Tuesday 26 January 2016

Sacred Ground

I have felt very conflicted over the last few days with the build up to Australia Day. My Facebook feed has been full of various views and opinions. Some of my friends are calling today Survival Day and I fully support the reasoning behind this. Some of my friends are calling for a change in date for similar reasons. Some are posting pictures of very "Aussie things", like shrimps on the barbie, vegemite jokes and numerous Aussie flags. And there are a few, with views I don't agree with, posting "Love it or leave" style messages. I could spend all day reading these and responding with my own personal views, but I am sure there is a more positive, life giving way for me to spend this public holiday. 

Photo: Harrison Lambert
So what have I done? Well, we spent a good portion of the day down at Contos Spring, a stunning local beach. I took my shoes off, let the sand creep between my toes, and remembered the Wardandi people, the First peoples of this area, who have taken care of this land for thousands of years. As the water splashed around my knees (it was rather cool) I thought of these people of the sea who have been custodians of this coastline and the caves under the ground for longer than I can imagine. What a privilege to live in such a stunning land!

My thoughts turned to my own being here in this land. As one of many second peoples who have called Australia home, I reflected on emigrating to Australia some 35 years ago. My parents brought me to this land for a fresh start, a new beginning. We were not fleeing a war torn land as many who come today may be, but we were certainly in search of a better life. I will always be grateful to my parents for making that choice. I would have it no other way. But I am also grateful for those people we found so welcoming when we arrived and settled here.

As I looked out at the sea, which was getting a little choppy at times, I thought of those risking their lives to seek refuge in our land. I wondered about the welcome (or lack of) that they might receive here in the years to come. I hoped that some day they might feel this sand between their toes too.

And so, I haven't felt the need today to seek out some amazing fireworks display or buy cheap Aussie bits and pieces that were all made in some other country. Instead, it has been important to remind myself of this sacred land in which we live. We can become so caught up with who owns this land, who it belongs to and who is allowed in that we have forgotten its sacredness. Millions of people have walked this beach before me, fished for their dinner and cooled off in the clear ocean. Millions of people will follow in the future. I belong here, but this sacred land does not belong to me.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Limit Not the Truth

I have just finished reading a novel that was recommended to me by a member of one of my congregations. The Last Templar, by Raymond Khoury, is a modern story that draws on the persecution of the Knights of the Temple in the Middle Ages. It was a great book and I would recommend it to those of you who enjoy a good historical mystery. There was one part of the novel that particularly grabbed my attention, however.

Towards the end of the story there is a discussion around the impact that a possible ancient discovery may have on Christianity. The content of an artefact could potentially crumble the foundation of the faith of many. The question is asked about the importance of truth and even the definition of truth. Is it believing in all the stories at a literal level or is there some far deeper truth that reaches beyond the stories? One character had a very literal faith and was faced with needing to find a deeper understanding based on their own experience the Divine. Another character never saw a place for faith or God in their life, but was faced with the mystery of life that could only be explained in spiritual terms.

What is more important for us; truth or faith? In my own life, whether the stories of the Bible are true or not does not really matter. In saying this, I am referring to whether they are factual and actually happened as the story tells. All of the stories hold truth though. Underlying the story is a theme, a relationship or an understanding that is still true in my life today. If I did not believe this I would have given up preaching years ago.

The last chapters of this gripping novel have reminded me of the importance of being open to learning and growing in faith in every encounter I may have. To hold onto an unshakeable truth embedded in writings of 2000 years ago limits the truth of God to a certain time and place. There is an old hymn that sums this up perfectly.

We limit not the truth of God
to our poor reach of mind,
to notions of our day and place,
crude, partial, and confined:
No, let a new and better hope
within our hearts be stirred:
O God, grant yet more light and truth
to break forth from your Word.

(George Rawson)

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Cherish - Word for 2016

Over the last few years I have given myself a word for the year. A friend of mine told me that they did this each year and so I thought it was worth a try. Two years ago the word was 'integrity'. Last year it was 'strength'. As I chose both of these words, I had a sense of what was in store for me in the year ahead and this somehow informed my choice of word. For 2014 and 2015, these words became very important to me and evolved into words that I clung to when I lost my sense of direction or became despondent.

At the beginning of 2016, I was reflecting on what my word for the coming year could be. Nothing sprung to mind immediately. I thought about some of the changes that were ahead and the challenges they could present, but still no word. And so, I started to ask myself some deeper, more personal questions about my own needs and areas of growth. And that is when the word appeared, almost out of the blue.

As I sat on our back deck, relaxed and content, I sensed a deep need to learn to cherish life. It is not a word that is commonly used in everyday language, but it appealed to me and stuck. I looked up it's definition; to treat with tenderness and affection; to nurture with care; to foster; to hold dear; to indulge; to encourage. The more I pondered on the word, the more I realised that I needed this word. I need to learn to cherish life's moments, rather than racing on to the next one. I need to cherish my family more, rather than taking them for granted. I need to cherish my own self and my calling in life. The list went on and on.

So, 'cherish' is the word for 2016. It is not so clear how this word will impact or what it may teach me, but I am open to allowing this word to be in my life throughout the year.