Archive for March, 2011

Matthew 13:34-35 – HEY! THAT’S ME IN THAT STORY! – Part 15

Hey! That's me in that story!

Back in the 60’s my parents allowed me to go to the city cinema and watch movies about Tarzan. The back yard then became my jungle and I would act out the whole movie again. I still have a tendency to be a product of the last movie I have seen, book I have read, conference I have attended? I PUT MYSELF INTO THE STORY and I find myself aspiring to the values of the hero.

Julie writes beautiful children’s stories. In each book she has written for our grandchildren, she seeks to encapsulate who they are through one of the characters and the adventures they have. She puts them into the story with the hope that one day they will be inspired to seek their God given destiny. There’s something about a story.

Why does Jesus speak in parables? Why doesn’t He explain all His stories? Matthew 13:35 says that He spoke in parables because “This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” Surely there is MORE TO IT than just fulfilling an ancient prophecy about being a storyteller.

I tried to discover which prophet Matthew refers to. It seems it was the person who wrote Psalm 78:2-7. He says “for I will speak to you in a PARABLE. I will teach you HIDDEN lessons from our past— stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders. For He issued His laws to Jacob; He gave His instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children. SO EACH GENERATION SHOULD SET ITS HOPE ANEW ON GOD, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.” (NLT) There it is. Stories DRAW YOU IN. I can imagine children in the time of this Psalm playing out games about Moses and other characters from the Bible, PUTTING THEMSELVES INTO THE STORY, taking on the character and aspiring to the values of the heroes. That’s the point of a parable. It’s a truth that is meant to be lived out.

What I also notice from the prophecy in Psalm 78 is that Jesus is not so much teaching something NEW but He’s explaining through parables truths that have been HIDDEN IN THE PAST. That’s what He says in Matthew 5:17-19 (NLT). “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose…”

Even Jesus has put Himself into the story. In fact as God puts Himself into our story by entering into the world and dying on a Cross for my sins, He gives me the invitation to be a part of His story, to discover His purposes and will for my life. As He lived a perfect life, I now can exchange my sinfulness for the righteousness of Christ. As He died on a Cross so too I choose to take up the Cross and follow Him. I exchange my story for His. He is my life. For me to live is Christ and die is gain. Through Christ I understand God’s Truth. He has written me into the pages of His story (History).

Jesus says “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). It’s interesting to me that Jesus is not trying to cater to everyone. He knows that the Pharisees are not really interested in the story except to try to trap Him or misrepresent Him. In Matthew 13:14-15 (NLT) He says “…For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.’” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) says “…Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. ….” 

Some things only God is able to reveal to us. Jesus says in John 14:26 (NLT) “…the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” When it comes to the crunch, the parables will come alive in me through my everyday experiences as I allow the Holy Spirit to apply His Truth in me.

The invitation is to have the SPIRITUAL EARS TO HEAR. Those who God gives the ability to understand will be those who actively and intentionally put themselves into the parables and see and hear how they are enacted in our lives today.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:33 – THE INCREDIBLE HULK AND YEAST – Part 14

Yeast and the Hulk

I’m thinking THE INCREDIBLE HULK! When Bruce Banner gets mad, he is transformed into a huge, out of control creature (I can’t help it. I have a grandson who loves cartoon characters and he always wants me to play the bad guy or the monstrous guy. I don’t know exactly why. I guess it’s the muscle power or maybe just the mass. To my grandson I’m incredible in all kinds of ways). I have always wondered how the hulk gets all his muscles. They just balloon from nothing. Just add a bad attitude, and you have instant bulk. TRANSFORMED!  

She leaves a lump of dough on the table as she goes about her household chores. The yeast begins to convert the sugars into carbon dioxide. The dough begins to expand and form tiny bubbles or gas pockets. Hulk type muscular formations begin to balloon from the dough. Just add yeast and it is TRANSFORMED!

When the dough has risen she breaks it into pieces and forms each loaf, leaving them to rise again. The yeast will die when she bakes the bread but the air pockets will remain. All she needs now is Vegemite and the transformation could be complete.  

Jesus also used this illustration (minus the incredible Hulk and the vegemite). He said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough”” (Matthew 13:33 NLT). 

Many seem to have a problem with this parable? The trouble is that whenever yeast is used figuratively in the Bible it is usually speaking about “the bad guys” and the influence of sin, hyprocrisy, or their false teaching, (1 Corinthians 5:6-8, Galatians 5:9, Matthew 16:6-12, Mark 8:15-21). Yeast has been regarded this way ever since Israel was asked to sweep every bit of it out of their houses before the Exodus (Exodus 12:39).

