|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of things I’m thankful for in my years of ministry is the memorial cross I helped install in the Warriors Chapel in St Luke’s Church Toowoomba. It remembers the battle of Meewah, otherwise known as One Tree Hill, or Table Top Mountain. This was part of the devastating Frontier Wars in this country. It was led, on the Aboriginal side, by the great warrior Multuggerah and part of deep, and extraordinary skilled, schemes of resistance. It is intimately connected to the continuing debilitating impact of colonial dispossession. Without remembering and reconciling, such deep wounds endure. Yet so little of this story is named or reflected upon. In contrast, on this day (25 April), the awful pain of the Gallipoli landings is recalled: often, in recent years, with exceptional noise and attention. Why is it that some stories become enduring, and even ever enlarged, myths, whilst others, no less historically significant, are hidden or left to fester? How do we best make peace with our past? And how do myths and memories of faith distract or assist?
Most of us know the story of Zacchaeus - little guy, can't see Jesus, climbs a tree for a better look, Jesus invites Himself to dinner with him. We remember it perhaps from school days with affection. It has an almost cartoon like quality to it. But there is more to this story than meets the eye - which is not surprising as it is all about seeing and being seen. And it presents us with a personal question - what are the sycamore trees that we climb, and is it time to come down?...
I may have told the following story before but it is worth re-telling. For it vividly expresses particular ways of being open to growth, or otherwise, in God’s world.
There once was a very old man with multiple heart problems. Towards the very end of his life he had a particularly massive heart attack and was essentially detained in hospital indefinitely. His sons and daughters had largely lost contact with him and, even after this last heart attack, they visited infrequently. Somewhat reluctantly they ran little errands for him, including buying him his weekly Lotto ticket. Then, one day, the Lotto ticket turned up trumps. The old man had won a multi-million Lotto jackpot. The family were thrilled, and then they were chastened. Who was going to tell the old man? If they didn’t tell him right, the shock and surprise might give him an other heart attack and kill him. Then there would be not time to persuade him to change his will if, from their point of view, he hadn’t got it right. So they ummed and ahhed, and, in the end, decided they’d ask the local Anglican priest to do the job. For they had to know who he already had as beneficiaries in the will and the priest, they reasoned, was experienced at handling delicate and weighty pastoral matters with sick and dying people. ‘Please find out for us’, they said, ‘and make sure you do so in a way which doesn’t mean he has a heart attack and dies.’
So the priest went in to see the old man and talked with him for a little while, until he had just enough confidence and the right opportunity to make the urgent enquiry. ‘I know you still like buying your weekly Lotto ticket’,, said the priest. ‘What would you do?’, he asked tentatively, ‘if you were actually to win a huge jackpot? To which of your family would you leave your money?’ ‘Oh’, said the old man without a second’s thought, ‘that’s easy. My family are a bunch of wastrels and hangers-on. In that circumstance, I‘d give all the money to your Church.’ At which moment, overtaken by the shock, the priest himself had a heart attack, and died.
Well, its a joke, isn’t it. and dark humour at that, yet there’s a certain truth in it too, isn’t there? How much expectation do Christians, including Christian Ministers, sometimes have? Do we anticipate that God is seeking to give us gifts, or do we often simply fear the worst, or, at least, the same old same old thing? Do we believe in a generous God, and a God of growth, or just a God of making do?
by Jon Inkpin, for Forest Sunday in the 'Season of Creation' 7 September 2014
What comes to your mind and heart when you hear the word forest or tree? What forest or trees do you recall? With which forest or tree do you most identify? Probably all us have a particular forest or tree which comes to mind: a special forest or tree which has, or has had, importance to us, perhaps going back to our childhood. Perhaps it is a single tree, in, or on, or beneath which we have played, or met a lover, or found refreshment. Perhaps it is a rainforest, or a stand of eucalypts in which we have spent some time. Perhaps it is a forest or a tree we have encountered in another place or time, on a holiday or a journey. Whatever it is, it will have shaped our life and awareness in some way...