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18th March 2001

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Scripture Reference

LUKE 7:11-17

Jullian Rook, the manager of our Wesley Uniting Employment Centre in Ingleburn, suffered a double tragedy last week: his wife's mother died, and as he and his wife went to her side, their 17 year old son was killed. Middle-aged parents expect that their parents will one day die, but they do not expect to bury their teenage children. The funeral of every teenager is always a tragedy. Almost adulthood. Unrealised potential. Sheer waste. Yet that is the group that through drug and alcohol abuse, stupid driving, dangerous living and suicide, waste their lives. Those born in the 1970's and 1980's are an important generation. They are interested only in their own chosen career, read little in newspapers but much in a few magazines. They are not motivated by politics, nor switched on by classic rock music. They are interested in finding the meaning behind relationships, about requiring the right dress and body shape. They often eat in the lounge room, have their evening meal delivered in a cardboard box, go to the service station to buy food and get their money from an ATM. They drink coffee sitting outside the restaurant. They are not into denominationalism but into spirituality, especially New Age type mysticism. Jesus is in, but the Church is out. 

This is "Generation M3" the people who are going to spend most of their lives in the third millennium! Think of it: if you are going to spend most of your life, God willing, in the third Millennium, please stand up! We want to salute you. This sermon is especially for you. Most of us belong to Generation M2. We have already lived most of our lives. We live differently. We eat in the kitchen or dining room. We use knives and forks.

We think eating with fingers rather primitive. We go to the service station to buy petrol not food. We get money from a bank not a wall. We cook meals. We never drink cappuccinos on the footpath. Some of us 20th century people are not coping with change well. If you have already lived over half your life expectancy note these Generation M3 people. They are going to support you older believers. They are the ones whose taxes will pay what pensions and government superannuation will be left for you. They will pay for your health care and social security. But more, they will be the members who will be running the church you have loved. They have different ideas about how things will be done and a different value system. But they have a real commitment to Jesus Christ. Yet around 38% of young people indicate their top ranking concern is boredom: there is nothing to do. Why do we have so many young people suffering from boredom? They claim there is nothing to do, yet never have a generation had so much with which to amuse them. Every shopping complex has its Intencity or Timezone or virtual reality electronic machinery, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and theatre complex screening M3 Generation films. 

We do young people a disservice when we sponsor bigger and better activities. The root cause of boredom is not a lack of activities, it is a lack of meaning. The psychiatrist Victor Frankl wrote that a society which has lost its meaning is marked by rampant libido and an insatiable urge to own things. The M3 Generation has to find its own sense of meaning. The M3 Generation says, "You are what you do, what you earn, what you own and how you look". Jesus says that life does not consist of owning a mobile phone.

The church is one of the few places left where significance can be affirmed and experienced. It is the only place where young adults can find an understanding of why they are significant. It is the only place where people can grow in faith. Yet many young adults by-pass the church doors. They have not discovered that virtual reality can be found in here. They have not yet discovered that meaning and purpose is not in McDonald's but at Wesley Mission.

Yet thousands of the M3 Generation will die over the next decade. Wasted lives. Wasted potential. How tragic. The sickness of society leads people into emptiness, despair and death. The city streets tell of people whose lives are wasted and defeated. T.S.Eliot in "The Rock" asked: "Where is the life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" The community asks questions of educators and politicians, civic leaders and psychiatrists, only to find that they too have lost Life in living. Slowly, from the throats of people proud of their independence from religion and agnosticism comes a low cry: "Is there any word from the Lord?". The Christian church in reply points to Jesus and says: "In Him is life, and that life is the light of men." Once Jesus met a crowd carrying the body of a young man down a winding road to the cemetery of Nain. This was the first of three occasions when Jesus raised a person from death, including the little daughter of Jairus, and His friend in Bethany, Lazarus. Nain is nowhere else mentioned in scripture. It was a small town on the northern slope of lesser Mt Hermon, not far from Capernaum and from the village of Cana . 

