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Updated: Oct 30, 2023

220126 Australia day. Jeremiah 29.1, 4-14, Psalm 33 12,18-22 John 8.31-36

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

When people suddenly find that their lives are in turmoil or over a long period of hardship, or grief, life becomes intolerable what can they do? And how can we help?

In the first instance sometimes just listening to the story and being in the space of the grief is a good way to start. The first reading this morning is from the letter that the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the people in captivity in Babylon. Their prospects were bleak. They were in a strange land; with a language they did not know and had only the possessions they could carry and tents to live in if they were lucky. They were like modern day refugees, but they were also prisoners. He suggested that they should move ahead with their lives and to pray for the nation that enslaved them; Although it seemed hard it was the best idea and he encouraged them to keep moving and get on with life, work, build houses, plant gardens for food, marry and have children. This is a difficult ask, especially if those in authority are evil, but this is when prayers are most needed.

Many people throughout the world have found themselves in similar situations. The indigenous people of this land in times of adverse seasons, the early settlers, and the people whose land they appropriated, people displaced because of famine, war and oppression all have needed to summon their inner strength and resilience to survive. In all cases a listening ear has helped people to be still and take stock.

Jeremiah’s advice seemed hard but in times of trouble or sudden change the best thing is to pray and move ahead doing whatever we can rather than giving up because of fear and uncertainty. We can all be encouraged by a leader who stirs us to move ahead, someone who believes we can do the task he has given, and who will be with us all the way. God is that kind of leader. He knows the future and his plans for us are good and full of hope. As long as God who knows our future, provides our agenda, and goes with us as we fulfil his mission, we can have boundless hope. This does not mean that we will be spared pain, suffering or hardship, but that God will see us through to a glorious conclusion.

History showed that God did not forget his people even though they were captive in Babylon. He planned to give them a new beginning with a new purpose, to turn them into a new people. In times of deep trouble, it may appear as though God has forgotten us, but God may be preparing us as he did the people of Judah, for a new beginning with him at the centre. According to God’s wise plan the people were to have a hope and a future, and consequently they could call upon him in confidence. Although the exiles in Babylon were in a difficult place and time, there was no room for despair because they had God’s presence through the privilege of prayer, and God’s grace. God can be sought and found when we seek him wholeheartedly. Neither strange lands, isolation from family, sorrows, frustration nor physical problems can break that communion. Sometimes as a result of hardship, the human spirit rises above seemingly unsurmountable odds to achieve great things. This rising can be quickly done and in the public eye, or slowly and quietly achieved and many such achievements are not recorded in the annals of time. Some achievements are destined to be standouts and often there is a passionate and inspiring leader driving the momentum of success. A chance encounter inspired the 2022 NSW Young Australian of the Year Daniel Nour to help the homeless. This 26-year-old doctor shared his story during this year’s New South Wales Australia Day Address becoming the youngest person to give the annual speech.

He said, “ the barriers for homeless people in accessing medical care often include a lack of awareness, prohibitive costs, lack of transportation or documentation, as well as stigma and embarrassment.” “ As a result of these barriers, many Australians who are experiencing homelessness have worse health outcomes than the average Australian,” he said. “Many suffer illnesses in silence, many die of conditions which could have been treated and many avoid interventions that could have potentially improve their quality of life, or possibly even prolong their life.”

Daniel said he never started up Street Side Medics thinking of the thousands of people’s lives he could change. Instead, “at least just one life made better would be enough”, but as others have joined him, this passionate and inspiring young doctor and his team not only provide the means of physical healing but are offering a hope and a future to people who seemed to have no future before. We are reminded of Jeremiah’s prophecy. I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.

It is achievements such as this that happen because people listen and listen with a heart that is open to truth. It is the responding to that truth that provides hope and sets people free from the debilitating cycle that holds them back.

If one is well, has a job, a place to live, a loving family and aspires to the good things in life, it is not easy to understand others in difficult circumstances, but listening with a heart to another’s story is the beginning and in listening we may feel uncomfortable and we may discover as Daniel Nour said, "Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

Jesus himself is the truth that sets us free. He is the source of truth, the perfect standard of what is right. He frees us from the consequences of sin, and from self-deception. He shows us clearly the way to eternal life with God. Jesus does not give us freedom to do what we want, but freedom to follow God. As we seek to serve God, Jesus perfect truth frees us to be all that God meant us to be. It allows us, and drives us to become a leader or a follower, an inspirer, and a passionate and compassionate servant of others walking in the footsteps of Christ who came to set us free.


The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF

Canon Pastor - Grafton Cathedral

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