TIS 156: Morning has broken
TIS 584: Just as I am, without one plea
TIS 585: I heard the voice of Jesus say
TIS 590: What a friend we have in Jesus
TIS 692: Sometimes a healing word is comfort
TIS 647: Comfort, comfort all my people
TIS 571: Forth in your name. O Lord, I go
This is the closing of NAIDOC Week. I have included a prayer from the Uniting Church, honouring our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, at the beginning of this service:
A Prayer for NAIDOC 2020 – Always Was, Always Will Be
Loving Creator God,
We rejoice in the beauty of this ancient land and her waters.
We marvel at the awesome way they have been formed.
We give thanks for her First Nations Peoples,
their stories of creation sung by countless Ancestors.
It is right, Loving Mystery that we name the dispossession, violence and bloodshed,
which First Peoples endured at the hands of Second Peoples.
We ask your forgiveness, and their forgiveness, on behalf of our forebears.
We pray for your healing of this land and her Peoples.
We pray that love will make a new way, a harmony way, the way of Jesus.
Today we are grateful, and we celebrate this nation’s true history,
beginning long before time.
The First People of this ancient land who gave them birth,
who gives them life – Mother Earth.
We honour them and share their joy.
You, Wisdom, call us body, call us one,
To walk together, people from many lands,
under this same golden sun, together
First Nations Peoples and all of us who have since come.
Together there is a new song to be sung,
as old as time.
Hear the yidaki, hear the bilma,
the Ancestors call.
Wisdom, help us to listen, to follow, to learn, to grow.
In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen.
[Yidaki is the Yolŋu word for digeridoo as bilma is for clap stick]
Stu McMillan, National Consultant Covenanting
Assembly Resourcing Unit
Uniting Church in Australia
Prayers of Adoration, Thanksgiving and Confession
You are an amazing creator.
You created the mountains, the deep valleys, the rich and dense forests, a myriad of flowers, and all creatures
-mammals, fish, birds, and reptiles,
From bison, wombats, whales, sardines, ostriches, sparrows, snakes, frogs, blue-tongued lizards
-and us, flawed human beings.
We thank you for the gift of life.
And yet, as we thank you
we are mindful that we misuse your gifts.
Forgive us when we do not look after creation,
forgive us when we have dirtied its waters, felled its trees, polluted the habitat of many animals.
Forgive us when we are not thankful for the precious gift of life.
We have a tendency to compare ourselves with others.
Help us to know, to TRULY know that you created each one of us to be the way we are.
You have gifted each one of us with certain gifts and skills-for we each have a purpose, a special and unique role to play in LIFE.
Forgive us when we feel inadequate,
Help us to believe that we are ENOUGH.
Forgive us our self-doubt.
And in a time of silence we remember other things, our sins, our baggage, that we bring before you.
God is love.
Through Christ our sins are forgiven
(thanks be to God)
Take hold of this forgiveness and live your lives in the power of the Spirit.
Psalm 55: 22
‘Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you.’
Matthew 11: 28-30
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
1 Peter 5: 7
‘Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.’
When we pack to go away on a holiday (remember those? The things we took for granted!) we would bring out the suitcase and pack. I don’t know about you, but I always seemed to pack too much stuff, filling up the suitcase with unnecessary items of clothing, toiletries, a book too many, etc.
BUT if we changed the wording, from ‘suitcase’ to ‘baggage’ does that make a difference
-or is that mere semantics?
-debating over a particular word or two?
Today I am also departing from the set lectionary readings.
There is a reason for this.
Last week I chose to preach about Thanksgiving, or Harvest Festivals, and our need to be grateful and thankful.
This Sunday is the last Sunday of ‘ordinary time’ (if this is ‘ordinary time’ what is going to happen in the ‘extraordinary’ time? I hear you ask)
Next week is Christ the King Sunday, and then the following week is the beginning of Advent.
Then I have left.
So…I thought I would preach on something that has grabbed hold of me.
If we had been operating as a church community, face-to-face, I may have suggested we look at this as a small group,
instead, I will look at this topic through this sermon.
I want to discuss a book, a book which may challenge our thinking of God, but the more important focus is about the way we as humans operate.
The book is called The Baggage Handler*, and it is a novel, written by an Australian, David Rawlings.
It is the story of three people who fly to their destinations, and end up picking up the wrong suitcase from the baggage area after their plane has landed.
I wonder if that has ever happened to you? So many black or grey suitcases-you try to make it easy to see, with a red ribbon or sticker-and it seems as if nearly everyone else has had the same idea re identifying their luggage.
Back to the three individuals: Gillian, David, and Michael.
