|Pen and Ink Reflections||
This being our national churches’ day of prayer for refugees, let me begin with a brief video clip to help focus our hearts and minds. It shares the voices of some of our Australian children, expressing well the human issues of deep pain and the need for greatly enlarged compassion in our country and world today, as well as a touch of the confusion and helplessness many of us can feel…
Now, I know that there is much disagreement about certain aspects of refugee policy in this country, including among some Christians. It is a striking feature for example, that key political figures who have shaped recent Australian refugee policy are well-known Christians, including the Prime Minister and the former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Scott Morrison. Their views and actions, whilst supported by many, have hardly been popular with others. For the overwhelming consensus of our Church leadership and informed research is that we, as a nation, have not got it right with refugee and asylum seeker policy. Indeed, our Church leadership tells us, again and again, that we are currently often out of step with both international human rights and Christian compassion. So, whether or not we, as individuals, agree with our national political leadership, this makes prayer and support for refugees an important concern for us all. As Christians, we can hardly sidestep the issue. As Australians, we have a fine record of receiving and caring for refugees. In Toowoomba indeed, we have so much to celebrate in that regard, not least in work which this parish helped pioneer. So what do we now do to build upon it?...
What does a saint look like? One of the saints I have known was a wonderful Geordie lady called Ellen King. There were many ways in which she loved God and her neighbours. Almost every day this included her hard work in the baker’s shop she shared with her sisters. The shop and bakery was on the old Sunderland Road in Gateshead, close by the river Tyne, and it was always a busy place. For local people it was also a source of both physical and spiritual sustenance. Almost all who came to the shop were poor or struggling in various ways. Always they had a wonderful warm welcome from Ellen. Indeed children, and those particularly desperate, usually received an extra something tasty. Everyone enjoyed gorgeous homemade bread, full of joy and yumminess.
I still think of Ellen’s bakery as a model of what church is at its best: a place of faith and hope, offering sustenance for life’s journey, physical and spiritual, with love and eternal joy sharing suffering and surprising gifts with anyone and everyone who passes through. Not for nothing perhaps is the baker woman an image of God in Godself. Both Matthew (chapter 13 verse 33, and Luke 13, verses 20-21) share this resonant metaphor of God’s work in and through us. It is reflected in so much that is good in Christian living, not least in the baking of bread, literally and metaphorically, in our homes and churches, in the many gatherings, meals, and times of hospitality we share together, and, vitally, with others. As we reflect again, today, on the theme of Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life, let us therefore give thanks for the presence of the baker woman God among us, in one another and in the hospitality we share with others…
Jonathan's uncle David has been appointed Anglican Chaplain in Warsaw, and indeed to the whole
of Poland. We spent four days with him during our recent trip. Even before we went a number of
people said to us, 'oh Warsaw is all right, but it was so damaged in the war it's not the real thing. If
you want to see the real Poland go to Kraków or Gdansk.' Well we did not have time for that, so we
went to Warsaw.
Warsaw is certainly a city much touched by death and the ravages not just of war, but of the brutality of
both the Nazi and Soviet regimes of the last century. The Nazi years alone saw the ghettoisation
and then extermination of three million Polish Jews, many of them from Warsaw, and less than
10% of the Jewish population of Warsaw survived the war. Powerful memorials to the forcible
removal of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals by train in cattle trucks are to be found across the city.
For 63 days in 1944 the Poles struggled to free themselves from Nazi control. Known as the
Warsaw Uprising this was a major operation by the Polish resistance Home Army to liberate
Warsaw from Nazi Germany. I am sure many of you who are a little more advanced in years will
remember it. The Uprising was timed to coincide with the Soviet Union's Red Army approaching
the eastern suburbs of the city and the retreat of German forces. However, the Soviet advance
stopped short, enabling the Germans to regroup and demolish the city, reducing its many beautiful
ancient buildings to rubble, while defeating the Polish resistance. The Uprising was the largest
single military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II. It resulted in
estimated German army losses of 23,000, Polish army losses of 36,000, the slaughter of nearly
200,000 civilians and the expulsion of a further 700,000 from the city. During the urban battles
25% of the buildings were destroyed and subsequently German troops systematically levelled
another 35% of the city block by block. Together with earlier damage suffered in the 1939 invasion
of Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, over 85% of the city was destroyed by January
1945, when the course of the events in the Eastern Front forced the Germans to abandon the city.
So where in all this horror is the bread of life?...