I love the passage from Hebrews that we’ve heard this morning and I especially love it in today’s context, when we are thinking about our country which is made up from people of many nations and backgrounds.
We think about what it is to be Australian and we recognise that all of us have a history of families who have journeyed to this country with the dream of a better life.
Some may have not expected it for themselves, but have hoped it would be so for their children.
For those of us who have been here for more than a couple of generations, most of our ancestors worked hard and encouraged their children to work hard to build lives which mean something.
All who came to this country may or may not have had an idea of where they were going in the sense that they’d read books and spoken with people; but real knowledge at its deepest level comes with being in a place and in that sense, they had no idea where they were coming or what to expect.
So the journey to our country involved a deep hope and a dream for something which might be better than they’d known. More opportunities for their children and the generations which follow. A safer and better quality of life, jobs, education wealth, and the dream of uncomplicated love and happiness. These are things we all hope for at the core of our beings for life.
Those of you who are who have come to Australian more recently will know what I mean, you have come here to this country looking for something, a safer life, a better life, perhaps a life which will empower you in some ways to help those you’ve left behind.
I don’t know fully how that might feel, I’m a fourth and fifth generation Aussie. But what I do know is that I too long for a place where I can live well and enjoy my life to the full. We all carry that longing deep in our hearts.
So our father, Abraham, in faith-called and led by God, left home because he was called to a place, a promised land. It was a place he did not know, but he went because he trusted God and believed God’s promises to him. He went to the promised land and made his home there like a stranger in a foreign country. His family lived in tents, meaning they were nomads and verse 10 tells us the reason for this is that he was looking for the city whose architect and builder is God.
Abraham’s faith was not in what he could see, in his life he never fully saw God’s promises fulfilled. He had a son, he saw the promised land but was never properly settled there, but he still trusted God’s promises for the generations which were to come. Faith is like that, we trust and believe that God is working out his purposes even when we cannot see and sometimes the fulfillment of God’s promises takes generations- that’s a hard pill to swallow in our instant gratification culture.
On some deep inner level, we are all searching for the promised land. The problem for many of us is that we cannot see and so we feel out of control. We raise our heads and we see chaos in politics, in our church and in our world and many people pushing to impose their view of what this promised land might look life.
Well we need to get our sight right and we need faith, we need to trust that despite the apparent chaos, God’s promises and life are being worked out in our lives and even in our church.
We need to remember that this life and this land that we see today, is only a shadow of the land which is to come- the promised land guaranteed for us by the promises of God, and of which we are inheritors through our baptism. This current age, this current land are only temporary and we are all on a journey through life to our ultimate destination.
In this current place and situation, we have a role to play- the Book Revelation reminds us that in Christ Jesus, God is creating a new heaven and a new earth. If that is the case, then all of us who are baptised into his body, have a part in working towards making this place where we are earthed today, as near to the promised land that is possible.
How might that look?
Well realising that it is not the other person who is responsible for making this place the best place it can possibly be, but all of us together working for the good of everyone.
The kind of values which will achieve this are not always common values in our culture, but they are here, especially in a church community, and God calls us to be his witnesses and signs of them. These values as disciples of Jesus are the kingdom values reflected in the beatitudes.
The poor in spirit are those who know they need God and entrust their lives to him. They don’t always see, but they believe and obey God anyway.
Those who mourn are not just simply people grieving for lost family members or places left behind [although that is part of it] it is grieving for the suffering and the brokenness even in a country as wealthy in so many ways as ours.
The meek are those who are not necessarily weak but whose strength is not in power but in honesty and integrity. They are honest about themselves and their capacity and so realise their need for the family of God and for the support and work of the Holy Spirit.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are those who battle for the best for all and a fair share of what God provides for all. They long for the day when God’s reign is fully present in our world.
The merciful are those who have compassion on the poverty and the suffering of others, especially when it comes through sin and failing. It carries the amazing quality of forgiving the person who is broken by their own sin and circumstances.
The pure in heart are those whose deep desire for the love of God is what directs and holds their lives. They live in total trust of God’s presence and forgiveness for themselves and others.
And peace makers create places and environments where people who know no peace can come to know the peace and reconciliation which occurs through the love and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ and between each other.
Those who are persecuted for righteousness do so because of their hope and belief and trust in a world which is beyond sight but still they know is true. In faith, they have given their lives over to God and look forward to what is beyond the suffering of this life.
So, the promised land we all look to and aspire to belong to is something we can trust and believe in. It is not about building walls created by fear of the unknown, like Donald Trump wants to do in America, it is about building a common community where despite not being able to see fully where we are going, we trust God and so we all become one in Christ. The promised land is something we can have glimpses of in and through our Christian living and community. It is something we can work together for, to make God’s kingdom visible among us and to transform our town and our country and our world.
It is a big vision and as we begin the process of our Mission Action Plan and facilitated conversations in our community, ultimately this is what we are trying to do. To be a place where as God’s people we reveal God’s love and presence among us to the whole world. We become a place where people can begin to see a glimmer of the Glory of the promised land, our true home with God and a truly desirable home for all.