|Pen and Ink Reflections||
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…
repairing the breach
Today I would like to introduce you to an old friend. Do you like their orange flowery skin and scrunched up green and other patterned ears? I call them Angell – with a double ‘l’. They come from my first year at theological college, in some of the darkest days of Margaret Thatcher’s time as UK Prime Minister. For I brought Angell home from a church fête stall during a formation placement. This was in Brixton, the scene of two (in)famous ‘uprisings’, or riots – depending on your outlook – led by Black British people. The immediate cause of the first of these, in 1981, was a response to extraordinary ‘stop and search’ laws and police brutality. Tensions were particularly high after a suspicious fire in which 13 black teenagers and adults had died. The final straw was the so-called Operation Swamp 81, named after Mrs Thatcher’ speech in which she claimed the UK ‘might be swamped by people of a different culture.’ The 1981 Brixton Riots lasted for three days. They triggered similar ‘uprisings’ across Britain’s inner-cities, and led to the landmark Scarman Report, which began the long journey of addressing racial injustice and police reform in the UK. It was fuelled by a powerful cocktail of poverty and deprivations of many kinds, as well as race. In Brixton, the large African Caribbean population were at the centre. And it is out of this background that Angell comes, so called after Angell Town, a particularly challenged and challenging housing estate, after which the Church of England parish was named. So Angell reminds me always, both of the very real violence involved in today’s Gospel in the Temptations of Christ, and of the continuing struggles for what Martin Luther King called ‘the beloved community’…
I am part of all I have met
An anonymous poet wrote, ‘I am part of all I have met." Just think about that for a moment. I think they are saying that every person, every situation we encounter changes us – sometimes only slightly, sometimes profoundly. And the more open we are to the things and people we meet, the more likely we are to be changed by them and to carry them with us in our spirit, in our heart and in our physical being – for indeed our encounters write themselves on our very bodies...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney