Lenten Reflections 2021 - “Walking Together”
A series of Studies for Lent (and other times)
To help Tasmanian Anglicans, and others,
To explore how we build and foster meaningful relationships with the Original inhabitants
Following the meeting of the Anglican Synod of Tasmania in May 2019, the Anglican Aboriginal Relationships Working Group was formed to help resource Tasmanian Anglicans, and others, to acknowledge and lament past relationships with the palawa peoples, and to journey together towards building better relationships. As that Group has met, the focus has been around six key words or phrases: Understanding God’s heart, Learn, Listen, Admit, Connect, Seek Justice.
As part of the resourcing process, the AARWG has produced this series of Studies/Reflections, designed for use during Lent, or at other times. Members of the Group each produced seven readings and reflections – one for each day of a week, with each week focussing on one of these themes. Each reflection draws from one or more passages of Scripture, with some questions/comments, and a call to reflect and act. Some weeks also have a separate short introduction. We hope you find these Studies helpful in your own journey. May the God who is relationship help us to build better relationships through them.
Week 1 - A True Fast After God’s Heart
I was not taught anything about Aboriginal history at school. I grew up believing that Tasmanian Aboriginals were extinct along with many other widely propagated myths about them. It was not until I started to educate myself through reading and listening that I discovered a terrible history that I knew nothing about. I felt the weight of injustice experienced by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community, even today. I also felt more than a little peeved that I knew nothing of the ancient foundations of the land and waters that I call home.
Why is our church heading down the path of Aboriginal justice? Is it not just a distraction from the gospel? We are not unique in trying to find the right balance between social justice and evangelism, Christians have grappled with this balance for a long time and some have got it wrong. Done right though, seeking justice can be a powerful and tangible witness to the reconciling work of our God through Jesus. Aunty Jean Philips, one of Australia’s most senior Aboriginal Christian Leaders declares that “it’s only the cross – the Christian gospel – that will bring healing to our nation.” I invite you to see the ‘Big Picture’ of what God is doing by stirring our hearts towards acknowledging and lamenting our shared past and seeking restored relationships with local Aboriginal people in Tasmania.
Week 1 Studies prepared by Bonnie Bonneville.
Isaiah 58:1-5; Optional extra readings: Hosea 6:6, Matt 9:13, Luke 11:42, 1 Sam 15:22
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
Lent is a traditional season of fasting. What does ‘fasting’ mean to you? Lenten fasts these days can involve anything from avoiding chocolate or coffee to giving up social media for the 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays!). While these fasts can be a great way to put some distance between us and our modern-day vices and allow us more time or money to do good deeds, Isaiah 58:1-5 reminds us that these sacrifices in themselves are not what God requires for a true fast. In fact, these verses contain a harsh rebuke of the ancient Israelites about their nature of fasting. What were they doing wrong? What does this teach us about what is unacceptable to the God?
Isaiah 58:1-5 show us that the orientation of our hearts and our treatment of other people is more important to God than any of our religious observances and sacrifices. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Matt 9:13a. True fasting is about intentionally clearing away all blockages and distractions and orientating our hearts towards God. By doing so, we understand His heart. His heart is for justice, for mercy and is full of love.
Consider the state of your heart. Is it orientated towards the Lord? What is blocking you or distracting you from hearing God clearly today?
Isaiah 58:6-7; Optional extra readings: Micah 6:6-8
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Together in Song #618: “What does the Lord require of you? (x4), To seek justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” is based on Micah 6:8. I enjoy humming the familiar tune that accompany the words to this verse. Do you? We used to sing it as a round in my family church when I was growing up. Those words and melody are etched in my mind. However, while these words are easy to sing, they are challenging to put into practice. What does it mean to act justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with God?
Isaiah 58:6-7 echoes Micah 6:6-8 about the nature of sacrifices that the Lord requires from His people. God has chosen a somewhat overwhelming list of social justice issues that He wants His people working towards as an outward expression of our devotion to Him. God asks us to stand up to injustice and oppression, to meet the needs of the hungry, the poor, the homeless and the wanderer, and at the same time, not to neglect caring for our own families.
Lent is a season of sacrifice and of giving our time and money to good causes. Consider what good deeds you could do this Lenten season. Pray. Ask God what he would like you to do.
Isaiah 58:8-9a; Optional extra readings: Psalm 89:13-18
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
We have over-simplified the gospel message. Modern Christians believe the gospel goes something along the lines of: “If you repent of your sins, put your trust in Jesus as your saviour, you will go to heaven when you die.” This message is not wrong, it is just not the whole picture.
The gospel that Jesus taught was less about our future hope of heaven, and more about the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. The good news is that God has reconciled himself to the whole of His creation through the blood of Jesus. We are not saved out of creation, rather we are part of God’s new creation if we are in Christ.
Christians are invited on mission with God to reconcile, transform and renew all of creation according to His Kingdom purposes. We do this through evangelism, engagement in the public square, working for peace and justice in the world and caring for all of God’s creation.
Reflect on the extraordinary promises in Isaiah 58:8-9 for what happens when the Kingdom of God manifests on earth when we do what the Lord requires of us. What Kingdom work is God calling you to do?
Isaiah 58:9b-11; Optional extra readings: Matt 5:13-16
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Take a moment to consider the unjust practices, the pointing fingers and the malicious talk that goes on in the media, our parliament, workplaces, playgrounds and in every sphere of our lives. Think of those people who are downtrodden, homeless, unemployed, and battling addictions. Consider how their lives are being impacted by the finger pointing, vitriol, indecision, blame games and infighting between those who have the power and means to make a difference.
As ordinary citizens we can feel powerless to effect change, however, that does not excuse us from our personal responsibilities to meet the needs of those around us and speak up against injustice. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and co-heirs with Christ, with the promise of the Spirit to guide us, satisfy our needs, and strengthen us for the task. We can follow Jesus’ example by loving and serving others, defending the weak against the strong, and upholding the cause of the poor and oppressed. …let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:16).
Where do you notice unfairness or a need within your sphere of influence? Pray. Ask God to work through you to address that unjust practice or fulfil that unmet need.
Isaiah 58:12; Optional extra readings: Acts 17:24-28
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
Scientists have dated occupation by Aboriginal people on the lands and waters we now call Tasmania to be over 40,000 years. The ancestors of Aboriginal Tasmanians were cut off from the Australian mainland by rising sea levels around 6,000 BC. They became an isolate population with a unique language and culture to mainland Aboriginal people. Before British colonisation of Tasmania, there were estimated between 3,000 to 15,000 Aboriginal Tasmanian people, self-named palawa.
Within the space of thirty years (1803-1835), British colonialists reduced their population to 200, through seizing their hunting grounds, depleting their food supply, kidnapping the women, massacring the men and by introducing diseases. The death of Truganini in 1876 gave rise to the widely propagated myth that the Palawa had become extinct. However, a remnant survived. In the 2016 census, 23,000 Tasmanians identify as Aboriginal people, with many still discovering their heritage.
Palawa are the ancient people appointed by God to be the custodians of these lands and waters we now call Tasmania.1 British colonialism dispossessed the Palawa from their land, destroyed their communities and livelihoods and separated families and individuals from their culture. Sadly, the Anglican Church in Tasmania is complicit in these atrocities. We cannot change the past, but as God’s people today, we can do our part to raise up Tasmania’s age-old foundations.
What would it take for our church to be called the ‘Repairer of Broken Walls’, ‘Restorer of Streets with Dwellings’?
 This is adapted from the saying coined by Aboriginal Christian Leader, Brooke Prentis.
Isaiah 58:13-14; Optional extra readings: Matt 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:9-10
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Standing against injustice and oppression, meeting the needs of the hungry, the poor, the homeless and the wanderer, while caring for our own families, sounds overwhelming and exhausting. The final verses of Isaiah 58 beautifully remind us of our need to enter God’s Sabbath rest through faithfully obeying and trusting in Him.
Sabbath is about finding rest and replenishment in God through trusting in His sovereignty through faithful obedience. Beginning with the creation story (Gen 1-2) and ending with a new creation (Rev 21-22), the Bible circles through this theme of searching for and finding God’s rest (only to lose it again due to disobedience!). Sabbath rest is about God’s people, in God’s place, obeying God’s commands. By doing so, one finds rest from sin and its curse, which is our goal and our purpose.
God promises those who follow His ways, who honour him, and who depend completely on Him, will find joy. They will also be promoted to positions of power and influence (ride in triumph on the heights of the land) and will inherit the authority of the Father (to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob) to create change in the world. We can do nothing in our own strength.
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (Matt 11:28-29 MSG)
Use your Lenten fast as an opportunity to enter God’s rest.
Isaiah 58 (again in its entirety); Optional extra readings: Luke 4:18, Matt 25:34-35
Why is God so concerned about justice? Why is our treatment of other people so important to God? Why is seeking justice part of our Christian mandate and witness in the world?
Justice in its simplest form means to set things right. When we think about justice this way, we realise that justice has been the heart of God’s earthly mission all along. God loves justice. God is just. When we pursue justice, we fully embrace the cause of Christ to set things right between us and God, and between us and each other. We extend the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Post-colonial Tasmania has a dark history towards Aboriginal people that needs to be set right. Intergenerational trauma, broken heartedness, and loss of culture manifests in Aboriginal communities today as disproportionately high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, domestic violence, incarceration, and poverty.
Isaiah 58 warns us against turning a blind eye to injustice. We cannot bring true worship to God while ignoring the cries of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. Now is the time for Christians, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, to rise and journey together to rebuild Tasmania’s age-old foundations and bring God’s true healing and reconciliation into our state.
As you read this prophetic message from Isaiah, written 2,500 years ago, what does it teach you about the desires of God’s heart? How is God leading you to worship Him today?
Week 2 - Learn
The dislocation of 2020 was shocking, leaving us suddenly without recourse to a force that invaded our lives, threatening us and our families, our lifestyle and our livelihoods.
A year after Alison and I returned to Australia after 13 years away, we attended Surrender Conference which included a ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremony. We were surprised and delighted to realise that we were finally home. Afterwards, thanking Aunty for leading the gathering, she asked “who are your people?” Smiling at my confused response, she encouraged me to “go find them”. I have been around the world, proudly calling myself Australian, but I have not learned who I really am until I “know my people”. I pray that this week of reflection helps you connect with your people right here at home. This learning takes time and is a core work in our being reconciled to ourselves and to others – putting to work the work of the cross!
The attitude we learn is as important as the information we gather, so I invite you to reflect on these couplets of formation and information each day
Learning about the first peoples of this land can lead us into a compassionate engagement with their experience, and a coming to know for ourselves; but first we need to hear how palawa lives were disrupted. Follow the blue underlined links to discover more!
“May the God of all wonder who set the stars in the sky,
bless you with relentless unsettledness -
that drives you to seek truth.” - Brooke Prentis
Week 2 Studies prepared by John Stanley.
Isaiah 32:1-2; See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice.
2 Each one will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
3 Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
4 The fearful heart will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
“To not know your country causes a painful disconnection, the impact of which is well documented in studies relating to health, wellbeing and life outcomes... It is this knowledge that enables me to identify who I am, who my family is, who my ancestors were and what my stories are. We are indistinguishable from our country which is why we fight so hard to hang on.” Catherine Liddle, Arrente and Luritja woman, and Aboriginal activist
“The land is a link between all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's existence - spirituality, culture, language, family, law and identity. Each person is entrusted with the cultural knowledge and responsibility to care for the land they identify with through kinship systems. Rather than owning land, people develop strong intimate knowledge and connection for a place that is related to them. The intimate knowledge of a place forms this strong connection that is inherent to Indigenous identity.” Common Ground: Connection to Country
Righteousness is at the core of the redemption story. We are called to righteousness and are provided shelter by it. As we seek right relationship with those around us, eyes are opened and what was hidden becomes obvious. This week as we learn, let our eyes be opened to the truth that will lead us into right relationship with our aboriginal neighbours.
What can I do to comprehend the way aboriginal people relate to the land?
Is there something for me to learn from the first nations of this land about my relationship with God’s creation?
Are there things I can do to bring myself into a more ‘righteous’ state with this land?
Consider reflecting on the Statement from the Heart through a study from ABM either alone or with a group (Check the Diocesan website for the next online study)
5 No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.
6 For fools speak folly,
their hearts are bent on evil:
They practice ungodliness
and spread error concerning the Lord;
the hungry they leave empty
and from the thirsty they withhold water.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
“Bushes and trees, as well as grass, were necessarily associated and distributed. Grass eaters seek shelter as well as feed, and feed-shelter associations (“templates”) must be carefully placed so as not to disrupt each other, as this would make target animals unpredictable and the system pointless.
Given how long eucalypts live, templates might take centuries to set up. Each needed several distinct fire regimes, continuously managed and integrated with neighbours, to maintain the necessary conditions for fire-stick farming.
Two factors blended to entrench this, one ecological, the other religious. Ecologically, once you lay out country variably to suit all other species, you are committed to complex and long-term land management. Aboriginal religious philosophy explained and enforced this, chiefly via totems. All things were responsible for others of its totem and their habitats.”
Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth, article in The Conversation 8/12/2011
Many of the assumptions used to justify inhuman treatment of the first nations peoples across these lands now called Australia were based on a failure to recognise widely practiced agricultural methods. This in turned saw the widespread destruction of indigenous crops and hunting grounds which was strenuously resisted by the palawa peoples who resented the intrusion of these unlawful invaders.
These assumptions however are no longer sustainable; we have overwhelming evidence to show agricultural architecture that predates anything else in the world, surviving to this day.
How did I feel when 2020 disrupted my plans? How would that change if those changes threatened my life and my food supply? What would I do to protect my family?
What do I know of original aboriginal practice in these lands? What am I willing to do or read to correct my “folly”? What would motivate me to explore 60 millenia of lived experience and research into sustainable life in this land?
9 You women who are so complacent,
rise up and listen to me;
you daughters who feel secure,
hear what I have to say!
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The official line was that Tasmanian Aboriginals had been wiped out. Task accomplished. “Extirpated” was the word used to distance the colonial invaders from the truth of murder. The great loss, however was not just in lives taken, but the loss of language, culture and knowledge of country. We have lost so much!
Yet the people continue to this day. The children of Fanny Mae Cochrane and others have survived and are working hard to regain their lost inheritance, gleaning truth from snippets left behind.
What do they ask? Not revenge, but allyship. Support as they navigate a way forward, for them and for us. In the Statement from the Heart we are invited “to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.”
What will we get? We will all be enriched when the children of lutruwita (Tasmania) rise up!
What can I do to be a good ally/neighbour to the palawa peoples? What can I learn of language and culture that will strengthen them in their journey? What palawa names do I know for places near my home?
Access a map of palawa placenames and more on language and culture here
10 In little more than a year
you who feel secure will tremble;
the grape harvest will fail,
and the harvest of fruit will not come.
11 Tremble, you complacent women;
shudder, you daughters who feel secure!
Strip off your fine clothes
and wrap yourselves in rags.
“Although the colonists eventually prevailed, Aboriginal people around Australia resisted incursions onto the land, often tenaciously, with violent and tragic outcomes.” Professor Larissa Behrendt
As well as legacies of death and dispossession, the colony left a legacy of deliberate forgetting. Our neighbours across the Tasman Sea acknowledge and now formally commemorate the 19th-century New Zealand wars. The first Rā Maumahara, a national day of remembrance, was held on October 28 2017.
The Black Wars of Tasmania (1824-1831) have been cited at the initiation of the term ‘genocide’ as the prime example of the word. Governor Arthur’s declaration of martial law effected open season on palawa peoples, claiming the lives of more than 200 colonists and between 600-900 Aboriginal people.
It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’s lessons. We commemorate Australia’s part in numerous wars around the world, but there is no memorial anywhere for this most fierce battle for Tasmania. Why are we still unable to tell the truth about this chapter of our history?
The Statement from the Heart invites us to acknowledge this past and move forward. “Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.”
What do I usually do after a disagreement?
What makes this difficult?
How might Australia make a move toward ‘Makarrata’?
Do I have a part in this? What can I do today?
12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vines
13 and for the land of my people,
a land overgrown with thorns and briers—
yes, mourn for all houses of merriment
and for this city of revelry.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness. Uluru Statement from the Heart
By the time of Truganini’s birth, the Nuenonne clan was diminished and traumatised… a group of sailors rushed at the family as they sat around their fire. Manganerer and the children dashed into the safety of darkness (but) the sailors held fast to his wife… Truganini may well have seen her mother resisting… before they vanished into the dark, leaving her ripped body leaking a pool of blood… around 1826 John Baker, a sealer took Truganini’s two sisters. Truganini never saw her sisters again. In 1829, disaster had struck Manganerer for a second time… convict mutineers had abducted his second wife and sailed to New Zealand… He attempted to follow in a sturdy ocean going canoe, but had been blown far out into the Southern Ocean. His son had died and he was half dead from dehydration when found by a whaling ship. His distress was compounded when he discovered that almost all of his clan had succumbed to disease. Within a few months he, too would be dead… From Truganini Cassandra Pybus
Trauma is the only description of the experience of palawa peoples from the moment of European contact. Loss of family, culture, the wherewithal to feed and clothe and protect their families came inexorably with the arrival of the boats. This trauma has continued with the Stolen Generations and even now as black lives are lost in police custody.
There have been over 540 Aboriginal Deaths in Custody since 1980 - over 440 of these since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released their report in 1991. This grieves the heart of God. CommonGrace.org.au
Lament is the first appropriate, compassionate response. Then, valuing the lives and the stories of those who have been taken so brutally,it is important that we learn the names and stories, we lament together, we pray without ceasing and we act to see change. CommonGrace.org.au
15 till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
16 The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The story of Israel finds it’s completion in Jesus Christ, King of kings. Yet this same Lord of all stopped to allow an outcast woman to tell her whole story, allowing her to both witness to his power in her life and to access the healing already wrought in her body. The telling of story is a powerful means for healing and for building relationship.
