|Pen and Ink Reflections||
What value does the book of Revelation have for us, especially in the face of ecological crises? My guess is that most of us have not spent too much time on the Bible’s last book. Some people of course have, including those looking for a special secret code to life and history, and those puzzling out different timetables for Christ’s second coming. Such interpreters however typically have little concern for ecology, and some even welcome signs of environmental apocalypse. Faced by the strangeness of John the Divine’s visions, we may therefore be tempted to dispense with the book altogether. Yet that would be a mistake. For, as this morning’s reading (ch.12 vv. 1-9 & 13-17a) illustrates, truth and light can be received in the strangest places…
What’s in a name? - often, a huge amount. First Nations peoples are very clear about that and the intimate relationship between naming, language more widely, culture, identity and flourishing. Other oppressed peoples know this too. Hence the suppression or promotion of different languages is so vital an issue: just look, for example, at Wales, Catalonia, Belgium or Canada. It is not simply good manners to use the language people ask of us. It is because, unless we do so, we are disconnected from layers of meaning and identity, place and community, history and, indeed, geology. Take my surname: Inkpin. This has nothing to do with writing or being a scribe, or seamstress. It comes from two ancient British words: inga and pen. Inga, in modern English, means people. Pen means hill. This tells me, and others, that I come from the people of the hill, with all the deep layers of connection this entails: to particular soil and environment; to history and culture; to others, past, present and future. Indeed, even today, there are English villages, not surprisingly on hills, with the name Inkpen. For whilst much was swept away by the two great imperial invasions of my native land, there are still fragments of British indigeneity left, and one is my surname. It is a living reminder that there are other ways of being English, and British, than what is usually asserted: there are always were, and there always will be. For when we look more deeply, the living fragments of traditional cultures in every land call us both to recognition of pain and loss, and also to fresh pathways of justice. This is part of today’s Day of Mourning. We will not find peace unless we recognise what has happened in this land - and particularly in this city; unless we repent – and much more radically than we whitefellas have so far done; and unless, in Midnight Oil’s words earlier, we ‘come on down’ to the makararrata place, ‘the campfire of humankind’, ‘the stomping ground.’…
How do you regard dragonflies? In the poem we heard earlier (As Kingfishers Catch Fire), the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins not only encourages us to be like them, but, in so doing, to be like Christ. Not everyone has always agreed however. In early colonial Australia for example, white fellas tried to kill dragonflies, just as they/we tried to kill so many other life-giving things that they/we did not understand. Those early colonialists saw dragonflies flying around and landing on their valuable horses, and they saw the horses moving and flicking their tails. So they thought the dragonflies were biting and making them crook. The colonialists were making things worse. The dragonflies were actually eating the mosquitoes and the gnats that were troubling the horses. They were life-givers, saviours even, not devils in disguise. In so many positive ways, dragonflies are thus evocative symbols for transgender people today. For, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we do well to attend to how bearers of light have been treated as embodiments of darkness. We do well, as our Gospel today (Luke 23.32-43) reminds us, to remember how Jesus was not crucified alone, and how others are also crucified today. And above all, we do well to affirm that it is only in recognising the light, in strange places, that we find salvation and hope for us all…
How do we want our stories to end? Whether it is our own story, or that of our community, our nation, our world, much is up to us. Now, we may not have much room for manoeuvre. All kinds of forces help shape our lives, internal and unconscious, as well as external and recognised. Yet we still have power to shape our stories, even if only by our attitudes, and by how we receive and respond to what happens to us. This truth is at the very heart of the Gospel and the power of love, forgiveness, and justice seeking. For, however you view the Resurrection stories, a common feature is their open, unfinished nature. The tomb is not sealed. The body is not there or is transformed. The end is a new beginning. So how do we want the story to continue?...
One of things I’m thankful for in my years of ministry is the memorial cross I helped install in the Warriors Chapel in St Luke’s Church Toowoomba. It remembers the battle of Meewah, otherwise known as One Tree Hill, or Table Top Mountain. This was part of the devastating Frontier Wars in this country. It was led, on the Aboriginal side, by the great warrior Multuggerah and part of deep, and extraordinary skilled, schemes of resistance. It is intimately connected to the continuing debilitating impact of colonial dispossession. Without remembering and reconciling, such deep wounds endure. Yet so little of this story is named or reflected upon. In contrast, on this day (25 April), the awful pain of the Gallipoli landings is recalled: often, in recent years, with exceptional noise and attention. Why is it that some stories become enduring, and even ever enlarged, myths, whilst others, no less historically significant, are hidden or left to fester? How do we best make peace with our past? And how do myths and memories of faith distract or assist?