Jesus and his friends were heading into the city. They met a procession moving out of the city carrying on a bier the body of a dead young man. They were heading for the cemetery. His widowed mother, was following surrounded by neighbours who were wailing loudly. The pathos of the situation was met by the compassion of Jesus. He stopped the procession, assessed the situation, prayed for the widow, and called to the young man to life again. The crowd shrank back in fear, then gasped in amazement as the young man, slowly rose from the platform carried by the funeral bearers. They lowered it to the ground quickly, and the young man was restored, and greeted his mother and friends. The news of what happened went through the countryside like wild-fire. The incident is rich with meaning: two processions moving in opposite directions come face to face. One procession was mournful, moving out of the city towards the cemetery, carrying the dead. Death dominated their thinking. The other procession was joyful, moving into the city, and leading it was Jesus who has the power to bring life and laughter to people. Jesus was the source of life and the answer to death. His power gives back dead loved ones to their grieving friends. Note the people mentioned:

We know nothing about him. He was just another statistic from the city. Our workers at StreetSmart, care for homeless youth from the streets of Sydney. Some have died while we have cared for them. We always have difficulty tracing families after death. Their death makes no paper. Few people care. Just a wasted life.

Our counsellors every night, talk with kids who ask about the point of living. They have lived life to its extremities and found nothing but emptiness. Like the Prodigal Son, they came to the city, wasted their money on a good time, and ended alone in a pigpen. The daily papers in Sydney reveal stories of young people who are assaulted, shot at, held up with knives, bashed by gangs of other youth, dealing in drugs in the streets of Kings Cross and Cabramatta, who smash hundreds of train windows after a league match, who are shot in drive-by shootings, who hold up garage attendants with machetes. These are not our typical youth. Our typical Generation M3 youth are in school, college, TAFE, institute or University. They are learning or working. But this other group is heading to the cemetery! Drugs, suicide, alcohol abuse or reckless driving will get them. Then, surrounded by wailing friends and grieving parents, they are taken on their last ride to the cemetery or crematorium. They thought they were having a ball. That's life! That's not life, that's death! Such young people are not living; they only exist waiting to die. They are the walking dead.

She had a double grief: her only son was dead, and she was a widow. Her only child; her only companion; her only means of support; her only family member. Now she had no-one. Life is a struggle with meaningless. We see those people every day. In Morris West's book, "THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN", Ruth Lewin is depressed. She has been to her psychiatrist about her marriage break-up. Under analysis she discovered anguished truth about herself:

"Each step brings you closer to the moment of truth where you must face once and for all the thing from which you have been fleeing. Slowly the nature of my hidden fear became clearer to me. I had reached the core of myself, and I knew that I would find it empty." Many people are heading to the cemetery with empty and lonely hearts, life lost in living.

The Bible declares that "a large crowd from the city" was in that funeral procession. How graphic. A wailing crowd, going from the city to the cemetery. But that is exactly where millions of people in Sydney are now heading. They have no other destiny or future more certain than a puff of smoke from a crematorium. That pathetic, purple-haired Englishman, Quentin Crisp, used to say; "Life was a funny thing that happened to me on the way to the grave." He was right. So many people in our cities exist, but they lack life that is abundant, free and eternal. They can look at all they have acquired in life in a pile, and realize the futility of it. As Jesus said: "Life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions."

In a world with competing faiths and many different voices each proclaiming the way, people facing loneliness, frustration, emptiness, despair, death, turn in many directions on their way to the cemetery. Some turn to the scholar, feeling that education will answer needs, only to find that increasing knowledge increases problems. Some turn to the statesman hoping that legislation will make life easy, only to find that our politicians are also weak. 

Some turn to the scientist hoping that some new discovery will answer our existential plight, only to discover scientists have not made personal meaning. Some turn to the sociologist trusting that in an understanding of our environment, we can find a way. Yet sociologists can condemn our pigpen but they cannot change our desires to live like pigs. Our writers, artists, and philosophers can describe our condition, but they cannot prescribe our cure. The young man who is dead needs a voice that brings life. The grieving widow needs a comfort in her anxiety. The lonely crowd from the city need an answer for the future. 

Jesus says: "I am telling you the truth: The time is coming ? and has already come ? when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear it will come to life." JOHN 5:25 "The dead..." those living defeated, empty, despairing lives; "will hear the voice of the Son of God..." Whose voice? Not the scholar. Not the statesman. Not the scientist. Not the sociologist, but "the voice of the Son of God." The answer lies not in education, nor legislation, not in illumination, not in conservation. The answer lies in regeneration ? being born again! The Son of God who made you new brings life to you. "and those who hear it will come to life." That's His promise: life! Abundant life! Eternal life! Life in Christ! Jesus brought life to that young man, to that grieving widow, and to that wailing community! No wonder they cried: "A great prophet has arisen among us. God has visited His people." Will you claim that life? Will you claim Jesus as Lord? For only Christ gives to the widow, the young and the city, life that is meaningful and eternal. 


Rev Dr Gordon Moyes


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