Who has listened well to you? How did you feel after?
Is there someone you might seek out to listen to today?
What have you heard of the story of aboriginal Tasmanians? Where could you learn more?
(There is a booklist on the Diocesan website!)
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest and the city is levelled completely,
20 how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. Uluru Statement from the Heart
Jesus is calling us to be good neighbours; The Statement from the Heart is asking the aboriginal people be allowed to “…take a rightful place in our own country.” What might that look like? How will we know when we are there?
The Samaritan paid for the care of the roadside victim; is there a cost for us to participate in this healing process?
What am I willing to contribute to the empowerment and restoration of palawa peoples?
What would be fair?
Week 3 - Listen
I came from a far off land that was invaded, conquered and settled multiple times, over hundreds of years of its history. I listened to those stories, mostly in lessons at school, and marvelled at the complexity of life for both the victor and the vanquished, and what eventually came through it. From there, I came to this land as a young man in 1963, with the eyes, prejudices and a history of colonialism, assuming we were right, simply because we were, and we were here, and my school atlas had Australia in pink along with all the other ‘colonies’. This was a country that, in those days, had a ‘White Australia Policy’ for immigration. I enjoyed the very good fortune to work in the bush. I learned new skills: look, observe, listen, hear, see, feel, smell the outback, become one with it. Listen, you can hear the wind in the trees, but can you hear the story? Story and country are one, underfoot. Listen. They have no fence lines, no shearing sheds, no windmills, no boundary pegs and God’s grace has none of these either.
Week 3 Studies prepared by Alexander and Carole Withers.
Isaiah 6:8-10 and read Matthew 13:13-15
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."
Mat 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'
Listening and hearing are very different. We can hear the story multiple times yet never get the message because we do not listen intently. We live in a very ‘rushed’ society that is overly busy.
Do you take the time to listen carefully to other perspectives? How good a listener are you really? How do you cope where there appears to be conflicting story in Tasmania’s history? What similar cultural prejudices to the ones that I held in the 1960’s do you think you may still have that prevent you from really listening? Do you know how to recognise your own ‘calloused’ heart, and how do you deal with it?
How do you apply grace into this situation?
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
Depending on your translation, the Psalmist cries out for God to ‘listen’ or ‘give ear’ or ‘hearken’ to his cry for help and by verse 3 he is content to lay his requests before God and wait in patient expectation for an answer. If God listens to our pleas for help how much should we listen to the plea of others?
What is the plea of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people? Do we understand it? Do you believe that God listens to you and do you think God listens to people who don’t believe in him? Why? How do you rectify having prayed with a wrong motive or from wrong information? How do you apply grace into this situation?
Proverbs 12:1 and 12:15
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
British colonialism was probably more exploitive and more cruel than other nations who also had their own colonies. Whose history do we really listen to? Where do you go to find a balance in the story? Name a belief that you got from your own cultural background that you have now rejected because of God’s Word.
Have you personally gone to Aboriginal descent people to seek advice and what was the outcome for you? Where in Tasmania have you visited in order to see and experience some Aboriginal history and who did you listen to?
How do you apply grace into this situation?
James 1:19 and 22
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Do we treat Aboriginal people like they are sojourners in our land or we are sojourners in their land? What does the word of God say about our treatment of one another?
What is the most difficult thing you have had to ‘un-learn’ because you found out that you were wrong? We who have received God’s unmerited grace and mercy now need to extend that listening ear to members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.
How do you apply grace into this situation?
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
These verses are quoted frequently, but do we take them seriously and take any action? Do we have a ‘them and us’ attitude? In what ways have you personally ‘humbled yourself’? How about corporately as your Church? How much of your own cultural upbringing has defined who you are, and why?
Listen carefully to your own thinking. Now, apply that to the issue of listening to the Tasmanian Aboriginal story. Are you a person who would want to pray to God for a resolution to the issue and do nothing yourself to help resolve it and why? As Christians we are guided by God’s Word. We need to listen to God and put things right.
How do you apply grace into this situation?
"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
We have all enjoyed Church music over the years, and maybe we enjoy some of the better known operas but have not always understood the language. How alien to our ears are the songs of Aboriginal people?
How alien to their ears are the songs we are so accustomed to?
We as people groups are sometimes reluctant to learn from other cultures? And yet in this land we are all sojourners from somewhere else. Do we appreciate each others traditions and songs?
Do you think any one group’s song to God is less detestable (despised) than any other cultural group?
Seek out a song of worship from another culture and listen worshipfully. How does this engage you? Is God able to speak to you from another culture?
