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Richard Quadrio went from decades ministering in a church, to serving in the Royal Australian Navy as a Chaplain where he found God in unexpected places.

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Richard Quadrio is Presbyterian Minister and Chaplain in the Royal Australian Navy.

Today's reading is Luke 2:8-20

After nearly three decades as a church planter, pastor and church leader I accepted a new calling five years ago to become a Chaplain in the Royal Australian Navy. At the time, some within my church and denomination were unsupportive for a number of reasons. In short, I was told that leaving church ministry for chaplaincy was a waste of my spiritual gifts. Secondly, I was told that working in such a secular environment would undermine my faith.

Five years on, I reflect on those concerns. My service is now amongst those who are mostly a long way from any church. Their language is more colourful, their lives are more complicated, their belief systems are more confused and their problems can be far more extreme. They are also often honest, vulnerable and incredibly likeable. I have made many wonderful friendships and sense the presence of God unexpectedly in this world. The church to them is distant, and faith is remote but God seems very much in the space.

Unexpectedly this secular, military working class culture has reinforced rather than threatened my faith. When a junior sailor tells me that all the big questions of life, meaning and the universe have been solved by science I am not threatened but saddened. When a young gay officer inquires why the Jesus of the Bible seems so different to the rejection and judgmentalism he has received from Christians, my reaction is tears rather than fear. The escapism of alcohol and drugs, the pressure when relationships are the ultimate hope and the addiction to the material reinforces the unexpected beauty of faith, hope and love.

Finally, the unsurpassed grandeur of being at sea nags away at the secular narrative. Every wise navigator fears the sea, so fearing God can seem less alien. Being away from family, challenges our security. Being off the coast, with no phone reception, undermines the theocracy of technology. Revival is hardly imminent but the still small voice is not extinguished.  

When a bunch of working class sheepherders stumbled upon the baby Jesus they too discovered unexpected beauty. God is discovered in an unexpected place. God was dwelling amongst a couple of poor teenagers as a baby lying in a wooden feed box. Go figure!

Some might say that looking after sheep is a waste of a young man’s talent. Others might say that working in agriculture is hardly a spiritual calling. Both I suspect are wrong.

The shepherds leave praising and glorifying God.
We continue to find God in unexpected places.

Daily Reading Luke 2:8-20

The Shepherds and the Angels

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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Unexpected Beauty: An Advent series from Common Grace