|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Three things immediately struck me in recently moving back to work again in the centre of Sydney. Firstly, so many of the high buildings had either grown even higher or had multiplied in number. Secondly, particularly in the adjacent areas north and west of Pitt Street Uniting Church, different Asian shops and cultures continue to grow in number. An official Koreatown now sits close to Chinatown, and other presences, including Malaysian, and particularly Thai, are not far behind. Thirdly, in the suburb where I live, each park has an acknowledgement of country, including the prominent words Budyeri gamarruwa – ‘welcome’ in Gadigal language. Each of these things are redolent to me of both the challenges, and the promise, of Pentecost today. For if we are to receive the Spirit of God more fully - replacing hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, and becoming one body in this land - these are part of the journey we make…
As a small child, one of the most wonderful things I remember my school asked me to do, was to grow a plant. Now it didn't appear to us children to start well. For we were each given a very unassuming brown bean and an empty jam jar. We were instructed on how to fill the jar with soil (whoopee!) and put the bean into it so we could see still see it, and we were told to keep watering and looking after it. To begin with of course, nothing happened, or seemed to happen. It was seemingly just a boring glass jar with dirt inside it, together with a seemingly even more boring brown bean. TV, and football, seemed much more enjoyable. Watering and caring for the bean seemed pointless. But I did persist. Then, amazingly, one morning, I woke to see a shoot beginning to break out of the bean, and then another, and another. These beautiful white strands of life then began to break through the surface of the soil into the light, sprouting even more gorgeous green leaves. For the small child I was, it was spectacular. TV was one thing, and football - well, maybe even football - was another. This however was a wonder, and a wonder I had myself helped to nurture.
Do we lose that sense of wonder as we grow older, do you think? Do we stop learning that new life is always possible - that it will break out extraordinarily by God's good grace, and a little human care? Do we fail to realise that we too are not destined to be boring brown beans in boring jam jars, imprisoned in dirt? The good news - our Gospel message - is indeed that we too are called to sprout, reach out and flourish in the light. Moreover, this morning, what a better way do we have to express that than in our prayers and blessing for Clara, as she sprouts into the authentic light of who she is, in God's grace, as a transgender person?...
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?...