How do you apply grace to this situation?
John 10: 27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
When we travelled to Israel in 2013, we saw several small flocks of sheep being lead by their shepherd. This way of moving sheep is very different to what we do in Australia. Here as you know it is from the rear with dogs, utes, horses and motorbikes – and much shouting and whistling. The sheep in Israel recognised their shepherd’s voice and follow him.
Do you listen for the shepherd’s voice? What is he telling you?
Do you listen to the cry from our aboriginal people?
Do we listen their story? What are they telling us? Do we listen to their voice? Or are they voiceless to us and the broader church body ?
Have you ever listened to a kangaroo drinking? You have to be very patient, close and stationery.
Do you know the shepherd’s voice? Have you listened for the shepherd’s voice? Do you listen for Jesus’ voice?
Find someone to listen patiently to today.
How are you going to apply grace to this situation?
Week 4 - Connect
“Uncle Tongue, Uncle Tongue….” This was the confusing cry to me of two Gamilaraay kids some years ago. We were living in Boggabilla, on the Qld/NSW border. It was my first ‘solo’ Parish, and we were living in a small country town that was pretty much 50:50, Black and White. Just across the border in Qld was Goondiwindi, scene of the 1984 race-riots, and numerous other racially-motivated ‘incidents’. Our time there was certainly not without experiencing some of the prevalent ‘social issues’.
I say the cry was confusing at the time, because I was not related to these kids, and yet they were calling me ‘Uncle’. I knew lots of ‘Murri’ members of the community were termed ‘Uncle’, or ‘Auntie’, but here these kids were, calling the White Anglican Minister in town, ‘Uncle’.
Though I’d had some experience working in Aboriginal communities previously, when I went to Boggabilla, I was still really a novice in terms of Aboriginal culture, and my own lack of racial awareness. But I was keen to learn. As much as possible, I tried to mix in with the local people, and just to sit and listen and experience – trying my best to ‘Connect’. When we were leaving the district, one of the local land-owners in the Church commented that I was the first minister they’d had who really tried to relate to the local Murris. And I guess that had borne results – I was not ‘related’ to these kids, but we had come into ‘relationship’. Slowly but surely, a degree of connection had grown between myself and the local community. I had been accepted – and become – “Uncle Tongue”.
Our Heavenly Father calls us into ‘Relationship’ with Himself, through Jesus Christ. The commencement of this process can be almost instantaneous, but still, it takes time for that relationship to grow and develop, as we spend time together, listening and learning from each other. And the One with whom we grow in that relationship is the ‘Lord who made from one blood all the nations of the earth….’ And He is about bringing all people together in Christ.
Week 4 Studies prepared by John Tongue.
Genesis 1:1 - 2:25
God IS relationship (within himself), and built relationship into the Creation. People are created for relationship - with the Creator, with creation, and with one another. Without proper relationships in all these spheres, we are not fully human, as God created us to be.
How are my relationships functioning? Are there things I need to change to build more healthy connections – with God? with others? What relationships and connections do I currently have – and what would I like to have – with the original inhabitants of these lands?
Sin enters through human agency, and all relationship is fractured; all connections are broken. Humans’ relationship with their Creator, with the creation, and with one another are all affected, and no longer function as they were intended. The future restoration of all these relationships in Christ (THE seed of the woman) is foreshadowed.
Though it is only in Christ that all will fully be restored, what actions can I take today, this week, into the future, to help make connections, and rebuild and strengthen my relationships with God? With the natural world? With other people? With aboriginal peoples?
this image is for the future – God’s fulfilled Kingdom – where all nations will be restored, reconciled and brought together in perfect peace, harmony and understanding. The image is of the heavenly Jerusalem, the ‘Bride of Christ’ (cf. Rev. 21:9-14), not just an earthly, temporal Zion. It is where connections are truly forged and relationship is perfected, between individuals, nations, people and God.
Since ‘the pure and spotless Bride’ (Rev.) is what we ‘are’ (in the spiritual/eternal realms), how should we be living, practically, towards God and other peoples now?
While it is important that people of all faiths and none work together at building connections and strengthening relationship with one another, what is the ultimate source of unity and reconciliation? For all peoples to be drawn to ‘the Christ who is lifted up’, what does that mean for the drawing together of those who are thus drawn to Christ?
An old Murri lady in our NSW community, a beautiful Christian woman, used to travel around to various speaking engagements, talking about her experience as one of the ‘Stolen Generations’. She used to finish her talks by telling audiences that Black and White would only find truly restored connection to one another in first being connected to Jesus. How do you react to that claim?
