St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Holy Innocents, 2014

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 “Jesus, the Paper Tiger and Hope...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
 
During the early 1980’s, when I was a teenager in high school, my mother came home one Friday afternoon with the announcement that Dad had bought a boat! We, as children, had no idea at all as to the size of the boat or type. (I later found out that neither did my father)... during a moment of generous spontaneity, over a business lunch, my father decided it was time to learn to sail and bought a Paper Tiger Catamaran from a friend named Tony.
 
I fell in love. The Paper Tiger is a fourteen foot marine ply catamaran designed by Ron Given in New Zealand in the 1960’s. She is light, quick and forgiving, if a little wet in choppy seas. I soon learnt the basics and began to master the wind and waves in Hout Bay. My sailing brought me close to nature and thus closer to God and it is a passion of mine that survives to this day.
 
Which reminds me of a true but remarkable story...
On the 5th of January 1997, Tony Bullimore, a 57 year old sailor from Britain, was taking part in the Vendee Globe single-handed around-the-world race. The race was marked by a number of incidents, including the death of another sailor by the name of Gerry Roufs.
 
On this day, Tony was battling against mountainous seas 900 miles from Antarctica and 1400 miles off the Australian coast. The brutal conditions caused the keel to come off his yacht causing vessel to capsize. 
 
Tony was all alone in a dark capsized hull in bitterly cold water with a small air pocket to breathe in, one bar of chocolate and a little water to drink...
 
In today’s Gospel reading we are reminded of the more brutal side of the Gospels. Often people like to think of the Gospel as only light and love but there are also parts of the Gospel that remind us of the pain and struggle of life around us, then and now. The Holy Innocents, as this specific Gospel message is known, tells us of how King Herod issued a decree that all young children under a certain age be put to death. Here was a King was felt threatened by the prophecy that Jesus would one day be Lord and Saviour of the people. Herod reacted in the only way that he knew how and that was a physical reaction in an attempt to assure control of the people. This is a harsh reminder of the fact that so often there is suffering amongst joy...for ultimately as the Angels sought to protect Jesus and His parents by instructing them to flee into Egypt, it was too late for many young children who lost their lives that day. But, there was hope, for although children were lost, Jesus was saved and lived on to fulfil His mission that His Father had intended. 
The core message echoed in this text today is that there is hope... hope in the life and message of Jesus Christ. This message of hope is also beautifully reflected in the Baruch reading from the Apocrypha that we read from this morning...
 
“For my hope is in the Everlasting, that he will save you; and joy is come unto me from the Holy One, because of the mercy which shall come unto you from the Everlasting our Saviour.”
 
Hope is the core message that I wish you take away with you today.
Jesus gives us hope. 
Hope in order to cope with our lives on a daily basis. 
Hope that we will be able to cope with adversity and pain.
Hope that we will be able to cope with whatever will be coming across our paths in time to come.
Hope that we will one day be reunited with Him in Heaven and our journey into the Kingdom of God finally complete.

This reminds me of the incredible lesson that Tony Bullimore taught me about hope.
Tony began to run out of his water and air supply. He had lost part of his little finger and was beginning to suffer from hypothermia, dehydration and frostbite. But he was determined not to give up hope...
After the fifth day in the upturned hull, Tony heard banging on the side of his hull as a diver attempted to make communication with anyone still alive inside.
Tony started shouting: “I’m coming, I’m coming!” He took a few seconds to get from one side of the boat to the other and then took a few deep breaths and dived out of the boat. 
Tony said, “When I saw the ship standing there and the plane going overhead and a couple of guys peering over the top of the upturned hull, it was heaven, absolute heaven.”
You see, Tony never gave up hope. In spite of his dire physical conditions, Tony continued to believe that he would be saved...

You and I are already saved! 
How much more hope then should you and I have in our lives?
Jesus died so that we might have hope;
 Hope in the gift of eternal life,
Hope in the forgiveness of sins,
Hope in the salvation of our souls,
Hope in the message of the Gospel.

My brothers and sisters, we are about to receive a gift...
In a few days time, we will receive the gift of a New Year...
The New Year will not be without its pain, trials and tribulations...
The statistics show that if you live in a developed country, then most of you will live to an average age of 78.6 years...
Further research shows that in 2015 many of you will:
Spend 122 days of the year sleeping...
Spend 83 days of the year working...
Spend 4 days cleaning...
Spend 15 days eating and drinking...
Spend 30 days driving your car...
Spend 16 days on the internet
There will also be times of conflict, sadness and loneliness.
There will be times of questioning and doubt.

But, as Christians secure in our faith and the knowledge of God, we have the gift of hope... and this is what we take into our New Year on Wednesday... hope in the knowledge that through Him we can face all trials and adversities...
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(Philippians 4:13)  

In conclusion I recently came across a news item entitled, “Haunting internet pictures lay humanity bare.” Should you wish to view the site please contact me and I will email you the link.
This is a set of 29 haunting pictures depicting everyday struggle.
22 of the pictures involve children.
Out of those same 22 pictures involving children, many of these pictures are of children carrying weapons or children at war.
Unlike the children we read about in the Gospel this morning, many of our children alive today have lost their innocence at an early age and no longer have any hope.

Our work as Christians living and acting in the real world is cut out for us in 2015.
How many days will you spend this new year in time of meditation and prayer?
How will you spend the gift of your New Year in the year to come?
How will you ensure that the message of hope that the Gospel gives us is spread to others through your witness and love for Christ Jesus?

May God Bless you this week as you enter a New Year of hope in the love and salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.
 
 

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