Sermon, Australia Day 2014.
Aussies and God
Deuteronomy 28:1-9 (NIV)28 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.9 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.
Strange things happen when you travel overseas. Things catch you by surprise. I remember coming back from a trip once. We entered Australia through Sydney airport. I think I had been away from home for over 2 weeks. So, I was really looking forward to getting back to Adelaide to see the family.
But the thing that took me by surprise was what triggered and overwhelming sense that I was “home” – back in my homeland where I belong. It was the Aussie female voice on the airport PA system! That Aussie accent sent my heart the message that I was home and I was still Australian.
NOT A BAD PLACE
The other thing that has usually struck me about our home country in here in Australia when I have returned from the sights and sounds of other places around the world is that we truly are the “Lucky Country”. Here, you usually;
You don’t have to line up and then pay money to go to the toilet in our cities.
There are very few street beggars on our cities.
I don’t see too many rows of make-shift cardboard boxes that homeless people end up living in along our city railway lines.
You usually get a fair days pay for a fair day’s work here.
If you are struggling to find paid work, there are options. There is a good safety net.
If you get really crook or have to cope with some rare disease, there is help and a lot of it.
You usually have a choice as to where you live – high population or low population areas.
There is just space. Still wild and relatively untouched beaches, golden paddocks stretching to horizon, dense rainforest, snow capped mountains, that beautiful ochre desert and so it goes……
LUCKY BUT NOT PERFECT Of course, that is not saying this Lucky Country is a perfect country. How could that be? No country can ever be perfect because all of creation is broken, including all of its people. So, we have our signs of brokenness – poverty, racial tension, godless pursuit of self, many injustices, homelessness, loneliness, violence and the rest.
And in general, Aussie and God aren’t getting on that well. For many Aussies, the relationship with God is very broken or silent or indifferent. But for others, the relationship is doing well – because of God’s great commitment and kindness!
But, on Australia Day, the good and right thing to do as God’s loved people is to acknowledge him as the giver of all the good things we share in this country and re-commit ourselves to working together in his mission to draw men and women, girls and boys into his grace and love for them.
MOSES CALLS THE PEOPLE
This is what Moses is doing among the travel weary people of God as they can see the homecoming to their new land, promised by God ages ago, now just up ahead.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses lays out God’s gifts and intentions for his people in their new homeland. The community has been through a lot. They have been without a permanent home for a generation. Since leaving Egypt however, their home has been not in human-made towns and cities, but in God’s holy presence together. Their gathering in his tabernacle to receive his blessing and respond with their praying and seeking the Lord’s help and blessing on their journey have come to this moment when the new home is right across the Jordan River they now see.
Through Moses, the Lord opens up his treasure chest of promise for his people. He pours out his love and affection for them by outlining the details of what he is now giving them in their new country:
BLESSINGS FROM HEAVEN
Most importantly – his blessing His life in their. His presence with and in them.
A great name among other people’s. A great reputation and a name that causes other peoples to marvel and even give thanks to God for these privileged people!
All the signs of full life – pregnancy, babies, children, family, bumper crops, sweet vintages, lambs and calves and stock to live on, full silos, full cattle yards, sheep pens, trucks loaded with premium grade fruit, fat peaches and Australia Hard Wheat!…….
Continual blessing and life – without ceasing and to be trusted and relied upon by the people.
Protection from violence and bloodshed, racial and ethnic war. Power to protect themselves and maintain their homeland.
And the best of all – holiness – a community living in the very presence f the creator of all things – at peace with him and each other – a people who can have their guilt removed, wrongs forgiven and brokenness healed daily as they live in the holy presence of the Holy One who loves them….and all this not only for themselves and their own country, but so that that be bringers of God’s life and blessing to all other countries and people.
What a huge outpouring of gifts by the Lord to his people as they ponder their homeland to be!
GIFTS FOR TODAY
Friends, God pours out his gifts on us again today. We are his people, the people whom he loves and this is our place and we are not here for ourselves, like the Old Testament community was not only there for themselves – but to God’s blessing to a world in need.
As the Lord reminds us of our place, our people and his promises, we ponder our homeland, Australia, Barossa and St Petri today and we are overwhelmed by the good gifts of God give to us in this magnificent land, its history, its people, indigenous and non-indigenous, its colour, it heat, its dust, its sea-breezes, its farmland, its cities, its political legal and business system – non perfect but functioning pretty well most of the time.
I have the words of 1 Samuel 7 still ringing in my ears that came to the gathering of the Redeemer School staff retreat day at Ebenezer last Monday. As we sat and pondered our surrounding in that beautiful little church building, we wondered why the place got names “Ebenezer’. So we looked it up and came to 2 Samuel 7 where Samuel the prophet, in an act of relief and thanks to the Lord, sets up a stone altar and names it “Ebenezer” as the bloody violence of the neighbouring Philistines is averted by the Lord and the people are protected and freed to continue living in their homeland. Samuel calls the home place, “Ebenezer” because, “So far, the Lord has helped us”.
Those who gathered to dedicate this site for the worship of the Lord were expressing the same trust in the Lord when they etched the words of Haggai the prophet in the foundations of the original church building, “And in this place I will grant peace’, declares the Lord (Haggai 2:9(10).
Ten days after my day of birth in far away Western Australia, those who gathered to dedicate this building did so with the words, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11), confessing the reality that we as God’s community in this country and this place stand or fall only on the person and work and word of Jesus. He is our foundation for church, work, marriage, family, study, work and life.
So, the Lord pours out his gifts on us today and we are glad. We are Australian and we love our country. We live here. We work here. We grow up here. We die here – all in the Lord of life.
And there is one last thing to say. All this is matched together with something else. Something that requires decision and commitment on our behalf – all in response to the great gifts of home and country and place and community that God freely gives…
“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will…….
We are involved in this relationship with our God and he requires is to respond to his gifts and love so that we live in love and in the fullest possible way he freely offers daily. As he pours out his gifts on us daily, he also calls us to live in thanks and love toward him as we work, study, relate, and live this life he has given us in our home place.
Australia Day for Christian is a day to give thanks to God (not ourselves or anyone else primarily) for all the good oil and full-fruit we share in this country. And it is a day to make a commitment to serve the Lord and love him with all of our heart, mind, body, soul and strength in whatever this year will bring – be it fulfilling your vocation to be a full time student at primary school or high school or University, a taxi driver, butcher, candlestick maker, parent, child, grandparent, friend, and fellow saint on the journey of faith in our place. That is our true “Aussie Response to God”.
9 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him.
As we keep the Lord’s word, seek him first, trust him for our life and our country he will continue to establish us as his holy loved community living in his immeasurable grace and blessing day by day until the final day when all things will be fulfilled in Christ.
Thank God for Australia and for our place here. Amen.
Share the top the things you love about Australia and/or being Australian.
Share how God has blessed you lately…
In Deuteronomy God pours out all those gifts. Read the text and name all the gifts that God gives as the people have the task of entering and living in their new country…
How has God given these gifts to you and to us as a congregation. Share your thoughts….
The giving of these gifts is also a clear call to use them with God’s purposes and intention. What is God’s purpose in giving these gifts to his people as they enter their new land? (Search the text and share your thoughts…)
We are called as people and as a church community to love the Lord. It seems here that loving the Lord means giving thanks and working with him in his mission to bless the whole world. How are your serving the Lord and loving him this year and how has he and might he still use you to be a blessing to others? Share your stories about this and your thoughts on the year ahead.
For all your good gifts to us, O Lord, we give you thanks and commit our lives to loving and serving you as we love and serve others this year. Amen.