by Pastor Matthew Bishop
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They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated (Isaiah 61:4a).
On the 234th year since the First Fleet set down in Sydney Cove, I write this from the Adelaide Plains, the traditional lands of the Kaurna people, and acknowledge the Kaurna peoples’ many continuing and ancient connections to the land. Related to this, I thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit’s leading of pastors Schürmann and Teichelmann and their work at Pilta Wodli, including the recording of the Kaurna language.
Where in Australia do you have a spiritual connection? One such place for me is Peter’s Hill in South Australia. It sits adjacent to the Heysen Trail, just east of Riverton, about 100 kilometres north of Adelaide. My dad is a son of the congregation, now officially closed as a preaching place. Often, he recalls how he came to know and love his Lord Jesus in that place of faithful teaching and preaching where he received him. My grandparents Ken and Alma (nee Klitscher) Bishop are buried there. Maybe I, too, will rest in God’s acre there one day!
Some time ago, the Friends of Peter’s Hill had to decide something. Let the old church keep crumbling or preserve this piece of Australia’s heritage. They chose to ‘rebuild’ and ‘restore’.
To me, it is no surprise that God’s people get attached to the places we receive him. Today’s text from Isaiah 61, containing so many physical promises, is the basis of Jesus’ later self-revelatory sermon preached at Nazareth’s synagogue with its incarnational (Jesus among us) main point: ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’. (See devotion from Sunday 23 January 2022 that encompasses Luke 4:21.)
God is amongst us in the physical places we receive him (Luke 4:21). We can, unfortunately, idolise them, sinning. We should repent of that. But more positively, God gave us physical form and sent his son as a human to live among us. He will raise us and give us resurrection bodies, just like the body Jesus already has (1 Corinthians 15:20–23). The physical clearly matters to God. This is why Jesus is always building up our ‘ruins’ that result from sin. As Isaiah 61:3 promises us, we will have the oil of joy and garments of praise. Jesus gives us his oil of joy through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and his garments of praise through his garment of salvation (Isaiah 61:10, John 19:23,24). We can trust him for all our needs, not least the physical, as he walks with us in this world and brings us into the next.
What do you need to both thank him for and trust him in today?
Thank you, Jesus, that you come to this world, build up the ruins caused by our sin and address the devastation caused by our unfaithfulness. Thank you for all you give us, not least those places where we connect with you. Keep us gathering around you frequently and regularly so that we can be reminded of your presence and love. In your name, we pray. Amen.