Does the woman represent false teachers, the yeast represent their false teaching and the dough represent the Church? The IMPLAUSIBLE HULK. Just add false teaching and the Church is TRANSFORMED!

Jesus warns in Matthew 16:6 (NLT) “Watch out! … Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” Galatians 5:9 (NLT) says “… This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough!” Clearly yeast is used in a very NEGATIVE way to describe the teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

Sin has certainly infiltrated our world, transforming the original dough. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23 NLT),” but Jesus says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast…” The only way that sin and the Kingdom of Heaven are alike is in their ability to INFILTRATE AND INFLUENCE the world.

To say that yeast is ONLY spoken of as defiling would be a FALSE ASSUMPTION. Look closer. In each passage it is the PERVADING nature of the yeast and it’s INFLUENCE that is being emphasised. Perhaps this is the only place in the Bible where yeast is likened to something good.

A similar analogy is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NASB95) it says “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a THIEF in the night.” but this is not saying that Jesus is a thief. In every other place in the Bible stealing is spoken of as a sin, but here it is simply speaking about the ability of the thief to come UNEXPECTEDLY. A thief comes unexpectedly. Yeast has INFLUENCE.

Inherent in a small amount of yeast is the ability to completely transform a batch of dough. Not some flat pita bread existence.

Maybe you think you don’t have much to offer God. A small boy with some fish and bread probably thought the same way, but he offered God what he had and God made a miracle out of it. The disciples said in effect “We don’t have enough.” He said “Here, take what I’ve got!” and under the authority and rulership of Jesus it fed 5000, with some left over (Matthew 14:13-21).

When the Kingdom of God infuses my thoughts, my words, my actions, and resources then God can do something INCREDIBLE through me. He wants me to live a life enlarged by the muscles of His Kingdom purposes. Dream big! Live big for Him! “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NASB). I am “filled with all the fullness of God…according to the power that works within me” (Ephesians 3:19-20). Incredible impact and influence!

The Kingdom of Heaven transforms my life when I respond to the authority of Christ. I am changed incredibly when I accept what He has done for me on the Cross, where He paid the penalty for my sin.

The world will never be the same (Acts 1:8) as the gospel continues to TRANSFORM lives. Inherent in this parable, like yeast permeating dough, is the ever insistent invitation of Jesus to you today to be transformed, not by the kingdom of darkness, but by the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:31-32 – SMALL SEED, INCREDIBLE POTENTIAL – Part 13

Mustard Seed Potential

When I read the Parable of the Mustard seed I am left with some serious questions. Jesus just tells the story in two sentences and leaves it at that. No explanation. He just says “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32 NLT).

And I am left asking how can something so VAST like the Kingdom of Heaven be compared to something so SMALL. How could something of such immense significance be infused into the DNA of such a small seed, how could such power and authority be found in something so small, something so minute. We are talking about the SOVEREIGN RULERSHIP of God here. So what is it with the mustard seed analogy?

I’ve thought about this a lot of late, read some other scriptures and tried to figure it out. Somehow I think that this is what Jesus intended all along. He deliberately leaves us to find out what it means knowing that only those who will seek first His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) will find the answers from His Word of Truth. So here’s an UNEDITED edition of the parable and what I think Jesus is getting at…

“Once the King of a vast empire decided to become a farmer and plant a crop that would one day reap a huge harvest. He spent time preparing the soil and when the time was ripe He went out into His field and deliberately planted ONE SMALL SEED in the fertile earth.

It was no ordinary seed. It was a seed of destiny, a seed of promise, a seed of kingdom significance, the seed of the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Inherent in this one seed was the very nature and character of the King Himself and His authority to rule and reign in the lives of those who follow Him. It was destined to change the world. That’s why the soil in which He chose to plant His seed was the soil of a person’s heart and life.

At first the seed was planted into the heart and life of a young virgin girl who bore this tiny seed in her womb. And in the most HUMBLE of places she gave birth to HEAVENS KINGDOM ON EARTH. Not in the splendour of a palace. He was born in a manger, a TINY BABY. The seed became a human being. It all seemed so INCONSEQUENTIAL and unimportant, just another baby, but don’t miss this. We are talking about the KING OF KINGS and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

An ancient book recorded His birth. Among other things it says “…Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the HUMBLE POSITION of a slave and was born as a human being” (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT). Just a small seed yet heavens kingdom “…appeared in human form, He HUMBLED HIMSELF in obedience to God.”

