The Third Sunday in Lent

My first ‘encounter’ with sharks was when I was quite young – I don’t exactly remember when (but I’m guessing I was around 6 years old). I say ‘encounter’ because I didn’t see the shark and I wasn’t anywhere near water at the time. But we all knew about sharks so it was really a big bit of news when my Dad told me that a shark had come up the George’s River to the weir and had grabbed a dog. I knew where the weir was – we drove past it often – but it was nearly 30 miles from the sea! Sharks and beaches go to together, not sharks and upstream of rivers! So with boyhood fascination of monsters and danger I’m sure I would’ve said ‘Wow!’ (or some-thing similar) and the news stuck in my mind (translated as ‘be careful at the weir!’).

A few years ago Charlotte was on a beach in northern NSW where sadly there had been some shark fatalities and on that day the police and helicopters had just gone past giving a shark alert. Coming to the far end of the beach some surfers arrived and as they were head-ing into the water Charlotte told them of the shark alert. They didn’t even slow down as one said ‘Cool!’ as he and his board hit the waves.

When you talk to some people here about Australia I’ve heard it said that they wouldn’t visit my homeland ‘because of the sharks’. When I suggest that they don’t have to go to the beach, it still doesn’t make any apparent difference! They’re lurking ‘out there’ ready to strike. Of course shark attacks are relatively rare and the beaches are safe but no one wants to be attacked. So I was interested to read recently that Australian engineers are adapting facial recognition technology and airport scanners to construct a buoy system which uses sonar to identify shapes and swimming styles to identify sharks of 6 feet in length or more and once identified the buoy will send an alert and the lifeguards and shark alarms do the rest.

Maybe it was the alliteration … sharks … sin … but I found myself thinking … wouldn’t it be good to have a sin buoy system that somehow identified all the consequences of this or that action, situation, person, circumstance, choice that we encounter? Sometimes sins are easy to spot – before, during, and after – but for whatever reason we just don’t care enough to fight. Often however sin is camouflaged and hard to spot – tempting, alluring, and easy to rationalise – and what we especially fail to see are the consequences; the unintended, the long term. If we had a warning system that alerted us perhaps we’d struggle more or flee from the sin more decisively. With such a technology we’d see temptation for what it is – choices that never re-veal the full story; choices designed to ensnare us. After all the goal and reward of sin is ulti-mately our death.

Jesus was encircled, hunted in the wilderness and tempted to sin. He responded with God’s Word both as a defence and as a wisdom and guidance about what to actually do. Christians have the same help – God’s Word which then informs our conscience and can come crashing into our consciousness. It becomes more complicated when we do sin and Jesus forgives us – and this knowledge of forgiveness instead of being a strength to help us struggle with sin can become a ‘temptation’ so that we rationalise our sin and don’t struggle … much (because God will forgive). Jesus was attacked on many occasions and none more forcefully than when he was on the cross where he struggled not to sin – to help himself or punish others with his power. He understands what we go through with our sins and when nasty bity things want to eat us and he always offers us a way to resist the attack. Forgiveness not withstanding – of course we need that – but trusting God’s Word especially when tempted not to invariably proves the best course of action every time for sin’s goal is to gobble us up and ruin as much as it can every time. GS