds shamelessly growing back.

They always do. They’re a small but ever-present reminder that we live in a fallen world, where things don’t work the way they’re meant to. And they do their job well, mutely testifying to our sheer inability to fix even the smallest part of that curse we brought upon ourselves.

Right there in my garden is the proof that I can’t get back to the garden of Eden. Not with prodigious amounts of manual labour. Not with the best of modern technology. Not with the support of even the most dedicated weed-pullers the world has ever seen.

On our own, we’re stuck. But one day, in a garden, a man spoke to a woman. The first man stayed silent while the serpent did his work, but this man spoke, and revealed the fact of his resurrection. His father, the Gardener, was making all things new again, at last!

Paradise Lost

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 17 November 2018.

Paradise FireIt’s mid-November, and there are bushfires. If you’ve been paying attention, that shouldn’t come as a great surprise - it was only five years ago that the Blue Mountains went up in flames during October, and other fires burned all over the state. But what is unusual is that this time, the fire is on the wrong side of the equator, in California, only a few weeks before the start of winter.

Meanwhile, on the east coast, kids in the ‘Garden State’ of New Jersey slept at their school. The snow was so bad they couldn’t get home, and their parents couldn’t collect them. The worst snowstorm in 136 years.

‘Mother Nature’ can give mothers a bad name. We can understand the ups and downs of the weather, and live with the seasons, but still the extreme conditions, when they strike, take us unawares - and tragedy can result.

We’re right to expect better, because the Creator made the world to work better than this. The variety of summer and winter was meant to beautify the planet. Autumn’s leaves, spring’s blossoms... It could have been so good. Yet now we suffer the grinding of the gears as the broken world turns, and turns, year after year marred by human sin, and the loss of our paradise in Eden. The word ‘paradise’ has twisted for us; originally, the literal meaning was a walled precinct. And now we’re stranded on the outside.

But there is a narrow gate in, just the one way. We can shelter from the storm, and stand firm when the earth shakes. Paradise has been regained for us, and Jesus now holds the keys to let us in. We can go home, in the Garden City, or try to rebuild Paradise on our own - but only one of these will last.

The View From Above

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 11 November 2018.

RIckenbackerEddie Rickenbacker wasn’t going to miss this. The American fighter pilot ignored his orders, taxied his plane along the runway, and took off, flying over the battlefield at Verdun. He was fifteen minutes early, and able to watch the time tick by until the armistice arrived. And then, he wrote:

“I was the only audience for the greatest show ever presented. On both sides of no-man’s land, the trenches erupted. Brown-uniformed men poured out of the American trenches, gray-green uniforms out of the German. From my observer’s seat overhead, I watched them throw their helmets in the air, discard their guns, wave their hands. Then all up and down the front, the two groups of men began edging toward each other across no-man’s-land. Seconds before they had been willing to shoot each other; now they came forward. Hesitantly at first, then more quickly, each group approached the other.

Suddenly gray uniforms mixed with brown. I could see them hugging each other, dancing, jumping. Americans were passing out cigarettes and chocolate. I flew up to the French sector. There it was even more incredible. After four years of slaughter and hatred, they were not only hugging each other but kissing each other on both cheeks as well.

Star shells, rockets and flares began to go up, and I turned my ship toward the field. The war was over.”

Tragically, of course, there were other wars, and still are. Soon, we will celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. From his heavenly throne, he now looks down over his strife-torn earth, waiting for the moment that his return brings an end to all wars.

Come, O Lord.

Beginning of an Era

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 04 November 2018.

GloversToday is the final Sunday for Andrew and Liz Glover at St George’s in Gerringong, after almost twenty-one years of dedicated, self-giving service to the parish. Andrew was also the senior minister for St Peter’s when we were a branch church, overseeing the rebuilding of the church after it was destroyed by fire in his first week, and then encouraging and enabling the growth of our church to become its own parish.

Yesterday I was able to be at their farewell, and to hear what I already knew: that they are well loved, because they have loved well. There were memories shared, and much thanks to God for the last couple of decades.

The wisest thing said, I believe, came from Andrew’s assistant minister, Jon Clare. Having echoed the kind reflections of others, he declared his excitement for their new church. Everything that we’ll miss about Andrew and Liz will be a blessing for ICF - the International Christian Fellowship in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It’s not just the end of an era for Gerringong, but also the beginning of a new era in Phnom Penh. Once again, the Glovers will be giving of themselves to bring love and joy founded on the gospel into a new community. Just as they did for us, for more than a decade.

Just as Jesus has done, from all eternity.

We have much to be thankful for in the Glovers, but so many times more in our Lord. And we look forward to the beginning of that new era, when he comes in the fullness of his kingdom, and there are no more goodbyes to be said.

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