Gillian, a mother of three, is flying in to attend her niece’s wedding. Her sister lives an opulent, lavish life style, which always makes Gillian feel that her life isn’t good enough.
David, a business man, has flown in for a meeting that is required in order to save his job. He has sacrificed everything, including family, for his career.
And, finally, Michael, a young man who would like to study art, but is going to try to secure a scholarship, in athletics, to attend university – chasing his father’s dream, not his own.
So…each person finds out that they have the wrong luggage. After contacting the airport, each of them then has to journey to an enormous white building in the middle of an abandoned deserted part of the city. This is NOT part of the airport!
Jesus said, “Come to me all that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
This novel is a modern-day parable.
Gillian, David, and Michael, all carry baggage…they are out to claim their suitcases, or luggage-but the parable is to do with baggage.
The opening line of the book:
‘what weighs us down is not our baggage but the decision to keep carrying it.’
‘what weighs us down is not our baggage but the decision to keep carrying it.’
Let’s try to keep that in mind while I continue with the sermon.
Baggage. Like a heavy suitcase (remember when they didn’t come with wheels?) we can feel weighed down.
Think for a moment about your own life, perhaps how you have been faring during lockdown, through the fear of the covid 19 pandemic.
What is in YOUR baggage?
Is your baggage so heavy that it warrants the services of a baggage handler?
at the airport/train station/bus depot you wave away help with a “No thanks, I can manage!” then you go off in the distance, struggling with your heavy suitcase.
The baggage handler.
That is the title of the book
The Wrong Suitcases,
The Baggage Handler.
It is the baggage handler, the man from the airport, who greets each of them separately.
For each one of them, the entry point into the building is different.
For Gillian-she found the entrance fairly quickly. On a white wall, the little blue sign: Baggage Services
For David and Michael, it took much more time.
Who is the baggage handler?
He directs each of the three to their own room when they finally find the entrance.
Strange thing for a baggage hander to do-why didn’t he just give them the right suitcase and allow them to leave?
Let me tell you a little more about each of the individuals in this story, and the way the baggage handler deals with their situation.
This is more than just handing over the ‘right’ suitcase.
Each of their waiting rooms is different:
Michael’s is a hotch-potch of colour and design, an affront to his artistic personality;
Gillian’s is slick, chic. How she pictures a perfect sitting room to be.
David’s is messy, dusty, a coffee table stained with mug rings, and a loud alarm clock. A reflection of his life.
They all have paper work to sign. The form says: ‘I promise to deal with my baggage before I leave this facility.’
Gillian asked: ‘Deal with?’
The Baggage Handler offered a broad smile to go with his cheeky wink. “Yes, deal with.”
“What an odd choice of words. Don’t you usually collect your baggage?”
“Yes, people usually collect their baggage, but they’d be better off if they dealt with it. ‘Deal with’ is exactly what we mean.”
Gillian recognizes him, pointing out that he was at the airport, in the baggage claim area with a trolley.
He said: “I was helping people with their baggage.”
“You work here as well?”
“I go wherever I’m needed.”
After David yells at him, saying that this mess up could cost David his career, the baggage handler says:
“Actually, if you don’t deal with this, it’s going to cost you far more than that.”
Gillían, who feels inadequate.
Michael, who wants to follow his dream of pursuing his art, but is instead trying out for a career in track-what his father wants for him.
David, who cannot forgive his wife for being unfaithful.
There are posters on the walls:
In Gillian’s room: ‘stop wishing. Start doing.’ and ‘All flowers are beautiful in their own way and that’s like women, too.’
In Michael’s: ‘You are you. Embrace it.’ and ‘Only you know if you’re up to the challenge.’
In David’s: one with just ‘forgiveness’ on it. Another has: ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize the prisoner was you.’
The baggage handler, after having each of them sign that they will ‘deal with their baggage’, brings the correct suitcase to their rooms.
But when they go to lift it, it is too heavy.
When Gillian opens her suitcase, she finds a heavy ornate mirror, which reflects images of herself and of her family-the images she carries around in her baggage every single day-of a run down house, miserable family and friends-they are NOT like that, but Gillian has chosen to see them like that.
She refocuses-and sees the images again-with a happy family and friends. Then back to the negative images. She cleans her glasses.
“A build up on them keeps you from seeing the world as it is.” says the baggage handler. When Gillian protests, saying there is nothing on her glasses he says he wasn’t talking about the glasses. “I’m talking about envy and comparison. You’re looking at your world through distorted lenses. It’s how you’ve come to see life.”
Gillian has been comparing herself, her life, with others. Asking the question ‘How am I doing?’
Measuring herself against everyone else. And eventually that whisper condemns her and her family, her job-everything-disappointment, not valued.
