It seems to me that advocacy is a core charism and calling here at Milton Anglican. We have for example accepted the call to add our voice to that of the homeless in our area; to allow the voices of those traumatised by their years of war service especially in Afghanistan to be heard; to encourage the voices of creative people especially artists to emerge; to recognize the voices and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and to add our voices to those of the Rainbow community, creating safe space where all can be affirmed and heard.
Today is IDAHOBIT – the International Day against homophobia, bi-phobia, inter-phobia and transphobia. In the thirty years since its inception much advocacy has occurred – not all of it well received in society and especially not in church. Yet God in Christ continues to give us the Spirit of truth to guide us and encourage us. Receiving that Spirit in an ongoing way however makes demands of us as individuals and as church. Three demands in particular strike me as key – the demand of compassion, the demand of courage and the demand of contemplation.
Without compassion – the capacity to place ourselves in the shoes of the other and suffer with them, not merely alongside them – advocacy becomes sterile. Metaphorically there is no room for social distance in compassion. The issue of the other person becomes my issue and I fight for them as I would for my own life.
This requires courage. We cannot then hide behind claims of ignorance, lack of information or fear of consequences. We are called to step up and stand with those who are most vulnerable. In doing so we can claim for ourselves only the promise of Jesus, ‘I will not leave you orphaned’ – or in the beautiful translation of the authorized version, ‘comfortless.’ We shall not be comfortless – but nor shall we be comfortable, for such courageous advocacy is costly.
In order to risk and pay that cost, we need to embrace the demand of contemplation. When our words and actions arise from the deep place of contemplation they carry authority and power. Jesus said, ‘You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you’. We need to get to know the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth. In time spent apart, we need to allow that Spirit into every crevice of our being, stripping us of ego and filling us with love. It is not a path for the faint hearted. But it is the path of love, and of life.
So, may we in contemplation seek the gifts of compassion and courage, and may we continue to respond to our call as individuals and as a parish to add our voices to those whom others seek to ignore or silence. In the name of Christ our Advocate. Amen.
Penny Jones, for Sunday 17 May, 6th Sunday of Easter