Oh dear me, Oh dear me! The parable in today’s gospel targets the violence of apathy and neglect which is widening the chasm between rich and poor throughout the world. The trouble is that even such abstractions become easy to live with. We need some firsthand experience of encountering the real people whom we will then not be able to dismiss as relative statistics. And if that cannot be first hand, we need to help people engage in active imagination of what it really means to be poor, to be a refugee, to be caught on the wrong side of the chasms which vested interests maintain.
I remember as a child, seeing images of refugees from Biafra (and various other places) staring at me from TV screens. They were emaciated and listless. Men and women holding children who seemed barely alive – and I am ashamed to say that I saw these people as somehow a little less than human. Why? Because I couldn’t see how “real” people could accept their plight – seemingly, so calmly – without a fight. Surely they were lacking in understanding, much like sheep in the slaughter yards awaiting the end?
I think, in all of the arguing and politicking about refugees, we have somehow done the same with regard to those who seek asylum in Australia and other parts of the world today. I have several friends who have had to escape violence in various countries… leaving property and family as they fled, in fear. I am sure there are some in your circle of acquaintances. Many of those I know are Christian and have white skin. Does that make their situation and their need for asylum somehow more acceptable?
By lumping asylum seekers together and calling them “boat people” we somehow rob them of humanity and, in the wake of various terrorist attacks perpetrated by militant “religious” groups, we reject them out of fear. Why would any mother or father gather a precious cargo of children and risk crossing oceans in unsafe and overcrowded vessels, unless they were seeking to escape something far worse.
We in Australia, as a society, are the rich. What will we do with regards to the poor on our doorstep?
This week, by way of reflection, I share with you the Stewardship Thought from “Words for Worship” which set me to thinking about the way that, all to often, we fail to see God in the sights and sounds of everyday life. We forget that our God is a constant participant in life. Further more, God’s abundant provision is recognisable in all of Creation. The words of the following poem really spoke to me.
“I see you in all your seasons … talking about God
as if he were an idea instead of the grass,
instead of the stars.”
In lyrical terms, the celebrated poet, Mary Oliver, seeks to call her readers back to the “deep-down” nature of God within our unfolding human experience. Ideas and theologies don’t seek out lost sheep to their own possible detriment, and they certainly don’t invite friends and neighbours from all walks of life to a feast around the kitchen table! Such expressions of generous, inclusive love arise from what is already at play in the world, not imported from a heavenly stratosphere!
Might it be then, that Christianity is as much a careful noticing of what God is already about and flowing with it, than planning and projecting with only our good ideas in mind?
We fret about our ageing congregation and low numbers, about the state of the world. We worry and plan, plan and worry! … We forget that Christ has already been here, Christ already has the victory. In the words on the cover of the invitation to January’s CMS Summer School – KEEP CALM for CHRIST HAS WON!
I am so glad that, by the time you read this the elections will be over… bar the tally of postal/absentee votes! I have had enough of the whole election business on TV, Radio, billboards, and newspapers… And Facebook friends on both sides and places in between!
The thing is, I have no problem with people putting their particular “case” forward. I am just sick of the nasty comments and vicious put downs made against whichever group is being opposed. And, I am absolutely “over” the Christians who are so scathing of other Christians… questioning the faith or level of education and biblical scholarship of those of a different point of view.
The reality is, there are deeply faithful, wonderful Christians of all different persuasions and the “personal”, and sometimes vitriolic attacks, on those with a different point of view flies in the face of the commandment that we should “love one another”. Loving one another implies respect, acceptance, understanding and compassion. Lets face it, such negative, judgemental behaviour as we have seen in relation to the lead up to this election, gives Christianity … and, by association, Jesus … a very bad name in the secular world.
The readings for this week give us pause, if we reflect on them in relation to our own lives. In Seasons of the Spirit (a resource I am using) we are challenged to reflect on the reading from Jeremiah and ask ourselves the following questions.
Read: Jeremiah 18:1–4
Reflect: When has your life taken on a new, redeemed shape?
Read: Jeremiah 18:5–8
Reflect: When have you seen a community transformed?
Read: Jeremiah 18:9–11
Reflect: How can our community take on the shape of life God has in mind for us?
Love and Blessings