As we acknowledged last
week, the traditional owners and custodians of the land
and the words of the aboriginal writer Mudrooroo in
his book ‘The Master of the Ghost Dreaming’ are a strong
reminder of our responsibility to the first custodians
of this the land on which we are privileged to stand.
“Now we, the pitiful fragments of once strong families
suffer on in exile...all around us is the darkness of
the night, all around us is an underlying silence of
a land of death. We are in despair; we are sickening
unto death; we call to be healed. We demand healing
from our shaman, who can sing the song of release through
song.” We can ask ourselves who is the shaman that can
sing the song of release.
Lent is not so much
doing as opening us up to listen to God. Being human
we live with ambiguity. There is assurance, there is
faith but there is also doubt and there is temptation.
When we are totally open to the miracle of life it is
then and only then that we can recognise God’s presence
and action in our lives. Lent gives us this time for
recognition of what prayer, fasting and genuine sharing
is all about. It is when the needy appear on the screens
in our living rooms that we can start to change their
situation. When we fast we live simply so that others
can simply live. When we pray we listen with an awareness
that brings change into our lives. John Shaw Neilson’s
poem ‘The Orange Tree’ sums it up in the words of the
young girl ‘plague me no longer for I am listening like
the orange tree’. For it is only when we are able to
keep the head out of the heart that we can live fully.
It is not the head but the heart that ultimately finds
God. Thomas Aquinas at the end of his life acknowledged
this when he said that all he had written was mere straw
when compared to the one reality that truly counted.
The readings for today
are so apt. God makes a pact with Abram on condition
that Abram leaves behind his land and kin and live in
the land he is shown. He will make a great nation. That
is not a triumphal nation but one that has social justice
as its hallmark. In Timothy’s reading it is the power
of God that will shoulder our suffering. We suffer together
for it is as a community that we share in being persecuted.
But we need remember that the good news which is life
changing also makes great demands. Some are shamed by
this and turn away. But to suffer for the kingdom is
a condition for entry into that kingdom.
It was Jesus who took
his three closest friends to the mountaintop. The key
moments in Jesus’ life are symbolised by the mountain.
He was tempted on the mountain. He preached the core
of his teaching on the mountain in the form of the beatitudes
and he was betrayed by Judas on a mount.
was a moment of revelation. It became that moment of
clarity in the lives of the privileged three disciples
in the journey of their lives. They were amazed yet
they harboured the fear of losing control. Again it
is here that the head can so readily dictate to the
heart. The disciples were terrified of letting go for
they had used control as a mechanism to order and structure
their lives. They had seen beyond the superficial and
that was scary. But they discovered that peace came
only from the trust they had in their God. They were
no longer just fishermen for they had become rare characters
in a world wanting redemption.
In this somewhat run
down church, the church of the truly poor which we proudly
call our home and sanctuary, we are able with open hearts
to listen to the cries of our brothers and sisters.
We stand with those who suffered in the Myall Creek
Massacre and the many subsequent massacres, those who
still suffer in the deaths in custody, those who die
prematurely by drug overdose and inadequate medical
assistance - we stand with them and with the same God
sing the song of release. We, to use the words of Mudrooroo
become the shamans who as a community sing the song
of release and then we can start to unravel the mystery
St Vincent’s Church, Redfern
20th February 2005