I asked a year 12 student recently what their plans were for next year when they finish High School. It was like I had asked them to prove the existence of God or to explain the meaning of life. They had that look in their eyes that screamed – I have no idea what I’m going to do. And that can be a daunting situation to face when you don’t know what the future might bring. It can also be the situation when you lose your job and you have no idea whether or not you’ll get another.
Facing the future with uncertainty can be quite frightening when you don’t know what the future is. What can also be frightening is when you edge closer to retirement. Sharon was quite shocked just recently when she realised I’m going to turn 60 next year. It seems such a large number and so near to retirement age. I reassured her that I’m not even 59 yet so let’s not panic just yet. But in reality it is an important transition and one that many of you have made already. There are so many variables to consider. Will I have enough to retire on? What will I do with all that spare time? And then comes the next transition in life. Do I stay in my home or move into a retirement village. Do I try to look after myself or do I move into aged care.
As Christians we also have a transition in regards to how we serve God. In our younger years we can be quite active in the church. But as we get older we tire out and look for someone to take over the leadership. As we retire from active duty in the church we might feel less appreciated. Or perhaps you are younger but have no spare time. Or you have spare time but have no idea what God wants you to do. In our 2nd reading today – St Paul answers all those questions about the future. Firstly he addresses the future for Christians so we don’t have to worry about our eternal future. You don’t have to worry whether you’ve done enough or whether you’ve led a good enough life when it comes to your eternal life. Paul says: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. And that also mirrors what Jesus said: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but receive eternal life. So if you’re worried about eternal life – don’t be.
Paul also addresses the issue of trying to work out what God wants us to do until then. Sometimes we can worry ourselves sick trying to find out where we fit in God’s overall plan for the world. Well, Paul says: we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. In other versions it says we are God’s handiwork or God’s masterpiece. We have all been created specially by God. God doesn’t make junk – God makes masterpieces. So no matter what you are doing – no matter what you or someone else thinks of you – God is seeing you as one of his grand designs – one of his masterpieces – just like an artist stands back and just stares in amazement at his masterpiece even if others don’t see what he sees. But it’s that last part that really interests me: We are created by God to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Did you hear that last bit – Which God prepared in advance for us to do? How much energy do we expend trying to find out what it is that God is wanting us to do that we don’t realise we are doing what God has planned for us to do. Whatever you are doing with your life, if you are doing it faithfully then it is a good work for God, even if it is undervalued by society. Maybe you don’t think or realise that you’re doing exactly what God is wanting you to be doing and therefore you don’t see your place in the tapestry of God’s bigger masterpiece that he is creating.
The Israelites were a classic example of people who couldn’t see past their own personal needs and missed the bigger picture of what God was creating with them. God was taking them to a new Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey; God was making them into a great nation but they grumble about the conditions they were under. Sometimes the road we journey is tough so we need to keep our eyes focused on where God is leading us rather than the road we are on full of pot holes and winding roads. Peter had that trouble too when Jesus said he must take the road of suffering and death but after 3 days rise from the dead. Peter said – NEVER. He only focused on the journey and not the destination. He focused on the journey – the suffering and dying and missed the destination – rising from the dead. So too were the Israelites:
The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Did you hear the irony there? They complained that there is no food and then in the same breath said we detest this miserable food. Which one is it – there is no food or the food is miserable. Because they didn’t get THEIR way they complained. They missed the fact that God was providing them with everything they needed because the conditions were not quite what they wanted. Maybe our lives are sometimes not exactly how we would have liked them to pan out. But we need to remember that we are on a journey. A journey to our Promised Land and as St Paul says – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. In other words, I consider that the journey that I am travelling is not worth comparing with the destination of heaven.
Our Lenten journey continues and it will journey through Maundy Thursday – the day Jesus was betrayed. It will continue through Good Friday when the valley of the shadow of death becomes a reality for Jesus. But it will end at the destination on Easter Sunday morning when Mary and 2 disciples go looking for the dead Jesus and are stunned to realise that he has risen. We too need to keep journeying through our Good Fridays – our Valleys of the Shadow of Death and remember that it’s not the journey that is important but the destination of Easter Sunday – resurrection morning.. And we remember that we were dead through our sins along the journey but now at our destination we are made alive together with Christ and that by grace we have been saved.