She asks him who he is-a guardian angel?
“It’s perhaps best if you just think of me as the Baggage Handler. I help people with their baggage-those who want to be helped, anyway!” A sadness filled his eyes. “Not everyone wants to be helped.”
He goes on to explain that most people prefer to carry heavy baggage rather than deal with it.
He also shows her that things aren’t always what they seem to be. In her waiting room, the beautiful fruit is not real-they are made of wax. He shows her these things, to point out to her that the things we envy, or the people we wish we could be more like-are not as perfect as they seem. Gillian’s house is not perfect-but it is a home, sheltering a much loved family. Her sister’s massive new house came with a massive mortgage, the mortgage including how to live up to other’s expectations.
Later, the Baggage Handler asks Gillian to lift up that ornate mirror again. She sees a distorted image of herself, the image she thinks she is- comparing herself to others.
The Baggage Handler says comparisons ignore what makes us who we are, what makes us you-when we see everyone else as better than we are (which isn’t true)- because we then ignore our own particular mix of skills, talents and personality traits that have been given to each one of us for a reason. Comparison ignores what makes us who we really are-and why we are the way we are.
Why we are here!
When David opens his heavy luggage, he finds a photo of his wife with his best friend.
“I think you’ll find your baggage has always been heavy. That’s why it weighs you down.”
He tells David: “your baggage is slowing you down.”
He has to learn to forgive-which he is unable to do.
When Michael opens his heavy suitcase, he finds a large number of red participation ribbons and a sports trophy. These are his father’s-his father’s dreams which were not fulfilled. When Michael protests, saying that he didn’t put these in his luggage, the baggage handler says:
“You didn’t put them in there, but you are carrying them around.”
The baggage handler wants to know about his dreams of being an artist, and asks why he isn’t pursuing his dream?
Why he doesn’t think he will succeed/be good enough
The book is not only a parable-it is an invitation.
The Baggage Handler, with a tear streaked face says:
“Look, the problem isn’t you’ve been handed baggage. Everyone has baggage. It’s that it’s difficult for you to move forward with your life…you can’t move quickly because this weight drags behind you…but you don’t need to carry this baggage. You have a choice.”
Friends, we all carry baggage. BUT we can let go.
Every Good Friday we journey up the path to Calvary, weighed down by baggage-and then leave it at the foot of the cross. We trust that Jesus DID and DOES deal with our baggage.
We do this each time we confess.
What baggage are you carrying? Hurts from childhood? Slights from work colleagues?
Looks of disappointment from parents, long ago?
Maybe envy? Wishing you could be more like…or have a happy marriage or children like…
Friends…we are people of the Good News!
Jesus said, “Come to me all that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Do you believe that?
Does it help to picture God as a baggage handler? Isn’t that sort of how we picture him when we confess our sins-when we hand them over?
OR do we keep a grip on the corner of that resentment/that hurt/that disappointment? Let go of that baggage!
Be the person God created you to be…NOT someone else
Oscar Wilde said: ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’
I love the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life-for it shows how each life has its own purpose-and how robbed this world is when we fail to be who God created us to be.
God is our potter. He moulded you, he moulded me.
Let the Creator’s fingerprints shine through your life-and may you skip with joy as you discard your baggage!
Come on: hand over your baggage to the Divine baggage handler.
See-and feel: you are now so much lighter!
The best diet ever!
(*David Rawlings, The Baggage Handler (Thomas Nelson: 2019))
Prayers of the People
Loving God, we pray for the world, and for all its inhabitants.
We pray for all those affected by covid-19. We are shocked when we read of the rising cases overseas.
We pray for the United States; for peace following the Presidential election. For diplomacy, and good sense.
We pray for the Philippines, having to cope with the latest typhoon disaster. Recently they were hit with the fury of Typhoon Molave, and are now having to deal with another typhoon This is disaster on top of the coronana virus; the Philippines has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in South-East Asia, with 380,729 cases, and 7,221 deaths.
We pray for all military personnel, as we commemorated Remembrance Day last Wednesday. We long for the day when there will be no more war, and all will live peacefully together, one world.
We pray for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, our brothers and sisters.
We pray for those within our church community who are ill, or struggling in other ways.
We pray for our families and friends, our work colleagues.
And in a time of silence, we bring before you other issues that weigh heavily on our hearts
We believe that you hear our prayers, that you feel our pain, and that you dry our tears.
Help us to hand over our concerns to you.
In the words your Son taught us, we are confident when we pray to say:
‘Our Father in heaven…
You have been created and formed by God.
You are a much loved child of God.
You are enough!
Live out this rich blessing,
let go of your baggage
and dance with lightness of heart, with joy in your soul.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,