The downside to living as a human of course is that He was destined die as a human. How could the Majesty of all heaven live His life as a human being? How could He die and be buried like a seed in the ground, yet in our story that is exactly what happened. He “died a criminal’s death on a cross.” I know I said it’s the unedited version but I can’t get into too many details here. You’ll have to read the book.

I can tell you this, however. “It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:32 NLT).

Yes, the seed began to grow into a mighty tree and all of a sudden the Cross became His throne where heavens authority and character was expressed. It would have incredible impact upon the world.

The only way I can describe what happened was that on that Cross reserved for criminals, the Divine SOVEREIGNTY of heaven chose to pay the penalty for our sin! Divine JUSTICE was satisfied! Divine RIGHTEOUSNESS became available! Divine LOVE was released forever! Divine LIFE was offered! OMNISCIENCE was articulated! OMNIPOTENCE accomplished what was impossible! OMNIPRESENCE assured us that He would never leave or forsake us! His Divine IMMUTABILITY confirmed afresh that He is the same yesterday, today and forever! His Divine VERACITY drew us into the presence of all Truth!

But our story doesn’t end at the Cross. It BEGINS.

Here’s the real miracle of the story. Unless a seed is “planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24 NLT).

He rose again! He defeated the power of sin and death! The seed grew to fulfil His destiny and so it is no wonder then that “…God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11 NLT).

This is a true story. You say, how do I know all this is true about the Seed? I know because as it became a tree and grew I became engrafted (Romans 11:17) as one of it’s branches, along with millions of others, His Church. When I yielded to the great authority of Christ, the life of the Seed became my life. “… It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NLT).”

One day every knee will bow, but today the invitation is in the form of a small Seed of DESTINY, PROMISE AND LIFE and it is given freely to you. It is a seed with all the authority of heaven infused into it’s DNA, the very life of God Himself. Inherent in such a small seed is all of heavens authority and resources made available for the circumstances of life, such incredible potential for those who seek and accept the gift of the mustard Seed.

Pastor Ross.

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Matthew 13:36-43 – WILL I SEE MY MUM IN HEAVEN? – Part 12

Will I see my mum in heaven?

I watched the news in the last few weeks as a nation reels in the horror of the aftermath of an earthquake. The devastation of a category 6 earthquake brings everything to it’s knees, buildings awkwardly buckle and crumble as if submitting to a warlord. Darkness falls like a smothering blanket over the city as the electricity grid fails. Debris falls, the dusty malformed tears of a city, the victim of a stroke. She looks contorted and twisted as she struggles in vain, convulsing with each aftershock, trying to stay alive but unable to move, her eyes wide and blinded in the dirt.

A woman is plucked from the wreckage of a collapsed building but nothing can save the twisted misshapen, struggling city from the crushing reality of over 160 deaths. Hell walks the darkened streets of Christchurch, New Zealand and faces are haunted with fear, shock and grief. Their eyes look for someone to tell them that this is not happening, but somehow they know that life will never be the same.

There was no warning. Sudden, unexpected. No-one can tell when death knocks menacingly at the door. She dies, not in the streets of Christchurch but a sea away, in Australia. There is no front page news of this devastating event. Only a lonely ad somewhere in the funeral notices of the local paper. My mum dies of a massive stroke (cerebral haemorrhage) in the early hours of the morning as Christchurch is still reeling from the aftershocks. As I hear this news I cannot believe that this has happened until my sisters and I go to view her body, and I see that she is not there. Just an empty shell. She has departed into eternity. We conduct her funeral a week later.

And all of us are left with unvoiced questions about eternity, questions we don’t really want to think about but which linger in the shadows of the mind. WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY DIE?

Jesus speaks of HEAVEN as a place where “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom” and HELL as “…the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42-43 NLT).

IS MY MUM IN HEAVEN? If I am honest, I can’t answer that question. I have to leave it in the hands of God. I trust Him to make the decisions of eternity. Did my mum come into a personal relationship with Christ as her Lord and Saviour? I know that I shared with her about how Jesus died for our sins on a number of occasions. Did she ever decide inwardly to trust in Christ? I know that she would pray at night, but was she saved out of the wreckage, plucked from the roof before her life collapsed, before all that was left was shock reverberating in the emptiness of our hearts?

The world didn’t know it but it was experiencing an earthquake of unbelievable magnitude when Christ died. He was reaching out to save us from our precarious condition. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins there was an appropriate blackout that covered the earth which in the physical environment described what was happening spiritually as He was judged for my sin (Mark 15:33).

