No longer on the other side of the world
Hi folks, This is going to be my longest blog ever. About 9000 kilometres long. For Jacqui and I are currently flying from Perth WA to Dubai after a brilliant time in Australia. Until recently Australia was on the other side of the world. In its earliest days, even on another planet. The excellent maritime museum at Fremantle documented the journey by sea of the £10 Poms. In fact, we met one - our old friend Ken, although I think his passage cost £50. His journey from the UK via the Red Sea in 1974 took some five weeks - and that was only to Perth. He still had a further week or so to reach his destination of Brisbane. This certainly was the "Leaving of England." In very recent times England was still a long way a way. One of our wonderful hosts, Pam, recalls the two minute phone call home, very much part of the Christmas Day tradition along with the Queen's speech. Clearly a trying experience as everyone, it seemed, would be crying for the entire 120 seconds. But no longer, such is the power of modern communications. In fact, this may have been our first holiday when we were in continual contact, sometimes moment by moment, with our four daughters in different parts of the UK. You take a photo, a video even, upload and within moments our various daughters respond. They also, of course, talk to each other as we listen in. We can even see each other in a group video call. I continue to be totally amazed, humbled even, by this quality of communications. Even more so, the price. If you are online, it's FREE. The only complication is that we have been in different time zones. In Queensland, for example, once it switched to daylight saving time, we were ten hours ahead of our daughters - we would be getting up as they we going to bed. Now, that was strange. This level of communications, of course, changes everything. Even in Perth, which Bill Bryson - incorrectly, as it happens - labels the most remote city on the planet, you feel plugged in. But this is but nothing compared to the degree of communications each of us may have with God, the Creator of heaven and earth who made us from the dust of the earth and breathed his Spirit into us. Over the last few weeks while we have been in Australia Psalm 86 has come to the fore, even for me the theme of our holiday. In fact, I'm trying to learn it. It came up in one of the daily readings from my BRF Guideline Bible reading notes. For some reason this Psalm, which I had never noticed before, jumped out from the page. God was speaking to me though this song of David. It begins very simply: Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. The Psalmist has the boldness to ask God to hear him. In this unbelievably vast and mysterious universe he is asking his Creator to give him some attention. Of course, he realises that he has no claim on God, he recognises that he has no resources. He comes to God from a position of need. But more. Not just to hear him but for God to actually respond, even to answer his prayer. If I write to the Queen I do not expect her to answer in person and certainly not if I phoned her. But here in this ancient Psalm we are approaching God and asking him to respond, even to me. What makes all the difference is how God is addressed, as LORD. The capital letters in all English translations of the Bible signify that God is being addressed by his Covenant name, YHWH (or if you add the vowels to the original Hebrew, Yahweh). This name shows us that God has taken the initiative and seeks to enter into a covenant with his people, a two-way relationship, one of responsibility (him) and trust (his people). And the good news of the cross of Jesus is that this covenant relationship is now available to anyone who calls on the name of the LORD - whoever we are and whatever we may have done. So the apostle Paul can write with some amazement: "In (Jesus) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12) And more in another 3:12: "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold." (2 Corinthians 3:12). That is, such is the power of the cross that we can now rely on God and boldly expect him to assume full responsibility for our lives when submitted to him. For he is faithful to his promises. As the Psalm develops, we recognise that the LORD is "forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to (him)." (v5) He is great and does marvellous deeds - for he alone is God (v10). And then one verse which jumped out at me, verse 11. "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness." In recent months I have much to be grateful for in that God has blessed us richly, above expectations. At a pivotal and potentially traumatic time in my life - retiring as vicar of Christ Church - I have been amazed at God's kindness in innumerable practical ways, like flying on this plane now. The question is how then do I now live my life on the basis of God's faithfulness to his promises without presuming on his kindness? How do I avoid the spiritual equivalent of becoming a spoil brat? Hence my prayer, "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness." Actually that only took 5500 kilometres!