Have you been on a bush walk before?
Heading off on a walk, just for fun?
Usually the path is clearly marked to start, to get you going and help your confidence.
Once you have been going for a while the nice neat path can give way to gravel, rocks, steps and wash outs.
The terrain can change from easy to navigate to hard work placing your steps and your feet where they make sense and are safe.
When you have done a few bush walks or hikes you can start to guess what is coming next, for instance if you go uphill you hope for a view or a pretty vista at the top. If you head steeply downhill, it is quite possible you will have a steep incline to follow.
For those of you who know me, you would be aware of my fear of heights. I distinctly remember a time when we walked with little kids from Tidal River to Squeaky beach. As we headed beck we were aware of the windy path which lessened, but extended the uphill climb. There was a short cut up a sloping rock face and each of the families we were with charged up the rock, somehow, Richard convinced me that we should also take the short cut....
So I put my head down and charged up that rock face, helping the kids who needed it and made out to the top. All I saw was rock in front of me, I couldn’t look around me because of my fear of heights I just focussed on what was next. To the point where I arrived at the top, and realised I had not breathed the entire way up!!
Bush walking or hiking and other such sports take us to places we haven’t been, on a windy track to views we haven’t seen, they challenge us and our fears, but they make us stronger. Our muscles strengthen, our lungs expand, our heart works better and our blood pumps better around our body.
OUR SERIES is called Adventure Awaits, because none of us have been here before 2021 is not like any year before in our life times. The church has never been here before and neither have we.
The parallels with the formation of the church over 2000 years ago and now can be drawn in a multiple of ways, but I want to start by reflecting on the place God sent Jesus into and why.
““Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””
Luke 2:14 NIV
When Jesus came it was to bring peace to all men, he was born into a Hebrew family, into a culture that not heard from God directly for 400 years or so. People who although they had the stories passed down from generation to generation they were dry in their faith.
They lived oppressed, without hope, except that the messiah would come, one of the scriptures which pointed to that hope of a different life was from Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 37 is a window into OLD Testament Prophecy, a vision shown to Ezekiel by God which provides revelation, interpretation and application.
The vision opens with this paragraph:
“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.””
Ezekiel 37:1-3 NIV
In this Ezekiel documents the vision shown to him by the Spirit of the Lord as well as the conversation which takes place between himself and God.
God asks a question of Ezekiel, which gives Ezekiel the opportunity to affirm his faith in and his knowledge of God. Stories from Elisha and Elijah would come to the fore at the images he can see. Images of the dead being raised to life.
“He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.””
Ezekiel 37:3 NIV
The word there is ruach - the Hebrew word for breath, but it not only means literal breath, this word is translated into English a multitude of ways including air, such as the air all around, also ‘air such as emptiness or purposelessness, it can also be wind, a soft breeze or a strong gale, or even wind as in direction, scattered by the wind...
Ruach can also mean the very element of life and also be inclusive statement of someone’s inner character, another interpretation of the world is in reference to The Holy Spirit, third person in the Trinity, the spirit in which undertakes something or heavenly beings. The word therefore means far more than the translation to breath.
As the passage unfolds Ezekiel sees the bones come to life as he prophesies as God asks him to. The will of God and the humble obedience causes a vision which is seen, heard and participated in. Not unlike what Jesus prophesies to the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit documented in Acts 1:8.
" But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Only a few months ago people may well have said the church in Australia is done, they may have said, we have seen our day, Christendom is passed, that faith is irrelevant. They however, do not understand the depth of the ruach, the power of the Spirit and the freedom it brings.
The disciples at the time, when Jesus ascends, have no real understanding of what God is doing, nor of the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet the very sending of the Holy Spirit is an invitation to leave the old behind, for new life to be birthed in each of us and in all of us collectively. Just as the bones came alive by God's will and power and at Ezekiel's prophecy representing God's people, the people of Israel and Judah, we too can follow God's will and tap into the new life given to us by Jesus with the Holy Spirit's power.
For today the invitation is for all of us, to go on an adventure, guided by the Lord God our Father, to follow Him around the twists and turns, the ups and downs. To head around a corner, not knowing what is next, but trusting God. God not only showed Elijah a powerful vision, he invited him to join in, to have faith and to obey.
Please pray for us as a community to be aligning ourselves with God, that Jesus is the centre of everything we do, say and plan and that the Holy Spirit empowers us for God's will.