You may have heard the story of the farmer who was very proud of his axe - it had served him well. "It has had four new handles and two new heads. It's a wonderful axe!" The same axe? According to the farmer it is - in spite of its new handles and heads!
One of our memories of 2000 is the Sydney Olympics. There were many highlights - the volunteers (what a magnificent job they did!), the athletes (they had sacrificed so much time and energy to be at their peak!), the crowds (they appreciated worthy effort no matter which team got the gold!)…
There were disappointments too - including the relay team that was expected to win, but dropped the baton.
The year 2000 has significant memories for the Burdekin Uniting Church too. Among other events has been the passing of a number of members who have fulfilled key roles in the life of both Ayr Home Hill congregations. Some have commented that this is the passing of an era. But perhaps we should see it as the passing of the baton.
In Matthew 28.18-20 we read what is often called the Great Commission. The disciples had been with Jesus for three years now. They understood his identity as the Son of God. They had seen him teach. They had observed his loving compassion. They had watched his miracles. He had stirred opposition to the point where he died an agonising death by crucifixion. Now they knew he was alive - risen from the grave!
But they also had a greater understanding of themselves. One of their number had betrayed him into the hands of his opponents. As a group they had deserted him when the situation became too hot. Their most vocal leadership aspirant had three times denied any connection with him.
But now he says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and made disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The baton has been passed. Whose baton is it? For the moment it is in our hand - it is our baton. Or is it the team's baton? It is, after all, the team's race, not just ours. Or is it the Lord's baton? Yes, that's it! He has given it to us. We don't own it in any absolute sense, though we have to "own" it in the sense of accepting that for the moment it is in our hand, for our part of the race.
We are in this together - and the Lord has promised his presence and the enabling power of his Spirit too. The race is on! Don't fumble the baton!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Link, February 2001