Messages of Hope

Month: April 2015

The names on the boards

Published / by Dean Eland
Memorial list of names WW1
One of the two WW1 honour boards at Pilgrim Uniting Church

In the lead up to ANZAC Day this year many families, agencies and community groups have become involved in documenting and interpreting the significance of the Gallipoli campaign. In preparing for this event, Marilyn Hyde and Pat Button have been busy at work over the past twelve months researching and documenting the lives of 181 people who were members or associated with the two congregations that led to the formation of Pilgrim church. Yesterday they introduced us to the scope and range of this project and in the days to come many of us will come to appreciate the significance of the work they have undertaken.

Their research has brought to light new insights about the character and values of a great cloud of witnesses, those who have been members of this congregation before us, those not known to us but who we remember today as their names are listed on our two WW1 honour boards. Many of us enter and leave week by week through the eastern door, stopping to greet each other and hardly ever stopping to think about those who like us came to worship and celebrate the One named as the Prince of Peace.

If these walls could speak about what they have witnessed! In many ways the building and our routine of worship and sacramental ministry represent implicit memories, the yet undiscovered stories of faithful people who now have come closer to us through the commemoration of this weekend. Their legacy is in the energies, gifts and commitments represented here by the artefacts, symbols and signs, music, poetry and art, those who continue to worship with us but on another shore.

Last Sunday we sang, “Lord of our days, Lord of yesterday. Lord, our Lord forever, your people we are” and Pat and Marilyn’s research has introduced us and brought us closer to our yesterdays, those who were members of this congregation 100 years ago.

The insights and discoveries of this project will help us appreciate the context of their day, what it was like to dream and hope in becoming a new nation at the beginning of the 20th century. While still retaining their links to a mother country, they knew this land offered them a new beginning, a land of opportunity. Here the old class distinctions and privileges of birth would fade away. With no established church and a commitment to the separation of church and state many church members made a significant contribution to a new civic culture that valued equal opportunity, argued that the State had a duty of care and responsibility for all people including those most vulnerable. Examples that come to mind include the Harvester judgment and the basic wage, eight hour day, aged pensions and rights for women.

While still part of an empire that was dying there was a loyalty to the old country that called us into a war to end all wars. Like us they would have struggled to comprehend the contradiction or paradox involved in going to war. How could a people committed to peace, praying and working for peace, nurtured in the art of peace, find themselves on the front line in a European war so many miles from home and family with many never coming home to the land and the people they loved.

We commemorate today those who lived with this contradiction; those who lives were destroyed and hearts broken, rarely speaking about their experience of death, their daily companion.
Les Carlyon in his best seller, Gallipoli writes, “many who outlived this place could not settle down when they returned home. Anzac was grubby when you looked at the corpses and beautiful when you looked across the satin to Samothrace. You had to know you were alive here. Death was everywhere, in the air, and in the sounds coming from the second ridge. Death was there when you rolled a smoke or told a joke or carted water. Day and night is was there. And its nearness made you feel so thrillingly alive. They had never been so aware that they were alive as when they were here, close to death.”

Our experience of the ANZAC story this year will lead us again and again to pray and work for peace. To embrace and work with the prophet’s vision, that they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war no more. (Isaiah 2.)

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world,
and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever. Amen.

Rev Dr Dean Eland

Minister in Association

Can God fix climate change?

Published / by Sandy
Rev Tafue Lusama (on left) of photo
Rev Tafue Lusama (on left of photo)

I met Rev Tafue Lasume, General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Tuvalu, at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, South Korea, where he spoke with passion and conviction about the dire prospects for the Pacific island nations as the impact of climate change is already being seen. The nation of Tuvalu itself sits on a small collection of reef islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Salt water has entered the underground water table on which the people rely, and scientists suggest the islands will eventually be subsumed as sea levels continue to rise.

