Here's an evangelistic talk I gave last year. I'm giving a version of it again in a fortnight so any critique would be gratefully received (especially in light of our recent discussions). It was given at the half-way point of a pub quiz...
I don't really think this quiz is fair. I'm not doing half as well here as I do in London quizes. I think it might have something to do with my mobile phone reception. I tell you - the blackberry has trasformed the pub quiz has it not? Not so much a quiz as an internet research challenge.
But I'm sure that no-one here would do something so under-handed!
I'm Australian - I just say that because you might listen in and think I have an accent. You'd be wrong, I don't have an accent - you have the accent. I speak perfectly normally. I've lived here in the UK for about 12 of the last 14 years... give or take the odd deportation.
I have to say though that Australia and England share a common love of quizzes. We're all trivia lovers.
I love trivia. When I was growing up my favourite book was called ‘the Big Book of Amazing Facts.' And it was full of all sorts of trivia like the fact a squid has three hearts and a sheep has six stomachs and all polar bears are left handed and if you folded a sheet of paper 20 times you'd reach the moon but of course you can't because you can only fold a piece of paper 7 times. All those sorts of trivial facts fascinated me.
And trivia fascinates us as a culture. We're a very prosperous culture and a very safe culture today. In the history of the world we have never lived at a more prosperous time or a safer time and on planet earth there are few places that are richer or more secure than right here, right now. And in the absence of great life or death issues, our culture loves to stare at its own navel.
And so our best selling books are Sudoku puzzles and cook books and trivial lists called miscellanies. When you look to TV all our prime-time programmes are diets and cooking programmes, make-overs, celebrity nannies and reality TV. Of course reality TV is just trivial TV isn't it. Dull, lifeless, drab and excruciatingly boring. We are fascinated with the trivial.
Now it's fine to like trivial books and trivial tv, and it's fun to test our trivia knowledge. But wouldn't it be a tragedy if you got to the end of your life and the verdict on it was "Trivial"! That would be a very great tragedy.
But the scary thing is - all it takes to live a trivial life is for you to try very hard and be very productive and very successful at irrelevant things. That's all it takes to waste your life - simply to ‘major on the minors' as the Americans say. If you work hard at the side issues in life, your life is trivial. If you miss the main thing in life, you could be very industrious, very determined, very successful even but you would have utterly wasted the life God's given you. I don't want it said of anyone here on the Day coming that really matters - ‘your life was trivial. You missed the main thing.'
I want us to think about four words from the Bible this evening. They come from a letter in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul. He writes to Christians and he says to them:
CHRIST IS YOUR LIFE. Christ is your life.
In 1998 my mother bought me a T-Shirt she'd bought at a London market. The T-Shirt had a cricket bat and a cricket ball on it, and it just said ‘Cricket is Life: The rest is mere details.'
This is because, at the time, cricket consumed my life. I was never happier than when chasing a small red ball around a park. Cricket was the driving passion of my life and every other priority in life had to give way. Friends, girlfriends, certainly school and university study - they all very much took a back seat, because cricket was my LIFE - the rest was mere details...
Now you are thinking - what a trivial pursuit - cricket! Is there anything more boring?
Groucho Marx once went to a cricket match at Lord's and halfway through the match he turned to his host and said "And when will the actual game begin." Cricket is dull. Cricket is trivial. But it was my life.
Do you know what I have to show for my years devoted to cricket? Any cricket fans here may know of Wisden which is the cricketer's almanac recording the more serious games of cricket that take place in the world. There have been 144 editions of the Wisden cricketing almanac and they each hold over a thousand pages. I am on one of those pages. Halfway down p886 of the 136th edition of the Wisden cricketing almanac my name appears in 6-point font. And it's mis-spelt. That's what I have to show for years and years of obsessive devotion to cricket. You know what that means for those years - they were trivial.
And you know how I felt when I hit a level of cricket that was just too good for me and I got dropped from the team? I wanted to die. Cricket was life and when I failed at cricket I didn't just fail at a sport I failed as a person. That's how it felt. Because cricket was my life.
Whatever you devote yourself to has the power of life or death over you. So what about you? What's your trivial obsession. I've told you mine, now it's your turn, let's get up one by one... What's your life? What's on your T-shirt? What do you day-dream about, when you're doing the washing up or standing in the supermarket queue or the last thought at night. What do you think ‘if only I had that then everything would be ok.' What is it in your life that you think, ‘if I lost that, I wouldn't want to live.' That's your life. And that thing - whatever it is - has the power of God over you. If it comes through for you it feels like life, if it fails you, it feels like death. What's on your t-shirt? What is your life?
It might be something much more noble than cricket. I'm sure it is! Perhaps it's your job, perhaps it's your friends, perhaps it's your spouse or your family. But whatever it is - your life orbits around that thing. But let me assure you there is nothing on earth strong enough to take the gravitational forces you're putting on it. Family, friends, loved ones will all fail you - they'll either let down or they'll get sick and die. But one way or another, if they are your LIFE, your world will come tumbling down.
