Messages of Hope

Month: April 2017

Beyond the walls – social justice projects: South Sudan appeal

Published / by Sandy

At the April meeting of the Pilgrim Church Council, it was agreed that we would support several projects from our social justice budget.
One of them is the Africa Famine Appeal, to support people in South Sudan. The Uniting Church in Australia has a partnership with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, part of the South Sudan Council of Churches.
“Without urgent aid, over 1 million people are likely to die of starvation. Famine has been declared in South Sudan. It’s the first time in six years that famine has been declared anywhere in the world. Nearly 5 million people – more than 40 percent of South Sudan’s population – are in need of urgent food. In the worst hit parts of the country, one in three children is acutely malnourished. In a country already devastated by war and a collapsed economy, severe drought is the final straw – families have exhausted every means they have to survive. We need to act now – it is the beginning of the lean season. Without much-needed aid, the number of people going hungry is expected to rise to 5.5 million by July”.

Christians in procession on Easter Sunday 2017, in Pawel, a village in South Sudan’s Jonglei State. © Paul Jeffrey/ACT

A recent message from the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) says the Resurrection reminds us that even in this world there is “goodness and light with triumph”. In an “Easter message of hope for the people of South Sudan – 2017” the SSCC reminded the South Sudan people that “at this time of year we recall that Christ Jesus too suffered”, that “as a baby he was displaced from his country and had to flee as a refugee to a neighbouring country with Mary and Joseph (Matthew 2:13-15).”
When South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011, after decades of brutal war with Khartoum government forces in Sudan, the world was filled with optimism, since the churches had played a key role in helping broker the process. But civil conflict began in 2013 and has since continually worsened. “Killing, looting, raping, arbitrary detention, torture, tribalism, terror, fear, anxiety, hate speech and lies, displacement, hunger, poverty, famine, corruption, and economic collapse continue in our young nation, seemingly unabated. These things are evil and we cannot pretend that they do not exist,” say the church leaders.
The SSCC’s message recalls how Jesus lived as “a humble manual worker under an oppressive regime, was falsely accused by corrupt power-seeking leaders, was unjustly arrested and imprisoned, and finally was tortured to death for his opposition to the behaviour of those in power. Many South Sudanese have suffered the same fate.”
The SSCC message concludes: “The Resurrection he offers us is certainly connected with the Eternal Life promised to us, but it is not only something for the future… The Resurrection reminds us that even in this world, evil and death will not continue for ever; goodness and light will triumph.”

New Life Experienced

Published / by Bob Hutchinson

Resurrection is not as tame as Easter eggs might imply. Easter sets the earth to quaking, guards to shaking, and women to evangelizing.

The text for today from Matthew’s Gospel, begins with a journey undertaken. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb of Jesus.

What they see sets them on a journey entirely new in history. Even with Easter’s awesome surprise, they do not linger at the tomb. They run.

Along the way, they stop for one extraordinary moment to worship at the feet of the Crucified One now living. “Go and tell my brothers,” Jesus commissions them. Then, off they go.

The women witness not only to the joy of Christ’s raising, but also the assurance of Christ’s forgiving. They tell the deserters that Christ still chooses to call them brothers.

Resurrection, like crucifixion, summons forces and images of creation. An earthquake shakes the land. An angel, likened to the appearance of lightning, descends from heaven.

Life and death will never be the same.

For something so talked about, predicted, and explained, the resurrection of Jesus was a surprise to everyone. Some of you today may also be thinking that.

You may be thinking, “this coming back to life stuff is news to me”, or “I cant really get a grip on it”, or “takes a great leap of faith to believe in the resurrection”.

Well that’s fine, it is hard to understand, it does require faith and all we are ever asked, is to simply trust, to trust that what God has spoken about in the Bible is true.

Today is Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday. This is the day that the church celebrates that Jesus of Nazareth, who was killed on Friday, has been raised from the dead.

The Greek word for resurrection means to stand up or rise up again. Resurrection Sunday is therefore a day for us also to stand up and celebrate life, risen life, new life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Resurrection Sunday would have to be the day of the Christian faith. But not everyone gets excited about it.

For as long as I can remember I have known about the resurrection story. I have grown up with it, heard it, sung about it, listened to sermons about it and even preached on it myself a few times. It doesn’t surprise me, I know the story, I know the ending, or the beginning if you like. It doesn’t surprise me, but it doesn’t stop exciting me!

