Spiritual Matters: All aboard for joyful journey
THE complimentary hot chocolate is welcome. The weather cold. Snow covers the ground and I'm sitting in the cafe at Scenic World at Katoomba while my school group from Lismore ride the precipitous Scenic Railway.
We drove up from Sydney and bedded down at the Katoomba Christian Convention camp.
Rain on the roof during the night was a relatively new experience after prolonged drought conditions. In the morning however, there was no sound of rain. Imagine my surprise and delight then as I drew back the curtains and absorbed the scene before my eyes: A winter wonderland - snow covering the ground, the bushes and the trees and soft flakes floating gracefully from above.
Then the sound track started: Squeals of delight from 40 children - some of whom had never seen snow before. It was a totally new and delightful experience. For me, when I realised that the snow had not settled on the road and there was no underlying ice to create hazardous driving conditions, I relaxed and allowed the beauty of the snow-clad landscape to enthral me.
After a magnificent breakfast, we loaded the coach and departed for a quick sightseeing circuit which brought us to the famous Scenic World complex - with its precipitous railway, new cableway and skyway rides designed specifically to thrill and scare in equal measure. More new and exciting experiences to embrace - despite the cold and wet.
Now, two days later, as I sit and type this in the coach outside the Australian War Memorial, the kids, their teachers and some of their parents are inside learning about the major conflicts our country has become involved in. They are absorbing the sombre atmosphere and learning to respect the memorial that exists to honour those who sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we can sometimes take for granted. It may be difficult for some of these young people to understand and appreciate the import of war for they have grown up far removed from the chaos and horror of a full-scale global conflict. So once again they are being confronted by, and exposed to, new and significant experiences - which will undoubtedly leave a marked impression upon these youngsters. This trip could even prove to be a life-changing experience for many of them.
Casting our minds back now to the time of Jesus, and turning to the historical accounts of his life and ministry, it's clear that he had a huge impact upon those around him. Life-changing impacts. Jesus was so different - a gale of fresh air sweeping aside the stale rhetoric of a self-serving religious elite. This was a new theology that represented God in a radical new way - a way they had never experienced before.
In three years, Jesus swept aside centuries of rigid dogma that had had the effect of stifling freedoms and placing worship and and spirituality in a loveless straitjacket. Jesus unleashed a new and exciting experience based on a personal relationship with God that absolutely anyone could embrace with passion.
History attests that this new teaching - this new truth - these new experiences, radically changed the world.
The excursion to eternity - with all its wonderful and surprising joys - is always ready to depart.
All aboard now.