Genesis 3:17-19, and Romans 8:18-25
the Creation is still “Good, Good, and very Good (Gen 1 & 2). But it is also subjected to frustration, longing to be set free from its bondage to corruption and decay. These lands now called Australia sustained their original human inhabitants for thousands of years – but that was also not without toil and hardship. Broken human ‘relationships’ in these lands has further strained our relationship with the Creation.
More recent arrivals in these lands have much to learn from the original inhabitants about carefully stewarding them. But together, we must manage God’s Creation wisely and thankfully, whilst also eagerly awaiting together the renewal to come. What aspects of human relationship to creation do you think we can and need to do better at – especially as we learn from our Aboriginal brothers and sisters? What stresses and strains in that connection to Creation must await our final redemption as God’s sons and daughters?
Relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians have been fraught (to say the least) from the beginning. Paul is instructing Jew and Gentile to put away their long-held hostilities, as they have been broken down in Christ. As is so often the case in his teaching, it’s a case of “this is how you are…. so, this is how you must be.”
Think of current situations you know of where relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples are strained. Can you think of specific situations where you have seen the ‘dividing walls’ being broken down (or at least lessened). What part can, and should, we play as Christians to help make that ‘spiritual reality’ a present, practical experience?
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[c]”
Here is the fulfilment of what was envisaged back in Micah – all God’s perfected people, the spotless Bride of Christ, from every nation, tribe, people and language. And they are dwelling together in perfect connection and unity, in the new heavens and the new earth. The curse of sin is finally done away with, the Creation no longer groaning in travail, and all dividing walls broken down.
How does this picture make you feel? Express your praise and hopes (and present frustrations and longings?) to the Lord. Resolve to take actions to make this glimpse of eternity more real in all your relationships today, and especially in building connection with the first peoples of these lands.
Week 5 - Admit
Admission is a confession usually following an accusation. Australian society and the Church in particular stands accused of being complicit in the disadvantage of first nation peoples. For most people that complicity is accepting the status quo and failing to act to rectify the inequity still experienced by Australia’s first peoples.
Jesus said Love God with all our heart and love your neighbour as yourself. Mark 12;30-32
As Church and individuals we need to hold that teaching in all areas of life.
The charge of complicity results from many aspects which include ignorance of history and culture, complacency due to our own relative comfort and affluence, The complexity of the race relation situation in ‘Australia. It can be just too hard to engage mentally and physically with the complex matters involved. The risk of fracturing relationships family and friendships due to strongly held positions. Structural racism both historical and current as well as underlying racist attitudes held by many people. Perhaps most importantly, separation from God as we reflect on the first and greatest commandment Jesus taught.
Week 5 Studies prepared by John Middleton.
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
Ignorance has many root causes, Family culture, scant knowledge of Aboriginal and colonial history being passed down through families, much more would be known about the world wars in most households. History books reflect Government policy and the colonial Aboriginal interface has been written out of school curriculum till recently. It requires effort to educate oneself of Australia’s early history and many priorities compete for that limited resource.
What positive steps have I taken to inform myself of Australia’s colonial impact upon the first nations?
21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad.
In Ezekiel 35 the picture of the weaker sheep being muscled off the best pasture so that the stronger take all reflects our society which has by strength dispossessed discriminated and oppressed first nations. All non Aboriginal Australians benefit from that dispossession.
Is your comfort disturbed by knowledge of existing inequities in this country?
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Understanding the complexity of Aboriginal disadvantage today bearing in mind cultural issues of which most have scant knowledge can make engaging with this crisis overwhelming. Many choose to ‘turn off’ the issue and hope it will go away.
Do you have the strength to engage with Building relationship with First Nation citizens?
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.
Opinions on racial equity in Australia are often very firm and entrenched. Older generations tend to be more conservative but not always. Family, peer and societal conditioning (and the Devil) has a stronghold on many lives.
Does tension in your family or friendship group cause you to withdraw from the conversation?
19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
The tragedy that first nation people are sojourners, strangers, refugees in their own land is due to genocidal actions and consequent oppression and discrimination. The premise that underpinned Terra Nullius was the understanding that the natives were a lower species than Europeans. The racism embodied in that understanding lives on. Particularly in rural areas where the cultures are in close proximity. Government policy often reflects different outcomes than would apply to non indigenous populations.
How would you make first nations people more comfortable in this nation?
Luke 15:20- 24
20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his servants,[d] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’
As we reflect upon the first and greatest commandment and Jesus teaching to love one’s neighbour in the light of treatment of Australia’s Aboriginal population it is easy to see how the nation, the Church and many citizens have fallen short of God’s expectations and commands. Our history especially being a nominally Christian country demonstrates how we have strayed from God’s plan and purpose.
