As some of you know, I enjoy a practice called Interplay. Interplay is ‘a creative, active way to unlock the wisdom of the body. It is a group activity that uses a number of ‘forms’, physical, verbal and musical, to enable connection with our selves and our community through play. There is a variant of one of these forms that goes like this... Participants are encouraged to choose a place in the room and move towards it with great intent, but moving only very slowly, heel to toe. This is how we often move in life towards goals on which we have set our hearts. But as we all know, life has a way of disrupting those kinds of plans and movements. So, there is another variant of this form, in which participants are invited simply to move slowly as before and just see where they end up and when it seems right to stop. This goal-less movement reflects something of what actually happens in life when we thought we were doing something else. A final variant of this game, invites participants to move slowly and just occasionally take a leap forward, perhaps celebrating that with a whoop. It is great fun, and illustrates how often we forget to celebrate our leaps forward and how much pleasure can be derived from celebrating, even when we do not have a particular goal in mind, and only recognise after it has happened that a leap forward has occurred. Sometimes indeed we may find that the leap has not been forward, but perhaps sideways or even backwards and no less a cause for celebration...
In the opening pages of the excellent historical account of aboriginal dispossession in southern Queensland entitled, One Hour More Daylight, the authors reference a report by Native Police Commandant Frederick Walker . In July 1849 Walter engaged in battle with the Bigambul people of the Macintyre district. The report described protracted conflict and concluded with the words, “ I much regretted not having one more hour of daylight as I would have annihilated that lot.”
It is a powerful phrase. It tells us at once two things. Firstly it tells us that across Australia and certainly in areas very close to here, the aim of early white settlers was not just to subjugate Aboriginal people. It was to annihilate them and remove them from the land entirely. This is our history. Secondly it tells us that the attempt to do this did not in fact succeed. Aboriginal people not only survived, they went on to contribute hugely to the culture and prosperity of modern Australia. This too is our history, but it is a history filled with struggle, ambiguity and pain that has to be acknowledged if it is to heal. It is a history of massacres, of the poisoning of wells and the deliberate exploitation of the defenceless. It is a history of the systematic destruction of languages, culture and ceremony and the connections that those things provide. It is a 230 year history of colonisation, dispossession and subjugation...
Four words to sum up the heart of the Advent season we enter today. Wait, wake, want and work. Wait, wake, want and work. I hope you’re listening because there will be a quick quiz later! Chocolates to those who can still remember those four over morning tea...
Feel the breath of God move softly
gentle mists across the skin;
Earth is breathing God’s own spirit,
life renewed from deep within.
Sing a song of living waters,
pulsing through the veins of earth.
These words, from a hymn by the eco-theologian Norm Habel remind us what we all know; that water, especially river water, is sacred; essential to life; the very stuff of which we are made. Our own bodies are largely made up of water as indeed are so many of the creatures on our planet earth. From this vital element and many others, God is continually creating, every day new species, new variants. As Norm Habel has written elsewhere,
“One of the ways that we know God keeps creating you and me and all forms of life is by using the water in rivers. The flowing water in the river we see is indeed the water of life we need to survive. But it is also the very stuff God uses to create in the cycle of creation. The same waters of the Flood and the Ice Age are the very waters God uses to give us life, to create. There is a finite amount of H2O on Earth, whether it is in the form of water, ice or moisture. And the fragments of H20, the little bits of water, are re-cycled endlessly. God keeps creating and sustaining life with the same water age after age and generation after generation. Water is the very essence of the cycle of creation."...
In the northern hemisphere our season of Easter corresponds with spring time and the returning to life of plants and flowers from the deadness of winter. There is a natural resonance between the message of resurrection and the blossoming of the natural world.Here in the Southern Hemisphere of course things are a little different, as we enter autumn and with the shortening of the days prepare to welcome winter. For us this is a time of fruitfulness, of gratitude for all that the earth has given through the spring and summer, and of letting go. At this season the trees are letting go of their seed pods, so that what we have is not so much new life as the potential for new life. When we look at the little sunflower seeds we are been given this afternoon, it is not immediately obvious that they are even related to the magnificent sunflowers we see in the vase here.
When Mary encountered the risen Jesus in the garden, she did not recognise him. He looked so different from the Jesus she knew, that she thought he was the gardener. Only his voice remained recognisable to her. He had been utterly transformed. We too are being transformed, hour by hour and moment by moment. Different aspects of ourselves are in a constant process of change and transition. We know that biologically speaking every cell of our body changes every seven years. We are not the same people we were seven years ago. Spiritually speaking we are changing and evolving too - readying ourselves at some level for the greater transformation that death and resurrection will bring. Pastor Steve Garnaas Holmes expresses it this way.....
The seed of you,
released in life's gracious sowing,
descends in darkest soil,
where the fingers of God,
earthy and rank,
smelling of root and rot,
work open your shell,
pry loose your outer being
and let you spill into earth,
blood outflowing its veins.
Hands of darkness hold you
still, deathly still,
longer than you want,
close and unknowing,
until you are earth.
The grave that enwraps you
knows it is purely in the hands
of the One who changes everything
who has the only power.
In time the original light,
set free, swells in you,
and who you are,
who God is in you,
drains upward into light,
and a green blade appears,
reflection given by Penny Jones at the first Sanctus gathering, 29 April 2017
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,