The only light that not only dispels the darkness but also causes no shadows is one that comes from within, an inner light. God is described as light and some would unkindly say of Christians that the lights are on but nobody’s home, but that’s cruel and patently untrue. No matter how odd Christians are, foolish to many, CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN. 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) says “…God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” The invitation is right there.

When the Bible describes those who go to heaven, it says “we will be like Him (Christ), for we will see Him as He really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). The only way Jesus can describe to me what heaven is like is to say “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). Although I can’t quite imagine shining like a celestial lightbulb, the contrast and choice is clear – DARKNESS, shell shocked and stubbornly unbelieving among the rubble of a collapsing world, or LIGHT; reaching out to a loving hand, and to salvation from the ruins of the devastating effects of my sin.

I choose LIGHT. Will I see my mum in heaven? Will I see you there?

Pastor Ross

THE CANVAS OF HER LIFE – ELSIE COCHRANE (1931-2011) 

My Beautiful Mum, Elsie CochranePete, my brother in law organises for her paintings to be in the Chapel half an hour before the time when we would celebrate the life of Elsie Cochrane, my Mum, and he hung them on the walls. Beautiful, large expressions of her life. 

Susan Boyle sings “How Great Thou Art” as people were still filling the chapel to overflowing. 

“Welcome to this ART GALLERY of our Mum’s works. We wanted to pay tribute to Elsie Cochrane’s CREATIVITY as a PROMINENT ARTIST as well as a loving Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, and faithful friend to many of you here today.

It seems a bit strange that as a CHAPLAIN in an Aged Care Facility that I find myself leading the funeral of my own Mum. That seemed inconceivable a week ago. Still does. 

All of us are here because we have a connection with Elsie. She has touched our lives in various ways, and the COLOURS of her influence will remain with us. 

What can you say when your Mum dies? Death is a one way street into eternity.

Not even the most experienced of artists can adequately create with paint on canvas or poet can express in words on paper what we feel inside. The TUBES OF PAINT are squeezed dry. The words seem somehow hollow and empty. And yet we are here, with EMPTY CANVAS and unskilled hands ready to paint a portrait of our Mum, in bright and beautiful colours like the canvases around you. 

In order to do that we will need a bit of help, so we are going to ask the MASTER ARTIST to give us a hand. After all GOD painted the original portrait of Mum in eternity past and He knows her better than any of us. 

The Bible says in Psalms 46:1 (NLT) God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalms 103:13-14 (NLT) says, “The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.” 

Elsie and her children, Ross, Toni and Lauren

This day is a time to CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF ELSIE COCHRANE. 

Don’t MISUNDERSTAND me. The last few days for my sisters and I has been a PALETTE filled with the DEEPER, SOMBER EARTH TONES OF GRIEF, …and WATERCOLOURS at that. So this is also a time to be impacted by the reality of eternity and realize that God is SENSITIVE to those of us who areHURTING. 

Psalms 34:18 (NLT) says that “The Lord is close to the BROKENHEARTED; He rescues those whose spirits are CRUSHED.” 

Psalms 90:1-12 (NIV) says “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” 

My son Ben, comes to the front and reads from Psalm 139:13 

“For You (God) created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written inYour book before one of them came to be.” 

Elsie, her children and some of her grandchildren, Rachel, Ben and Hope.

We sing Amazing Grace and TONI and LAUREN, my sisters, take up a PAINTBRUSH, and paint a picture of our Mum, Elsie Cochrane.

First Toni picks up her palette and paints her part of the portrait.

FOR MY MUM

“Its 8am.  I sit down at the computer and call Mum on Skype.  “Hi Tone darling, I knew it would be you,” she’d say.  “How did you know that?”  “Because I’m psychic and who else would ring me at this ungodly hour of the morning!”  “Spot on,  me,  I’d say”.   

This is how we would open one of our marathon talkathons.  We could TALK  the pants off a kangaroo,  sometimes two and a half hours of intense ramblings would find us still in our P Jays coming up to lunch time.  “Well I guess we’d better get off this phone”, she’d say.   I’m going down town, I haven’t had a shower and Ken will be here to pick me up soon.   Just before you go though, did I tell you about”………..and a half hour later, Ken is asleep on the couch. 

My Mum was my true friend.  She loved me unconditionally and she gave me her time.  She made allowances for me.  She was understanding but would always tell me in no uncertain terms if she thought I was being ridiculous. 

We were Shopaholics whenever she came to Sydney.  We loved anything unusual and beautiful.  We’d drive up the mountains, park the car and Do Leura.  Zany little café’s were our forte.  We’d get “wired” on our decafe cappuccinos.  I will miss that. 

