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An Unexpected Treasure

By Rev David MacGregor

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. These words of praise begin and end Psalm 118. The wonder of this praise is that the celebrations concern an unexpected treasure – “the stone the builders rejected”. This rejection becomes the basis for praise and celebration. Unexpected. Foretells Jesus’ eventual rejection on the cross.

Jesus rides through Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday unexpectedly on a donkey. Unexpectedly, no one has ever ridden this donkey. The crowd shout out words from Psalm 118: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (26)

The Lord? That’s what Caesar, the Roman emperor, expected people to call him. But no. This is not Caesar. This is Jesus Christ, the miracle-working, friend-making, hope-giving, faith-sharing teacher and healer from Nazareth on the Sea of Galilee. Unexpected big time! “The builders rejected”.

We all know what rejection looks and feels like. It may be with friends, at school, at university, at work, or even on the sports field. Sometimes, it comes totally unexpectedly; other times, way too familiar. We all know what that does to us, how we feel deep inside, and how we feel about ourselves. It’s not nice. It’s horrible!

I remember my high school years at Indooroopilly in Brisbane. I was the original geek – shy, tall, gangly, pimply, no friends. I volunteered for a couple of years at lunchtimes in the school’s canteen, helping sell drinks, chips, and ice blocks. It was something to do. It also gave a mob of hefty, loudmouthed, footy-basketball-crazed year 12 guys someone to “give heaps” to each lunch hour. And they sure did. They sledged me like some cricketers. One name stuck – Ronnie Raisin Toast. Toast for short. It became my name school-wide. I really felt like “toast”. Useless. Rejected.

Imagine my surprise a few years on when who should show up at our church young adults’ group but one of the Year 12 ringleaders! Gary. Gary was going out with Lynn, a committed Christian friend from primary school and church days. “What do you see in this guy, Lynn?” I asked myself more than once.

In time, via Lynn, Gary came to faith in Jesus, threw away much of his past ways, kept his humour intact, and became a mentor to me and countless others. Talk about unexpected treasure! Through Jesus’ transformation, the “new Gary”, though imperfect like us all, began displaying a robust inner beauty and purpose… that transformation from God began revealing itself in others. My life and others’ lives are being shaped for the better. “Marvellous in our eyes”. Yep, God’s too!

Gary remains a mentor to this day, this unexpected treasure in my life, though physical distance makes that different now to times past. You see, Gary’s Christ-inspired encouragement helped me see myself deep down in God’s loving heart as an unexpected treasure, too. Decades on that has been “a marvellous thing”. As the old song reminds me, “For he made something beautiful out of my life.” And by the Holy Spirit, that’s Jesus’ promise to us, too!

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