Monday, 13 July 2015

After the Funeral

We sit ensconced in patterned chairs and memories. My brother
decants port into the Waterford crystal
“Prost” he utters sadly, wearily, raising the glass aloft, we drink
a silent toast to life, wordless the others, wandering eyes too strained
for tears, each valiantly glances, turns away

She must be here, somewhere among her pretty things, the china cups
tipped just so, the books still scattered here and there, she’ll walk again
in through the double doors, trailing confidence and garden clippings
laughing with fearless smile under the scant bandana

My sister replaces her glass on the tray, dispassionately,
greedy eyes calculate its worth, manicured talons poised
on what they would claim, no sentiment here, just valuation
the hard-core worth of things, remind myself again
let it rest unspoken, this is not our day but hers, not
the time for fuss and recrimination

Hours enough for the sorting out, the packing and sharing
division of her life into string bags and plastic boxes
What to take away, what to leave behind, symbols
evaluation, compromise
Her spirit could never be contained, her love
unconquered, undivided, all she really leaves
and what we carry forth

The glass is cold in my palm, wine rolls like a last kiss
on my tongue, my mind, my body, body of her body, blood of her blood
a bittersweet swallowing, a sacrament, a final gesture.

I drain the wine.
Sunlight, captured in crystal, dances in raindrops
across the carpet, sparkling like mercury scattered
free and unfettered, tiny colours moving
and I see her again in memory through the open window
Among the flowers, breathing the scented air
Barefoot, dancing, her long hair flowing free.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The End is Near

“The End is Near” sounds like a catchphrase from a B grade movie, or the sort of thing you might see on sandwich boards, paraded in the street by “fanatics”.  Do those doomsdayers have a point?
I became a Christian in the 1970’s, at a time when the end of the world was a popular theme in Christian circles. We went to hear Stan Deyo, of “Cosmic Conspiracy” fame, speak in our city hall. Books such as Hal Lindsay’s “Late Great Planet Earth” were widely circulated amongst Christian youth. End times were a constant theme in preaching in the church which I attended (a large Pentecostal congregation here in Brisbane). I’m sure some people were frightened into committing their lives to Christ.

When considering the possibility of this world as we know it ending, we need to look at what the Bible says.

The Bible is not a work of fiction. The sixty-six books contained therein are written by a number of different authors, and comprise different genres, including poetry and parables, but it cannot be called a mere story book. We are told that scripture is the inspired word of God:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17

In addition, many of the historical events contained in the Bible can be accurately verified by independent sources such as historical records, archaeological digs and discoveries. We know what the Bible says about the past is true.

The Old Testament prophets predicted that a Messiah would come to this earth. They gave many indications about the Messiah – e.g. where He would come from, what would happen to Him. Jesus Christ fulfilled each and every prediction made about Him – over 350 predictions regarding His birth, ministry, death and resurrection, as recorded by the accounts of the apostles in the New Testament.

But what does the Bible say about the future?

Some of the Old Testament prophets including Ezekiel, Daniel and Zechariah not only foretold the coming of the Messiah, but of His triumphant return, the second coming, when He would claim His faithful followers who had not fallen away in times of great trial.

In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 24, Jesus outlines what will happen in this world in the future. There will be a time of great trials, of false prophets, of persecution of Christians, natural disasters and wars. Many Christians will abandon their faith. Finally Jesus will return “on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (v.30), to assert His power over the forces of evil and to gather His remaining people to Himself.

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John is given a series of visions regarding these future events. They describe a time known as the tribulation – a seven year period of terrible turmoil before Christ returns to the earth. The four horsemen of the apocalypse will be loosed on the earth – lust for conquest, warfare, famine and death. There will be great earthquakes, such as the earth has never known, and stars will fall in the sky- possibly comets or meteor showers. There will be unprecedented demonic activity and the rise of a person known as the Antichrist who will establish himself as a god on earth. He will control monetary systems and without a mark, nobody will be able to buy or sell. We are warned not to follow him or take this mark. Earthly wars culminate in the battle of Armageddon, accompanied by an earthquake and storm of massive hailstones and the devastating destruction of the seas and earth’s surface. It will be an unimaginably terrible time for those who are left.

