Spiritual Matters – by Rev Chris Sparks
We’re waiting on a ship! Stock on the supermarket shelves is disappearing fast.
Anxiety levels are rising! Even though some supplies are airlifted in, the extra cost limits what Norfolk Island residents can afford. And for large, heavy, bulky items, even this is not an option. But the ship is now on its way. Due this weekend! Party-time is approaching! This crisis eventuated because the last scheduled supply-run was cancelled altogether.
The ship had been damaged in rough weather in December. It needed to go into dry-dock in New Zealand for repairs. So, Norfolk Island has had to survive for three months without a major supply-run. In a far more critical situation many years ago, another ship was delayed.
It occurred during a South Pole expedition under the leadership of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. He’d left a few men on Elephant Island, assuring them he’d return later to pick them up. But when the time came, to his dismay, the passage was blocked by huge icebergs. As time dragged on with no improvement in conditions, consternation turned to anxiety.
Then suddenly, as if by a miracle, a clear channel unexpectedly opened up through the ice and Shackleton’s ship was able to navigate its way through to the landing spot where his men were waiting. Recognising that conditions were volatile and that the passage could close as quickly as it had opened, the men were ready and waiting.
The ship had arrived. They quickly scrambled aboard. Wasting no time, the ship then began back-tracking through the ice-field. Almost immediately, as it cleared the island, the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men: “It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!”
They replied: “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea appeared clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other that the boss may come today.”
We know that God had promised to send his son Jesus into the world centuries before he judged the time was ripe. God’s people had been progressively burdened by ever-more complex religious laws. They were being slowly starved of freedom, dignity and hope. They longed for God’s Messiah to come – to deliver them from the manic rule of the religious elite and the sadistic excesses of the secular Roman empire.
When he came, Jesus upended the evil practices that had enslaved, demoralized and degraded human society. He helped people to recognize that love alone nurtures us – that this is the true nature of God, as our loving heavenly Father. He re-stocked the people’s spiritual pantries, rescued us from the excesses of power-hungry despots and gave us free passage to fresh hope through the nurturing grace of God. But he also made it clear that he would come a second time – when our worldly tendencies to turn our backs on the things that are loving, and pure and Godly, again reach a critical stage.
The word “maranatha” is a Syriac expression that means: “our Lord comes.” It was used as a greeting in the early church. When believers gathered or parted, they didn’t say “hello” or “goodbye” but “Maranatha!” This is the continuing confidence of those who take Jesus at his word.
Yes, “the boss may come today.”