Our Bible verse says there's only one thing that ought to be your life. CHRIST IS YOUR LIFE.
But wait. Maybe you don't think Christ is strong enough to be the centre of your world. Perhaps you don't think this Galilean carpenter would make a very good life!
Well the bible insists He is far more than a Galilean carpenter.
In the book where this verse is found it says this. "ALL THINGS WERE MADE BY CHRIST AND FOR CHRIST"
Jesus is not just the founder of Christianity. Jesus is the founder of the universe. He is not just 2000 years old, He was there in the beginning. Everything came FROM Jesus and it is all FOR Jesus. The Bible insists that Jesus is our Creator and He is the Goal of all things. "All things were made by Christ and for Christ."
How can we get our head around that? Imagine this. Imagine a child blowing a bubble through a bubble ring. That's a bit like creation. Because God kind of blows the bubble of creation out through Jesus Christ. A bubble ring defines and shapes the bubble and Jesus Christ defines and shapes the universe. All things were made by Him and for Him.
You might have all sorts of questions about that. That's fine, Christ Church exists as a place where you can ask those questions and get answers. But that's what the Bible says - "All things were made by Christ and for Christ". You were made by Christ and for Christ.
Therefore the BIG question about whether you're living a trivial life is this: Are you FOR Jesus Christ? Are you FOR Him? Do you know Him, do you know Him as your goal, the meaning of your life, are you for Him? If you're not then you might be doing a thousand good things - but you're not involved with the main thing. The main thing is Jesus. Christ is your life... the rest is mere detail.
Imagine you were invited to Buckingham palace for tea with the Queen. You come back and all I want to do is ask you about what she was like, what she said, was she nice, was she bored, was Philip there, did he offend anybody?? Imagine you come to me and say, "I couldn't be bothered with the Queen or any of them. But, my gosh, let me tell you about the tea!"
I don't care about the tea, and you shouldn't either. You're invited to the palace to meet the Queen. And you exist on planet earth to meet Christ. Christ is your life - if you're missing Him you're in grave danger of living a trivial life.
When I failed at cricket - that was a gift from God. He showed me that I was trying to find LIFE in a place it was never meant to be found. He showed me I was living a trivial life. He used this massive disappointment to make me realise the MAIN thing in life.
But what about you? What is your driving passion?
Most of my wife and my friends are not Christians. And we have seen with them at least three different driving passions. The first passion was obvious - we met at university and so what did we talk about when we got together? Parties. We'd tell each other the best parties we'd been to, how drunk everyone got, the drugs everyone took. Parties were life.
Eventually my friends stopped partying so much. Why? Did they get religion or something? No, they'd just found a new driving passion - it was called career. Then every time we met up they'd brag about how many hours they were working. They'd say ‘I work 60 hour weeks. I work 70 hour weeks. I go to work in a nappy just to save on bathroom breaks.' It got ridiculous.
But you know, eventually they're getting over their workaholism. How? They've got new will-power? No they've got a new passion. And the new passion is family. So now they're up to their eye-balls in nappies and competing with the other mum's over who's the cutest, smartest, most likely to marry a footballer. Now ‘Family is life, the rest is mere details.'
But the point is this: No-one ever gives up on one driving passion without being convinced that there is a better driving passion on offer. No-one gives up the ‘My job is my life' t-shirt without being assured that there is a better t-shirt with a better life to put on.
For me, it took a time of great depression to realise, my life wasn't working. I'd tried the academic success t-shirt, I'd tried the sporting success t-shirt, I'd tried the women t-shirt. And they all failed me. All of those things are GREAT in their own place. Friends, relationships, family, job, sport, success they're all great in their own way - but they are not life. And what it took was for me to pick up the Bible and meet Jesus Christ in it. In Jesus I found a centre to my life big enough to take the weight of my hopes and expectations.
You'll only make Christ your life if you see Him in all His glory. And the Bible is a book that shows off the glory and the wonder of Jesus. It tells you that Jesus MADE the universe AND He stooped down to become a man. It tells you He rules over all creation AND He humbles Himself onto a bloody cross. It tells you He is worthy of all praise and service AND He comes and serves us. You've never met anyone like Jesus. But you need to meet Him - He needs to be the centre of your life. So why not come along to Christ Church tomorrow morning. Why not commit to coming to church and finding out who this Jesus is. Find out why He is the central figure of all history. Find out why the calendar revolves around HIS birth. Find out why He commands more allegiance than any other human figure. Come and meet Jesus Christ and then everything else falls into place - friends, family, work, play. Your life will find it's true order when Jesus is at the centre.
Well those are just a few thoughts from me. I hope you're enjoying your evening and that you enjoy your trivia. Trivia's fun, but I hope our lives revolve around someOne far more worthy.