She was always encouraging and intensely proud of my achievements.  She strived for excellence in all that she did and was passionate for her art, her garden, music and her family.  She was my Rock in my darkest moments and I know I was her Rock likewise.  She is always my Mum and I will miss her terribly.”

Lauren my sister shares

My mum accepted all things that came before her and always made the best of every situation thinking not of herself but of her family. 

 I remember when i was 14 years old and wagga at the time was experiencing a shocking heat wave. After sweltering all day in a classroom at school, I was dreading the long miserable hot walk home from Mt Austin high school to Hunter Street. Back in the early 70’s we didn’t have luxuries of refrigerated cooling like we do today. Just the old stand alone water cooler on wheels, but back then it was a luxury and I planned on gluing myself in front of it when I got home.

 As I walked out of the front gate of school, to my surprise, I saw mum across the road sitting in her little grey two door Morris miner waiting for me with a bucket to full of cold water and wash cloth to cool me down. ” Don’t think I will be doing this for you every day Lauren”. It’s too bloody hot to be sitting here! But she did, she was there the next day and the day after that!

My mum had a wonderful sense of humour with an effervescent laugh. She could always make me laugh, even when I was in one of my horrid teenage moods.

When I was recovering from a burst appendix in hospital, she made me laugh so hard; I burst a few of my stitches. The doctor was not happy, either was I!

Mum was with me through the birth of my daughter Hope and played a huge roll in her up bringing. Being a single mum at times was difficult for me. My mum was always there for Hope and I. I could always rely on my mum particularly when it concerned Hope. She had a very special bond with her and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being such a loving thortful caring generous nana to hope.

My mum was a very stylish woman right up to the end. She always looked beautiful and modern she always looked younger than she was. I was very proud of her and how she looked when I met up with her in the market place. I remember being so proud when ever I introduced her to my friends or work colleagues always hear them commenting afterwards “oh your mother is beautiful” or “Is  that your mum wow she is so pretty”.

I take comfort in the fact that my very last words I said to mum was “ I love you mumma” and waved her good bye.

I pray she is in heaven with god and she has been given her energetic artistic spirit back again. I’m going to look forward to magnificent sunsets from now on  ‘cos I know my mum will be painting them just for us. Love you mumma.xx

Hope, Lauren’s daughter, sings a beautiful song.

In my hand, a legacy of memories
I can hear you say my name
I can almost see your smile
Feel the warmth of your embrace

But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?

Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are

Never thought this day would come so soon
We had no time to say goodbye
How can the world just carry on?
I feel so lost when your not at my side

But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?

Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are

So sorry your world is tumbling down
I will watch you through these nights
Rest your head and go to sleep
Coz my child this is not our farewell
This is not our farewell

Another grandson, David, Toni’s son, shares.

“Hello everyone, I am David Macarthur-King second grandson of 4 to Elsie Cochrane. Most of my adult life l have been away however I’m sure Nan understands.

And that’s probably the greatest gift my Nan gave to me, was her unwavering understanding. Drawing picture’s and painting art as a boy, in between climbing the highest tree whenever l would visit, she understood that l didn’t understand any boundaries and that was okay. Nan was all about trusting that I could be more than what I was and that my limits were expandable. Nan knew that I would learn to be understanding of boundaries, one day.

I always felt loved and cared for in her presence and her home. Nan nurtured my mind and fed my heart, and always made the best scones because aside from Art, she understood that the way to my young heart was through an exceptional scone. She was very thoughtful — indeed she allowed me to wash the dishes quite a lot when l was little. We will all have special memories of Nan, or Mum, or Elsie, but for me Nan taught me the love of appreciation for all things in life and to never settle for anything but the very best scone.

These are the gifts Nan gave to me — to share time simply and with love. To appreciate that I can just be me, and that‘s good enough, and to accept that sometimes life may serve you bad art without understanding, but somewhere, someone is enjoying Nan’s. That comfort is lessened for us today, but Nan‘s passion, and love, lives on in us. lt’s up to us to love each other as she loved us, with quiet acceptance and understanding.

Thank you Nan, I love you and goodbye.”

My son Ben shares. 

A reflection in the form of a video slideshow of Mum’s life is shown. I originally went to have this professionally produced but the guy came back with something which fell far short of what I wanted to depict my Mum’s life. I made my own, just impressions painted on a screen of Mum’s life. 

