I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend this week, and during the time I spent with her I realised it must have been the first time I had caught up with her since entering ministry. During the course of the conversation, my friend kept saying things she thought were offending me, and kept apologising. After about the 3rd time, I said, “You Know me! I dont offend easily. Say what you want!!” I was thinking about this in the car on the way home, and was reflecting on the way my friends have responded to becoming a minister. Some of my friends seem to now be suddenly of the mindset that they have to watch what they say around me, that they have to filter “normal” conversation to fit the image of my new role in the church. If this were true, I would have to give up a lot of my friends. But it’s not true. I dont offend easily, I have strong morals and values.
However, as I was driving away from the time with my friend, the words” I don’t offend easily” was playing on my mind as I heard news of asylum seekers being burnt and receiving treatment. My phrase rang loudly in my head as l listened to the Border Security Minister denying all allegations of wrongdoing. On reflection, I don’t offend easily. Unless things I am passionate about are being threatened. When people are being hurt, disrespected, shoved aside. When people are denying any kind of responsibly or accountability for hurtful actions. And I am very passionate about several things. This image incorporates several of my passionate stances.
I know Australia has done a lot of good. I know people from this church have been thankful at the chance to start a life here in Australia. My own grandfather migrated here from England when he was a young man, and he has had a life which has offerred myriad opportunities here.He came here with a dream and he has been lucky enough, and has been offered opportunities to work hard to bring these dreams into a reality. The questions I keep returning to in my mind are:
Where is Australia heading today? What is the Australia that you dream of? What morals and values would you like to see Australia uphold? In looking at the image of the Australia that you dream of, and the Australia the world sees today, do the two correlate? Are they similar? Because, for me, they don’t. I’m embarrassed by a country that sends people away who are seeking help and comfort; I’m offended by a nation that continues to play with the heart strings of those who love differently to the majority of people – by passing a marriage law, then taking it back again; I’m consistently challenged by a country that is intent on the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. And this country is asking me today to celebrate an invasion of a country and of a people who are discriminated against, disrepute and who are swept under the carpet. If we were a nation intent of moving forward, intent on helping others, intent on opening doors with compassion and care, and intent on respecting all others who live on this beautiful land, then I could possibly celebrate this day. However, we are not intent on moving forward. And, if im honest, I see that ever since the recent election, we are moving backwards as a society. So, whose voice do we listen to in all this chaos?
In the Corinthians reading we read today, Paul says “why follow the divided voices of others when Christ is not divided?” Why do we get sucked in and caught up in the arguments and the disputes of leaders when the voice we need to listen to is Christ’s? Of course im not saying dont listen to our prime minister at all becuase that would probably get you into trouble with some law or something… In the Corinthians reading we are reminded that to say Jesus is Lord, it is to say others are not: not leaders of the Country, not those of the cloth, not these you admire and who inspire. Jesus is Lord. We still have to listen to voices surrounding us, because Who knows, we might learn something. But be mindful that when you hear something that causes an unsettling inside, is it because it is leading away from your own values? Perhaps praying about the situation, centering and grounding yourself again in Christ could help. The easy, damaging ways of dealing with unsettling moments I think, is retaliating in kind, or not doing anything at all… This week, in America, brought with it “Martin Luther King Junior” day. A day to celebrate a man who did so much good, brought so much hope and excitement for others, and who spoke out against injustice that he was passionate about. One of his quotes is, Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. To make a difference in the world we live in we must hold on to the love of Christ, and pour this love outwards. We need to focus on the simplicity of the message, which seems to be so difficult to hear in todays society that uses God’s name for corruption and dishonesty. The simplicity of the message of love, that if we hear fully in each moment, nothing can be the same again. To continue reminding ourselves that we live by the kingdom of God, not by the voices of others. If we live this way, we are Continually changing the world around us, seeing little symbols of hope in every moment. We continue progressing on from what we have been, and where we have been.
Michael Leunig is a very intelligent man, and I often relate to his work. One of his images speaks so eloquently about what can happen if we don’t learn from the past to bring reconciliation and hope in to our lives. If we Pour out Christ’s love upon one another, then comes respect, integrity, peace, hope, compassion… Through the chaos of the complexity of love we can see symbols of hope shining through. This week I was enlivened and enriched when I read about Rev. Anne Robertson, an only female clergy member to assist in an ecumenical service in Boston. Bostons Cardinal Sean O’Malley suprised people when he asked Rev. Anne to annoint him
So, ask yourself today- what exactly are we Celebrating? Celebration of life today, or what it can be tomorrow if we work for our vision of hope and peace, through love.