Why should all this happen on earth? Because mankind has chosen to do evil and abandon God. When will all this happen? Jesus himself said that He did not know the day or hour, that it was something only known to His Father. The apostles Peter and Paul, in their epistles, made it clear that the church should not forget these warnings of Jesus, but to live as though the time was short, and be prepared for Christ’s return.

So it is twenty centuries later. It’s no coincidence that Jesus followed his warnings in Matthew 24 with the parable of the ten virgins recorded by Matthew in the following chapter. The church, the bride of Christ, should be ready and prepared to meet her bridegroom. The message is to be alert and have our minds on the things of God, not be distracted by the pleasures and day to day living of this life.

When I was a young Christian, I was afraid of the book of Revelation. It’s interesting to note that in his opening chapter, John declares that whoever reads and takes to heart the message of revelation is blessed. We are not blessed by being frightened of what might happen in the future, but rather are blessed by knowing that our Heavenly Father will go before and be beside us throughout our lives and into eternity with Him.

We know that Jesus will claim His believers and take them to be with Him. Paul writes:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Some Christian theologians believe that the event when Christians are taken from the earth to be with Christ, known as the rapture, will occur prior to the time of tribulation, others that it will happen only when Christ returns. Some popular Christian movies such as the “Left behind” series take the former view. If millions of Christians suddenly disappear, the people left behind should have a clear message to repent and turn to Christ, and in this scenario, hopefully many will.

As I look out of my window on a clear winter’s day in Brisbane Australia, all these things seem a little fantastic. Yet the world can change quickly, as history has demonstrated. Throughout this world Christians are being persecuted and martyred for their faith. People are dying of starvation and disease. Economic systems are challenged. Violent crime is increasing. Perhaps most tragic of all is the staggering, unseen death of 40-50 million babies each year through abortion. God knows. God sees. He also redeems, forgives and transforms.

Troubled times may be ahead, but God goes before those whose lives are committed to Him, and He leads us along the paths He would have us take. We have a great commission to go into the world and make disciples of all nations, to bring hope, to be light in dark places. As the world becomes darker, so the light of Christ’s hope and love will shine ever more brightly. It’s a light which no darkness can ever put out.  

“the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13

Consecration Sunday

At the moment it’s cold in Brisbane, comparatively.  It’s winter here and the sun is shining, but I had to wear a coat yesterday. Temperatures had dropped to around 6 degrees centigrade overnight, but during the day the sun was shining and despite the wind chill factor, it was warm enough to shed the coat and wear a jumper. We still haven’t had a heater on inside our home. Such is winter in Queensland.
I just had another birthday. Life has its seasons too. The financial year has started again. We humans impose our own dates and times on the calendar. We make New Year’s resolutions on January 1st. We submit tax returns after July 1st. All these things serve to remind us that time passes, and we mark its passing in various ways. As we mark time, we are also given the opportunity to evaluate what has gone and what we’ve done in the duration, and to make future plans.
Each year as the financial year draws to a close, our church gives thanks for all that God has done in the year gone, and plans for the coming year. Some of this relates to financial planning, but it encompasses far more than finances. We acknowledge that God has a plan and purpose for His church throughout this world, and for each one of us as individuals. We thank Him for His blessings and provision, and trust Him to lead and guide us, as a church and individually, throughout this year.
I’d like to share a prayer which was printed on a bookmark for everyone at my church community to take yesterday. Perhaps you would like to print it out for yourself and share in our consecration commitment:

My Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father,
I freshly commit myselt to the
role you have invited me to play,
as you are building your church in
this world. I am awestruck again
today that you include me in this
grand life-giving,
world-transforming endeavour.
So today I joyfully offer you:


I commit all of myself to the role
you have assigned me in the
building of your church so that it
may thrive in this world, and so that
more and more may see and hear
of the love of Jesus.


“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18,19.