I have been extremely busy for the last few weeks and I had thought “I must ring Mum” but I didn’t make the effort until Monday night, at about 9.15 pm, when Julie, my wife, handed me the phone and said “Why don’t you ring your Mum” So I did. 

We spoke for about 50 minutes that night and she seemed happy to talk about what was happening in her life, about her granddaughter Hope and Hope’s new boyfriend, about my sisters and about her health. 

She asked me about my work as a Chaplain and I told her about how I had conducted 3 funerals within 2 days recently and how difficult it was to make each one personal. 

I said that I wasn’t afraid to speak to people about ETERNITY and how many people are MORE than willing to talk about dying when they come to an AGED CARE FACILITY. As a Chaplain I always TRY to encourage people to PUT THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ personally. I have found that faith in Him to be a great strength to me during this time. I think we all need His help today. 

Mum spoke about how good she was feeling of late. Her health was good and she was enjoying life. She asked me, as she often does, if I will ever take up painting again. I told her that I was writing and illustrating a book on the computer of late and that she would get a copy as a Christmas present this year. I guess I will dedicate it to her. 

When I asked her if SHE would ever paint again, she told me that she hadn’t given up painting. She just lacked motivation to get something started again. 

My Mum and Me, Ross

I didn’t realise that this would be the last conversation that I would ever have with my Mum. At the end of those 50 minutes I cut the conversation short because I was tired. The last thing I said to her was “I love you Mum”. I am so thankful that Julie, my wife, handed me the phone that night and suggested I ring my Mum. I think God arranged for me to have that conversation. 

Our Mum was a fine ARTIST, and it is my task to paint you a picture of her life. 

ELSIE SWAN was born in “Windooree” private hospital, 53 Gurwood Street on the 19th June 1931, one of 7 children. 

Some of you may know that Wagga was experiencing a huge flood in 1931. My grandfather Dave Swan had to drive his very pregnant wife Alice into town. He had to get out of the Sulky at Lake Albert to check the depth of the water to see if they could get through. Mum could have been born in that sulky.  

Of course Australia has just been through some more incredible flooding and there has been a terrible earthquake in New Zealand recently. It seems Mum’s entrance into and exit from the world was surrounded by CATACLYSMIC EVENTS. Perhaps that’s why Mum always liked to paint in such DRAMATIC colours. 

Let me first paint some BROAD BRUSHSTROKES of her life. 

Elsie lived on a dairy farm with her parents at Gregado. She rode a horse with her sister, Letty, to the Gregado School, that’s if Tommey, her horse, would let them stay on. He had a habit of shaking them off at the gate and they would have to catch him all over again. 

Mum used to laugh about Tommey. She was not the best horse rider and one day when she was supposed to round up some cows, one cow just refused to co-operate. Tommey just bucked her off and rounded up the cow for her. He figured he could do the job better himself. 

After finishing the Black Friars CORRESPONDENCE course Mum completed her INTERMEDIATE in Wagga. She loved the dances at Gregado and playing tennis and she worked as a telephonist in Gregado. 

On the 23rd of July 1949 in the Methodist Church, she married our Dad, Roy Cochrane. 

Our Mum was a wonderful cook and I remember most Sundays we would have a roast Chicken feast. Toni, my sister, says that Dad made the mistake of saying one Sunday that part of the chicken was still frozen. This didn’t go down well Mum and he received a roasting himself, and the next time she served chicken she placed a frozen chicken on his plate and said “Here, eat this!” 

We’ve been reading Mum’s diaries of those early years, filled with hard work, and good friends, tennis and camping and eventually 3 children, Toni, myself, Ross, and Lauren, arguably her most creative work.  

In the early years of her marriage she lived in a little lane called LAMPE AVENUE in what amounted to a 2 room house and kitchen area, with a lean-to out the back and a copper for hot water and bath. We had only one powerpoint in the house. I loved growing up there and missed it greatly when we moved to a housing commission home at 27 Hunter St in Wagga. Since then someone has had the hide to pull that little house down and build an apartment. Pat Davey, Mum’s lifelong friend, who is here today would remember many stories from those days. 

For many years Mum was a professional dressmaker. She also worked in the Plaza theatre for a time. 

Mum and I studied fine Arts together at the Riverina College of Advanced Education and she went on to get her degree. She taught fine art at the University and Tafe College. She also taught DISABLED STUDENTS as well as teaching numerous PRIVATE STUDENTS through the years, some of whom have gone on to be prominent artists themselves. Over the years Mum has exhibited her work in many places including a combined exhibition which she did with me here in Wagga. 

