Saturday, May 23, 2009

A matter of perspective

Published in the Fiji Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own lives and thoughts that we could easily fall into the trap of assuming that the world revolves around us. Galileo Galilei was hounded by critics when he proposed that contrary to popular belief the Earth actually revolved around the Sun.
Sometimes it is important that we put our problems into perspective by paying attention to the difficulties faced by others and the complexities of living on this planet.

I recently watched the movie "The Knowing", which starred one of my favourite actors, Nicholas Cage. Full of Biblical-inspired imagery, based on the Prophet Ezekiel's vision of God, the film centres around an imminent solar flare, just a little bigger than usual for the sun but, big enough to destroy all life on our planet.

As I walked out of the cinema that evening, I remarked to my wife that when you look at life from a global and perhaps even a galactic perspective, ones own issues do not seem as insurmountable.

If we focus too much on our own problems we fail to see opportunities where we may be able to help someone with theirs. At the same time those of us who are Christians must also be aware of focusing too much on this country, on this world while losing sight of the bigger picture, the Kingdom of God.

Last month a meeting of the Methodist Consultative Council of the Pacific took place in Suva which was attended by leaders of the Methodist Churches in Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, the United Churches of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea and the Uniting Church in Australia. An observer of the proceedings, his first time at a regional ecumenical meeting, shared with me that he was surprised by the manner in which the discussions took place - discussion was frank, but speakers were humble, delegates represented their own countries and churches but were sincere in their solidarity for each other. The observer said to me that he had never seen a round table discussion like that before.
I said to him, "We are from different countries, but we are all citizens of the same Kingdom."

This is the very kingdom that Jesus inaugurated almost two millennia ago. The kingdom that all Christians pray will come when they say the "Lord's Prayer". But it is both an anticipated future as well as a present reality that all who follow Christ are called to manifest when they obey God's will. It is easy to pray for the future with out living out the present. It is easy to look to the future when we fail to live up to the requirements of our citizenship to the Kingdom of God.

As I was working on my sermon for last Sunday (7.30am and 10am Dudley Methodist Church, corner of Amy Street and Toorak Road - All Welcome) which is from the Gospel of Matthew 11:27-30, I came across this reflection by Bob Gass:

"You'll notice that unlike us, Jesus didn't suffer from the fear of failure. That's because He never entertained the thought that He couldn't do something His Father had already assured Him He could. And He didn't suffer from a fear of lack either. Even though He lived a simple life He was responsible for supporting Himself and a team of others.

How did He do it? He prayed a lot, and stayed in sync with His Heavenly Father. Consequently He knew how to catch fish when they weren't biting, or find tax money in a fish's mouth when He needed it.
(Yes, Jesus paid His taxes too!) Now God may not provide for you in exactly the same way, but He has promised to take care of you (See 1 Pet 5:7). Today Jesus is saying to you, "Come to Me... learn from Me... and you will find rest for your souls " (Matt 11:29 NIV)."

When we lose perspective, we lose the awareness that God is in control, no matter how bumpy the ride. Stress is brought on by our need to know everything ahead of time - to be in control.

Even after we pray and supposedly turn the situation over to God, we develop a 'backup plan' in case He doesn't handle things the way we think He should. We need to have at least that much confidence in God whose track record speaks for itself, whose faithfulness never fails, and who has earned the right to ask you, "Is anything too hard for ?"
(Gen 18:14 NIV). In other words - learn how to live like Jesus.

May the rest of your week be blessed with light, love, peace and the assurance of God's strength in your hour of need.


  1. This is true as far as it goes, I guess.

    What one needs to be wary of though, is the danger of falling into denial.

    With all of the avoidable suffering around these days, that could at the very least be comparable to the cold comfort of the words in your yaca's epistle "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well-fed".

    Things will certainly get better one day. And though our hope does not lie in socio-economic circumstances, we can definitely expect more justice and goodness and peace as God's Word reigns increasingly in and over those circumstances. And He will definitely being watching over that to make sure it does not return to Him void.

    But that is a hope of faith, and a rejoicing over the future. It is not something that can rejoice in the unapologetic misdeeds, thoughtlessness and legerdemain of the day. That distinction needs to be made and understood.

    People of faith must be aware of our serious need to keep our hearts clean of any evil that might enter in the current over-supply of injustice and transgression. But that peace-of-mind does not extend to any right or duty to call evil good.

    It is what it is, and it too will pass!

    For those who lack faith though, this will probably be too hard a test to realistically expect them to remain joyous or hopeful throughout. Their attitudes will only change when they themselves perceive a change in their general circumstances and prospects.

    When that turnaround comes, that is exactly what it will be - a turnaround!

    It will not look like things look today! And it will not work like things work today.

    The powers that be believe things will change when their policies eventually bear their intended fruit. All that is needed therefore is time and patience.

    Many others believe that the fruit will only change when the seed is changed. At a very simple level, one cannot expect to keep doing the same things and then see different results. What is needed, they say, is simply more honesty and humility to recognize that the policies concerned are ALREADY bearing fruit.

    But even in the best case where all of the stated Charter aims actually do materialize at some point, one will still have to evaluate those against the (ongoing) price needed to "secure" them. Here we are faced with Wadan Narsey's scenario of a cure that may be worse than the disease.

    In that regard, we have already gone through three years of uncertainty and pain already with nothing really to show for it. So the question naturally arises, how much longer do we have to wait? Well, we don't know. It could be another five years, but we have already seen one such timeline (March 2009) pass without a hint of change or fruit.

    So we don't know for sure when the Charter decrees will ever bear fruit. But we do know that the longer it takes, the higher the price we will pay for it, and so the greater the likelihood we will be left facing Wadan Narsey's not-worth-it cure.

    I believe that there is little need to try and peer into the future to resolve any of that, though.

    All one has to do is take an honest look round about, and accept the implications of the Bible's assurance that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

  2. Sorry - I posted the comment above in connection with the wrong story. It should have appeared with Archbishop Mataca's piece.