|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…
‘Is your Church involved in a rally or political or symbolic action every week?’
One of my daughters asked me this, shortly after our Earthweb-led involvement in the recent ‘Sound the Alarm’ Green Faith events, followed shortly by the presence of some of us on the March4Justice and planning for today’s Palm Sunday Refugee rally. I had to be honest: ‘well’, I said, ‘pretty much every week we, or some of us at least, are involved in something.’
And why wouldn’t we be?
Today’s Gospel reading after all (Mark 11.1-10) is a reminder of what I would call the ‘prophetic performance art’ which reappears again and again in the Biblical stories. The so-called ‘entry into Jerusalem’ by Jesus is but one example of this - admittedly particularly significant. For it does not stand alone, nor was it originally intended to be simply repeated or venerated. Rather, in embodying Jesus’ own call to transformation, it seeks to inspire us to our own prophetic performance art. In this we are not exactly social influencers like today’s social media stars, but we are like divine influencers in reshaping our world. All of which can sound, or become, quite pretentious. So maybe a better, arguably more biblical, way of putting it is that we are called to become the wonky donkey…
I am told that the former Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen was quite clear what entity needed to be at the heart of a flourishing diocese. ‘What is most important’, he once said, ‘is a good theological college.’ ‘And’, he added, ‘the most important thing within a good theological college is a good library.’ Perhaps on this site, we do not have to agree with everything else Peter Jensen has also said to concur positively. The role of good Christian education was, is, and always will be, vital to a healthy Church in any generation. So, as we remember Frederick Barker, the second bishop of Sydney, today, it is good to reflect on this and hold all aspects of Christian education in our prayers. For, alongside his sterling contributions to the missionary and organisational development of the Australian Church, far beyond the bounds of Sydney diocese itself, Bishop Barker is rightly to be honoured for the commitment and support he gave to the expansion of Australian Christian education in the crucial years between 1855 and 1880. For good and, in some respects, depending on your viewpoint, for ill, he was a huge formative influence in the shaping of Australian church history. So let me briefly highlight three aspects of his work and legacy…