This is perhaps her FINAL EXHIBITION and she would be pleased to think that you have come to see her work. AND NO, THEY ARE NOT FOR SALE.  

In 1981 Mum and Dad divorced and she moved to Ashmont. She remained friends, however with Dad until his death. She has lived in Ashmont Avenue for 25 years. Her landlord loved driving by and seeing her beautiful garden, splashes of colour from roses and numerous other plants decorating the premises and inviting your eyes to pause and enjoy them. She loved her garden. 

She also loved a variety of music ranging from Neil Diamond, John Farnham, Susan Boyle, Andrei Reau TO PINK. Her granddaughter Hope introduced her to Pink, I’m sure. She loved listening to Hope sing the songs of today. 

Mum actually attended Hope’s birth. She has loved being a grandmother and great grandmother. She recently came to Sydney and we all got together for a great day where she got to meet Rachel and Ben’s children. She also loved being a DAUGHTER HERSELF to her own Mum who lived to 108. Mum, Letty, Nana, Ken and others loved spending time at the Wagga Market Place where they all became well known and loved by the shopkeepers. 

During her time in Ashmont she met Ken and he has been a faithful friend to Mum for many years. His friendship enriched her life. Thankyou Ken. 

Our Mum has been able to travel to a number of countries and these trips have been inspiration for many of her artworks. She traveled with Pat Davey to Europe. She traveled to America, and Lord Howe Island, and to Tasmania with Letty in a Holden Barina. Letty remembers that they laughed a lot. Many other places fill photo albums. Although we have numerous photographs of these trips there are very few of them with her in them. She was more interested in TEXTURES AND COLOURS AND SHAPES for series of paintings which followed. 

I came across some notes Mum wrote for an interview with RVN, the local TV station, she was going to have for an exhibition. She wrote “Comments for RVN interview (I guess I won’t say any of this)…. The longer one paints or the more experience one has, the more difficult painting becomes. Rather than whipping up a painting as the result of “inspiration”, it is more a battle of wits – painter versus paint, brush and canvas.

The most frequent comment I have (from people) is “so long as you enjoy what you’re doing.” Well yes at times I do but often I loathe the piece I’m working on to the extent that I would like to tear it to shreds. Only later when I’ve taken the work to its limits, when I’ve resolved the painting and put it away for a time, am I likely to grow to like it. The ones that cause the most trouble – those I’d like to hack to pieces, are often my better pieces when resolved. 

I very rarely feel so attached to a piece of work that I can’t part with it, canvases are ripped off frames or repainted if they remain in my workshop after an exhibition.  

I work very long hours. I live alone so I can work into the early hours of the morning in my workshop if I want to and often do. I sleep very soundly but should I wake in the night with an idea I keep my note book handy and I jot things down. Inserted later – I said none of this but the interview was the best I’ve had. It was shown at the exhibition several times.” 

Another time she wrote, “Broke my hand 30th Sept 1986. Chirp (my budgee) died during operation 4th Oct 1986. Hand in plaster from 16th October – 27th November. Completed 3 mixed media paintings while my hand was in plaster (with great difficulty). Unable to stretch canvas and begin work in earnest until after Christmas 86. 19th January. Completed 7 paintings, six floor pieces. Work flowing, enjoying freedom from other commitments. Money short for materials as I’m unemployed during holiday period.”  

Elsie had a heart condition called HYPERTROPIC CARDIO MYOPATHY and on Tuesday morning 22nd February, 2011, at the age of 79, God painted the last brushstroke of her life here on earth.  

I walked into her workshop a few days ago and was suddenly overwhelmed with grief for her loss and thankfulness for life. The canvases still stood against the wall ready to be painted. The tubes of paint, paintbrushes, pottery, and numerous tools of her trade silently stood as if saying “What do we do now?” and I cried for their loss and mine. 

Her garden and the quality of her works and all those who have felt the touch of her influence say “Well done.” We love you Mum. 

 

Elsie and some of the great grandchildren - Levi, Arielle, Zion and Rome.

Elsie Cochrane was a sister to John, Nell, Kath, Chick Letty, and Lilly. She leaves behind 3 children, Toni, Ross and Lauren. 6 grandchildren, Jeremy, David and Matthew, Hope, Ben and Rachel, and 8 great grandchildren. And of course all of YOU who have come to her exhibition today.

We would like to give you a memento of her work. We found some canvases which had been water damaged at the bottom, so we have cut them up in the size of a large bookmark to give to each of you. There is a picture of Mum on the back and Julie has written “In recognition of the colour and texture you have added to Elsie’s wonderful life, we would like you to have, as a keepsake, this portion of her artwork. This memento will also serve as a reminder of the beauty with which Elsie has touched all our lives, with love, Toni, Ross and Lauren and their families.”

