Think of a high, walled courtyard, in the hot summer. There is a stagnant, dead pool, unfit to drink. The place is paved with stone which burns the bare feet of the person thrust in through a door. Where they have come from, no one knows.
Amongst the machine-like garden of the courtyard are bizarre statues of meaningless violence. If a person comes too close, they come alive and maim or destroy them. Even if a person should escape the horrors of the place, they are suddenly taken to who knows where through another door. And leave no mark, no foot print... it is as though they never were.
Or, it might be... that life is like a water hole in a Kakadu gorge. Again, we are unsure why we are there, and from where we have come, or to where we go. But there are glimpses of reason around us, rather than walls. The beauty of the place is... alive.
As we wade through the pool perhaps we will cut our feet. The monstrous violence of a crocodile may even destroy us. But when we have gone, our footprints remain in the mud. The ripples of our walking spread out and lap against the shore and around the feet of others- just as their presence touched us. Nothing will ever be the same because we were there. There has been some purpose to it all
Curt named himself an atheist. Once, in popular terms, that meant he did not believe in God, and I as a Christian pastor did. The divide was clear. But the dividing walls between people have shifted.
Curt was born during the "War to end all Wars." Perhaps, like many men of his generation, he rejected the idea of an all powerful God of love who would allow that to happen, and then happen again as Norway was invaded in the second war.
In fact, many believers too, no longer find meaning in some of the traditional understandings of God either. They reject much which atheists reject and hold dear much atheists hold dear.
In this new and rapidly changing world, which is so often brutal and hostile and can seem so without meaning, there is a new division among people... a more fundamental division than the old barriers we drew up and live by. Some can only see the world as the unfeeling hostile courtyard, with little meaning. Others are blessed- I think it is a gift, to see that the world teems with life and purpose, and has some essential meaning, like the rock pool in Kakadu. How we see it will determine much about how we live.
Curt was creative. He was hospitable. Fifteen years ago I worked with him for only a few days. And yet his gentleness and generosity with me when I was at a dark time in life, meant I have often recalled him to mind. When I went to his house for the first time last Sunday, I was at home. This was not a man who had no hope in the world, or who found it an alien place. This was a man of the living world- a world which will always be different because he was here. He gave some of us our very life. And he changed many others of us.
At a time like this, a minister is required to preach the Gospel. I want to suggest to you that the gospel for today begins with Curt. In his life we can see the good news that life is not a harsh or alien existence like the courtyard with its dead pool. It is real life, full of richness. Look at the creativity and hospitality of the man. Feel the simple beauty and good spirit of his house, if you come there this afternoon. Life is good.
If we were to model our life on Curt's- reverencing creativity and beauty, and honouring loyalty and hard work, we would do quite well for ourselves. We would discover some of the richness and healing in life which he found and showed to us.
To be Christian means that I will not only remember what Curt, and other good men, have showed shown me. It means I will also seek to remember what Jesus has shown me. My experience is that modelling my life on his brings even more richness and healing in life.
As a Christian, I find something else. As my mentors, like Curt and others, have begun to die, and I as I get the kind of aches and pains that remind me it will happen to me too...
I find a kind of peace. An assurance that this life with all its struggle and pain really is worth living. Not only assurance, but experience. It is inexpressibly rich- now. And I find too, some peace about what may come. God and the universe are finally, after everything else, good. Whatever comes, whether it is for Curt, or for me, or for you, it is good. As the traditional words of scripture and church put it: we will not be left alone. Amen
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it;
God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1ff)
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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