How do you respond to God’s willingness to rush to meet returning sinners with forgiveness?
Week 6 - Justice
Lent is a time of self-reflection, repentance, and renewal. As we pray, give and fast together, let’s remember Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and call on his saving power to bring about justice for the first peoples of Australia.
Week 6 Studies prepared by Luke Campton.
Exodus 16:4-8, 13-18
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer[a] for each person you have in your tent.’”
17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.
Food is an important part of the Christian journey: the service of communion, an act of care to the sick, a shared egg sandwich with fellow believers! The provision of food is one reminder of God’s love for us. In 2016, Aboriginal children in Australia experienced 1.7 times higher levels of malnutrition than non-Indigenous children.
How can we respond to the injustices of our time? It is clear from scripture that religious piety is not enough, we are called to break the bonds of injustice and share our bread.
Loving God, sustainer of all, help us to be thankful for your generosity in our lives and to share what we have with those in need. Amen.
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
As we grow older, birthdays are often ignored by their owner, “this year I am not going to grow older thanks!”. This luxury is afforded to the fortunate in our country. In 2018, the overall death rate for Aboriginal Australians was almost twice the rate for non-Indigenous Australians.
The Aboriginal community have asked the Government for access to effective culturally safe health services. Do you feel confident to talk up for Aboriginal health to your local politician, neighbour or friend?
Loving God, healer of all, help us to be ambassadors for healing in the lives of those around us. Amen
2 Timothy 10-17
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Do you have memories of a primary or Sunday school teacher who made a big impact on your life? A good start to education and learning can have an accumulated positive effect on someone. Barriers to Indigenous children’s participation in early childhood education include out of pocket costs, lack of public transport, poor child health, and fear of racism and judgment.
Why is it often easier to know what to do, than to put things in to action? If during lent you feel prompted to share what you have learnt with others, or put good ideas in to practice – are you going to do it?
Loving God, teacher of all, help us to lean on your holy scriptures as the source of perfect correction and righteousness. Amen.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
As Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. Personal ambitions can be held back suddenly by accidents, declining mental health and the need to care for others. More than twice as many Aboriginals report living with a disability than non-indigenous persons.
As with the Good Samaritan, we need the stranger to show us what real hospitality is all about. The community receives great value from providing for people living with a disability or mental health injury.
Loving God, saviour of all, thank you for coming to us as a stranger and binding our wounds so that we might know your love. Amen
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings
Many would agree with Jennifer Aniston when she said that “Parenting is one of the hardest jobs on earth”! The rewarding challenge of caring for children is something that requires great amounts of patience and wisdom. Rates of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care have tripled in the past 15 years. Acting early to prevent childhood abuse and neglect is incredibly important, but with Aboriginal children 10 times more likely to be removed from their family than non-indigenous children, there is a clear need for a more just approach.
Aboriginal communities have asked to share in decision-making about things that affect them, and this arguably needs to be extended to the provision of social services. It is our joy and privilege as representatives of Jesus to work with children and vulnerable people, and that is why we embrace the Safe Church Communities training and Faithfulness in Service code of conduct.
Loving God, father of all, help us to make our church communities places of safety and bless those who care for children. Amen
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The words of Zechariah in chapter 9 describing God’s people as “prisoners of hope” sums up neatly the human condition of being both restrained by sin, yet deeply hopeful for release from it’s painful burden. Incarceration too has serious and long-term effects on people, affecting the health, wellbeing and economic livelihoods of prisoners/detainees and their families. In 2016, the rate of detention for Aboriginal children was 26 times that of non-Indigenous youth.
As Jesus visited us despite our transgressions, so we must provide an example of love and forgiveness to our neighbour. Is your Parish prepared to accept an ex-offender into your community? How would you do it?
Loving God, judge to all, help us to recognise our own transgressions and extend understanding, forgiveness and love to those around us. Amen
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Gloria Steinem once said that “There is a naïve belief that injustice only had to be pointed out in order to be cured”. Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if violence could be ended just by recognising that it exists! Although most Australian families are strong and healthy, some are at risk of family and community violence, and the impact can be far reaching. In 2019, Aboriginal people over 15 years were three times more likely to be a victim of physical violence or threatened harm.
The building of healthy communities leads to improvements in people’s long-term health and physical and mental wellbeing. Are you ready to listen to and care for those affected by violence in our community?
Loving God, light to all, please repel the darkness in our lives this lent and wake us up to the power of the risen Christ. Amen