Rev Tafue Lasume was among participants of an interfaith summit on climate change, and one of the signatories of an interfaith document, Climate, Faith and Hope: Faith traditions together for a common future. It’s worth a read!

Rev Rob Floyd, National Director, Uniting World, asks:

Can God fix climate change?

In the wake of Cyclone Pam, it’s a hot topic once again for people in the Pacific.

Throughout the Pacific, more than 90% of people identify as Christians. Faith is central to identity. And as storms come with more frequency and high tides batter homes, emergency relief isn’t the only thing on people’s minds.

Can God fix climate change?

Will God intervene to save Pacific homelands?

Leaders in the Pacific tell us that many of their people have been taught to believe that God will save and that to act against, or even to believe in climate change, is to demonstrate a lack of faith. At the same time, as suffering increases for people deeply traumatised by recent events, a spiritual crisis seems inevitable.

Rev Tafue Lasume said recently:

“Climate change represents a spiritual as well as a physical crisis for our people. We desperately need to educate communities about the fact that God has not abandoned us; climate change is caused by humans and requires a human response.”

In response, the Uniting Church in Australia is working through UnitingWorld in partnership with Pacific churches to:

  • Educate Pacific communities biblically about environmental stewardship, justice and the presence of God, inspiring hope and action
  • Train trauma counsellors for survivors of extreme weather events
  • Plan for risk assessments, adaptation, inevitable relocation and resettlement
  • Advocate for climate justice throughout the Pacific and to a global audience

Find out more here: www.unitingworld.org/pacificchange

Please note that Pilgrim Uniting Church has launched an appeal to raise funds to help rebuild the lives of families and congregations in Vanuatu after the recent devastation of Cyclone Pam. Please contact the office if you wish to give to the appeal (82123295, office@pilgrim.org.au), or contact Uniting World direct in the Sydney office.

Beyond Emptiness

Published / by Jana

Mark’s account of the resurrection aftermath is so sparse.

The women disciples go out and find the tomb empty.

They leave frightened and bewildered.

Emptiness is bewildering.

And it is everywhere.

We try to find answers to why a German pilot didn’t receive the help he needed; and why he took others down with him.

We come up empty.

I try to find answers to why two of my friends, not much older than I am, died this past week from terrible and terrifying illnesses.

I come up empty.

It is bewildering.

The origins of the word bewildering carry the sense of being led into the woods where it is easy to get lost. Which is frightening.

Bewildered and frightened.

Lost in emptiness.

There are no answers in the emptiness.

But there is something beyond the emptiness.

In the story in Mark’s gospel it goes like this: “But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

What is out ahead of us?

What draws us out of the emptiness and into new life?

Let’s decide it is Jesus who has gone ahead.

Let’s decide to follow his way out.

Beyond the emptiness, if we will, we will see him:

We will see, if we will, all the things we have seen in him already:

extravagant welcome,

boundless compassion,

limitless courage for justice.

 

I promise to see it in you.

You promise to see it in me.

We promise, together, to let others see it in us.

In this we will be found.

In this we will find our fulfillment.

May it be so.

-Jana for Easter Sunday

It was early in the morning

Published / by Sandy

On Easter Sunday while it was still dark, I arrived at church to set up for the outdoor Easter Sunrise service on the plaza at the rear of Pilgrim Uniting Church.

We regularly have ‘rough sleepers’ under the shelter of the verandah at the back of the church office adjacent to the plaza. My arrival while it was still dark caused the person closest to the door to sit bolt upright and be on alert immediately for impending danger. I reassured him ‘it was just me, you know me, one of the Ministers here in the church’. With that he relaxed, and resettled into his sleeping position. I felt glad that we could offer a place of safety and sanctuary and that we know these rough sleepers by name. I went about the work of setting up for the service, and in deference to the sweet soundscape of snoring coming from the rough sleepers, I moved our usual location to one side so as not to further disturb them.