Would you stand with me as I pray. “Lord we commit Elsie into Your hands. We thankyou for who she was and what she meant to us, and the privilege of knowing her and loving her.  

May the Lord bless you indeed abundantly beyond all you ask or think. May the Lord extend the sphere of your influence in positive ways as you grow to know Him more and more. May the Lords Hand be with you guiding your hand as you reach out to others. May He protect and keep you from evil that you may live a life that pleases Him.  May you honour Him more and more in your life. May you know His peace and forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen. 

Neil Diamond sings “Yesterdays Songs”

The casket is carried to the gravesite by Peter, David, Jeremy and Matthew, Ben and Jim.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
 

We’re here today to LAY TO REST Elsie’s body and to say our final goodbyes. The Bible says that OUR BODIES are made of the DUST OF THE GROUND and to the dust of the ground we will all return. But we are MORE THAN DUST. God breathed life into these temporary bodies, and as I just read GOD HAS SET ETERNITY in the hearts of men. These bodies serve us only as the TEMPORARY DWELLING PLACE. It is all together fitting and right that we miss Elsie but now is the time to let her go, to give her into God’s hands. 

We take time to place some flowers on Elsie’s casket. Mum always said she wanted plenty of flowers.

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
knowing full well that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

I sing the Benediction. 

The Lord Bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Matthew 13:36-43 – HELL, GOD’S WASTE MANAGEMENT CENTRE – Part 11

Hell

I watch as hell is washed inland with the momentum of an earthquake behind it, a wave of burning cars, buildings and debri. And in its wake the devastation of thousands lost. Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear explosion.

In the Valley of Hinnom, outside Jerusalem, refuse was burned continually day and night. It was called Gehenna, the city dump. Jesus uses it as a picture of HELL. I know that Hell is regarded as a foolish ploy of religious people to instill fear, or a metaphor of retribution, but the Bible is very clear about it being a LITERAL AND DEFINITE place, originally prepared for the devil and his angels and not us (Matthew 25:41).

We are concerned for the lives lost in Japan. What is even worse is the thought of people being separated from God for ETERNITY. As reluctant as I am to speak about hell, Jesus isn’t. Perhaps today, rather than pointing to Gehenna, Jesus would point to the smoldering, twisted rubbish dump, like a lake of fire and smoke that once was Northern Japan, and say that it is a portrait of hell. It’s an incredible waste. But Imagine God thinking that my life is a waste such as this, not only on earth but also for eternity. No wonder hell is described as “THE SECOND DEATH”.

Imagine in Japan a helicopter offering to lift someone from the path of the Tsnami. Imagine them saying “I don’t need your help”. Lots of people do that with Jesus. They say “Well, I’ve lived a pretty good life. I don’t need Jesus. I don’t need to be saved!” The arrogance that deceives me into thinking that somehow I DESERVE heaven rather than accept that Christ died for my sins to keep me from hell may be a prevalent concept today, but it is totally ego centric and highlights how spiritually blind I am. I am choosing to live on a waste dump. Or as we choose to call it a Waste Management Recycling Centre.

As I speak on this day 14th March 2011, Hell walks through the battered remains of New Zealand, Japan and threatens people at Gunpoint in Libya, but Matthew 10:28 (NLT) says “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

The Bible says God is life. Those who choose to separate themselves from God separate themselves from that life for eternity, an unimaginable existence.

When Jesus gives an explanation of the parable of the WHEAT AND WEEDS being separated at the harvest, He uses strong terms. He says in Matthew 13:41-42 (NLT) “The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will remove from His Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A comedian said if you don’t have teeth then teeth will be provided, but somehow it doesn’t seem so funny when you think that teeth gnashing describes the terrifying torment and anguish of such retribution.

Jesus is looking at some very religious people as He speaks and says “There will come a time when it will be sorted out”. The day of judgment is coming! He is simply stating it as a fact, and He is not trying to be some street preacher wearing a placard saying “Turn or burn!” Far from it. He is saying “NO-ONE ELSE has come to save you.”

John 3:17-21 (NLT) says “God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE the world, BUT TO SAVE the world through Him. There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does NOT believe in Him has ALREADY been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light…”

These are words of life, not death. God loves you. He IS love. The invitation is clear. God offers us life in Christ. Jesus is the only way, truth and life. Choose life.

Pastor Ross

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