Another major change through this time has been the regularly increasing interest in ANZAC Day. For a few brief moments last week, I mentioned this and suggested a range of possible reasons…
What I want to reflect upon today is the importance of story in our life for grounding our sense of meaning. Take away our stories, take away our culture, take away our ethics, and we create a hole that leaves us without foundation as a people.
Is it coincidental that as the Christian story has slowly diminished from the minds of society, the need for a replacement has emerged with the Anzac event? It offers a range of possibilities. It gives us an opportunity to think of what it means to be Australian. It is a story of dealing with evil. It involves courage and sacrifice. It offers stories of the greatest comradeship in life’s darkest moments. It has stories from the heroic and miraculous to the greatest tragedy.
It ultimately can bring a community together in a commemorative celebration with all the trimmings of solemn ceremony.Yes it is a powerful story that helps clarify identity for a nation of people who have lost their past primary story. And that story is the Christian story.
Ultimately a religious story is the story that has the greatest potential to unite all people because it speaks of the ultimate issues of life. That does not mean that every religious story does a good job. Increasing numbers are facing the challenge that Christianity needs to be retold in our contemporary context for the past way has developed too many flaws for our current understanding.
The Christian story really came together in a coherent way with the writing of the gospels. They were the collated accounts of Jesus early followers who had known him personally and each recalled what they remembered. For some thirty five years these followers met regularly in fellowship groups and shared their memories with one another. Scholars have spoken of these times as the oral or verbal years.
Gradually a pattern slowly appeared, as memories from different people were combined to the point of becoming the standard or accepted description. Over and over again these stories were virtually recited for the affirmation of regular members or teaching of newer converts. It is assumed that slowly written descriptions of the favourite stories appeared.
There must have been so many such stories told. At the end of John’s gospel he notes that if all the things Jesus had done and said had been written down there wouldn’t be enough books to do justice to his life.This problem of the number of stories meant that no doubt there was concern about the authenticity of some. One typical example was that as a young boy when Jesus played in the dirt he would make birds out of the clay and they would fly away.
Luke began his gospel by writing to one he refers to as your Excellency Theopholis. “I am writing to you to give you an accurate and orderly account of Jesus life.” We are well aware that Matthew Mark Luke and John became the authoritative accounts of Jesus life. It stands at the heart of the Christian Story.
FROM JESUS TO THE SPIRIT
At this time of the Christian calendar we come to some of the most significant weeks of the great Jesus story for we his followers. We approach the end of the Easter season through which time we have been recalling the recollections of this stupendous appearances. Now as these readings come to a conclusion, we are going to be challenged to reflect upon Jesus story and embrace it for ourselves. I can’t put it any simpler than to say, we are asked to understand that the spirit of the risen Jesus dwells within us.
Today’s gospel commences, ‘Jesus said to his disciples, Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. He continues… ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you, but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.’
He follows up, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,’ not as the world gives.
The religious story is different than all others. It is different from the ANZAC story, because it offers so much more than national identity. It is the transformation of our humanity, based upon the Jesus story, that God has made his home within.
I’ve often wondered why so many are reluctant to embrace this extraordinary gift of life. Is the thought of discovering the divinity of our identity just too much for too many. The Christian story is not one of recited words. It is the discovery of the universality of spirit that we call holy. In our western secular society this has been discarded, and alternative stories are filling the hole that it has left. Our call is to make sure we keep the faith.