For the service, we gathered around a brazier fire and shared stories. Afterwards, we shared freshly baked damper finished off in the brazier coals, and fish fingers, and tea and coffee. The rough sleepers came and joined us, enjoying the sweet smells of freshly cooked food, and warm drinks after a chilly night sleeping out. It was perfectly normal for us all to be together – those who had warm beds for the night, and those who slept in sleeping bags on the cold bricks under the shelter of the verandah. And some generously helped us pack up afterwards.

On Easter Monday, I came across these images of a campaign by Homelessness charity Depaul, which has launched a new outdoor campaign to deliver varying messages about living on the streets to viewers depending on their positioning near the posters. The messages encapsulate two walls across a right angle. When one side is viewed stereotypes and negative perceptions of the homeless arise, but when both walls are visible are more complex picture arises. Quite literally, “there is another side to the story”. (see the two images below – one from a limited perspective, and then the other with a more complete story)

Each of our rough sleepers have their stories – encounters with bureaucracy and welfare agencies, broken relationships, time in prison. There are many reasons they choose to sleep rough rather than go through the system to find housing. The example of Jesus enables us to see that human worth is not indexed to worldly success, and that each person is beloved of God, deserving of care and compassion.

Easter Sunday

Published / by Sandy

Spirit, lead us, light up the truth in these stories of faith we retell.
Spirit, lead us, as we become the next chapter ourselves.
(words: Paul Somerville)

The late Marcus Borg describes Easter as a sacred time during which its primordial and primal narrative is remembered and ultimately celebrated.

It is a narrative that feels at once familiar and strange to modern ears – God taking on flesh, dying on a cross, and then, astonishingly, resurrected. Simon Smart, director of the Centre for Public Christianity, says: Believers understand this as an event of cosmic significance – the core event of human history when God enters the human struggle and overcomes death. It is about divine action that opens up the possibility of redemption and the restoration of broken things; the triumph of good over evil; of a future beyond the grave that also imbues the present with grace and meaning.

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Tim Winton @ Palm Sunday Walk4Refugees

Published / by Sandy

Palm Sunday commemorates the day an itinerant prophet spoke truth to power. Jesus of Nazareth arrived at the gates of Jerusalem in a parody of imperial pomp. But he was a nobody. Instead of a stallion, he rode up on a borrowed donkey. In place of an army, he had a bunch of lily-livered misfits throwing down their cloaks and palm branches as if he was a big shot. Street theatre, if you like. And a week later he was dead. He was there to challenge the commonsense of the day. Armed with only an idea.

Jesus used to say things like this. If a child asks you for bread, will you give him a stone? Awkward things like that.

His followers called his idea The Way. Many of us are here today because the idea has stuck. We try to follow the Way of Peace and Love. Just another bunch of lily-livered misfits.

For generations, in communities all over the globe, Palm Sunday has been a day when people walk for peace and reconciliation. And not just Christians. People of every faith and of no faith at all come together as we have today in solidarity. To express our communal values and yearnings, the things that bind us rather than those that separate us.

We belong to a prosperous country, a place where prosperity and good fortune have made us powerful. Yes, whether we feel it or not, we are exceptionally powerful as individuals and as a community. We have the power of safety. We’re richer, more mobile, with more choices than most of our fellow citizens worldwide. Not because we’re virtuous, but because we’re lucky. But we don’t come here to gloat. We’re here to reflect. To hold ourselves to account. We didn’t come here today to celebrate power or to hide in its privileged shadow. We’re here to speak for the powerless. We’re not here to praise the conventions of the day, but to examine them and expose them to the truth. We’re not here to reinforce the status quo. We gather to dissent from it. To register our dismay at it. We’re here to call a spade a spade, to declare that what has become political common sense in Australia over the past 15 years is actually nonsense. And not just harmless nonsense; it’s vicious, despicable nonsense. For something foul is festering in the heart of our community, something shameful and rotten. (more…)