Summary: I am a Christian because of the mysterious movement of the spirit of God in my life, the encouragement and teaching of my parents and my response to the void that only conscious discipleship of Christ could fill. This only begins the story!
Why I am A Christian
The picture on the front of the pew bulletin sums up the journey before us. There is the central image of the cross with several symbols of holy Week. The palms are for the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem as the King riding on a colt rather than in a chariot. The drape on the cross reminds us of the our Lord’s body. And yet the drape is not his body, it is a reminder that Jesus’ body could not be contained by the cross. The flowers at the base of the cross are, Jenny tells me, lilies - an ancient sign of resurrection.
Make this journey with freshness each year by asking yourself the question "why am I a Christian?". Some times this question becomes an imperative for us, either because as we have it, the great festival of the Church is around the corner, or because some life event throws the question right up in one’s face. Both are true for me. I had to prepare a sermon for today, and the events of the past week have made me ask in a deeply personal way, "Well, why am I a Christian?"
I’m sure that much of the answer to that question is shrouded in early nurture and the mysterious activity of the spirit, but as my memories emerge two profound images come to mind. That my father taught me how to pray, and that my mother ensured that we five children were at Church, Sunday School and were duly baptised and confirmed. As a matter of fact I remember that I might be the only person ever grounded for getting home late from the first confirmation class. I was in the company of the Rector’s son after the lesson and we were engrossed in exploring, as young boys do, that we forget the time - it was after dark when I got home. I thought the punishment rather harsh and made my feelings known, but it is interesting that I never needed any further disciplining about time keeping! No confirmation for me that year, but I duly fronted up the next year and was confirmed by Bishop Arthur. Ah confirmation or graduation from Sunday School meant I did not have to go to church if I didn’t want to - but I did for a while as a server.
Then came teenage years and all the influences of adolescence kicked in - peer group, sport and hormones. Peer groups are highly influential in adolescence and hormonal changes are a part of life whether we like it or not. Sport or some organised activity can be a great help in getting through those stormy years. Some play football, others tennis, cricket. I was a boxer. True. As all tough competitive sport does, it kept me safe from going too far down the party animal track. Boxing taught me a couple of other things. Usually we have little chance of winning if we are not properly prepared, and secondly, no matter how well prepared we might be we can’t always win!
My first fight was a great victory, the local paper said I excelled in my debut. Maybe I could do well at this game, I thought Australian Champion, Olympic Games, why stop there I could be world champion in a few years. Next week I put the gloves on again. As this fight progressed I noticed a strange numbness come over me. I never could remember much about that fight. After the referee raised the other fighter’s hand in victory I went back to the corner despondent but still a bit numb. Then my trainer loosened the golve on my left hand and tried to take it off. It would not come off easily. He tugged harder and harder until it gave way. We all quickly saw the reason for the difficulty - My thumb was stuck out at right angles to the rest of my hand, both broken and dislocated as it turned out. I was in plaster for the obligatory six weeks - a young fourteen year old with a big decision - was this a challenge to be overcome or a sign that other interests would be more profitable and more fun. I decided to continue and actually had twenty five fights all together. Incidentally, the person on whose head I broke my thumb did become Australian champion in 1974.But by the time I was 18 I felt an emptiness in my life that could not be filled with trophies. At the time I could not identify the need that this feeling represented but attempted to fill it up with social life, work and study. In my very early twenties one of my four younger sisters decided to get confirmed. She is number four in the family. Number one me, and two and three had been encouraged through the rites of passage of the Church. But the system must have loosened up a bit by the time Leanne came along and she was left to make here own decision - And she did. Leanne decided to become confirmed. Her preparation time was also a challenge to the rest of the family who had left. Returning to regular worship filled that void in my life. It was for me a real homecoming. I was the prodigal son. The priest who prepared me for confirmation was still the rector which added to the feeling of homecoming.