But for many Easter Sunday is a surprise. It certainly was for the disciples and the women of Jesus day. It certainly was for the writer of the gospel of Mark who ends the gospel with no resurrection appearance story but says about the women…’and they ran from the tomb and told no one, for they were afraid. – That is the ending of the earliest Gospel of Mark!

Those who venture to the tomb, women and men are surprised at what they see, or more accurately what they don’t see.

The women, particularly had no idea that what Jesus had said previously would be true. They, or she (depends on which gospel you read as to how many women actually go), didn’t go to wait for the resurrection to happen (with videos and iphones), but rather to anoint or prepare a dead body. That is why the women go to the tomb.

In Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary simply go to have a look. Mark has MM, Mary mother of James, and Salome go to anoint the body. Luke has simply ‘the women’ taking spices, and John’s gospel has the solitary Mary going to the tomb.

What did they see? The stories vary but common to all was that Jesus was not there. The tomb was empty of Jesus and that is what evoked faith (or scared them silly.)

Within the Easter Sunday story there is an emphasis on seeing.

The resurrection is about seeing the empty tomb, the clothes, and even Jesus himself. The people of that first Easter witnessed, they saw, they touched, they talked, they believed.

But not us! That’s all gone, covered up by 2000 years of sand, time, tradition, memory and legend.

We have never been able to see what the people of that day saw. But thank God for Thomas, also known as Doubting Thomas, because he is the one with whom many of us identify. Its hard believing because we have not seen.

Thomas, however, when he sees, does believe. But then there is that line, those comforting reassuring words of Jesus, words spoken for us, John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” That is faith!

Jürgen Moltmann says in his book The Crucified God (173) “The resurrection of Jesus from the dead by God does not speak the ‘language of facts’ but only the language of faith and hope, that is the ‘language of promise”. The literary evidence for the resurrection is strong, yet it still requires faith.

The gospels mention it, Peter declares it, Paul expounds on it. The disciples and Apostles and the early church stake their lives on it.

Would grown women and men, in the face of certain death, be silly enough to stand up and confess faith if they didn’t absolutely believe it, if they were not convinced?, if they had no faith?

Would the church face persecution if there was no faith, faith that says because of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, I have hope, hope now and hope to come, hope that whatever is before me is not the final end.

This is CELEBRATION!!! This is what gave Handel the passion to compose the Halleluiah Chorus. Or Mozart – the Sparrow Mass

This is what sets the church apart from any social club, that Jesus is RISEN, he is risen indeed.

This is the one day we make no apology for being excited. If we were allowed to be happy, noisy, excited, exuberant, over the top, then TODAY is that day.

This day makes every other day dull in comparison. This day makes the Christian faith real. We are here because of this day.

We can keep it ‘out there’, at arm’s length, or in the intellectual grey matter up here. If we do that, then the resurrection will remain just a distant part of us.

Yet, we don’t trust our vision, we don’t rely on our knowledge, for the resurrection is not complete until the real presence of the risen Christ is felt, – is taken on, and is experienced, in here, by faith, and we allow Christ to meet us personally and call our name, as he did for Mary, as he does for us.

Christ is risen . . . .

 

Reference:
Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, SCM Press, London, 1974 p173.

‘The language of promise’

Published / by Sandy

Rev Bob Hutchinson’s Easter Day sermon:

Resurrection is not as tame as Easter eggs might imply. Easter sets the earth to quaking, guards to shaking, and women to evangelizing.

The text for today from Matthew’s Gospel, begins with a journey undertaken. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to the tomb of Jesus.

What they see sets them on a journey entirely new in history. Even with Easter’s awesome surprise, they do not linger at the tomb. They run.

Along the way, they stop for one extraordinary moment to worship at the feet of the Crucified One now living. “Go and tell my brothers,” Jesus commissions them. Then, off they go.

The women witness not only to the joy of Christ’s raising, but also the assurance of Christ’s forgiving. They tell the deserters that Christ still chooses to call them brothers.

Resurrection, like crucifixion, summons forces and images of creation. An earthquake shakes the land. An angel, likened to the appearance of lightning, descends from heaven.

Life and death will never be the same.

For something so talked about, predicted, and explained, the resurrection of Jesus was a surprise to everyone. Some of you today may also be thinking that.

You may be thinking, “this coming back to life stuff is news to me”, or “I can’t really get a grip on it”, or “takes a great leap of faith to believe in the resurrection”.

Well that’s fine, it is hard to understand, it does require faith and all we are ever asked, is to simply trust, to trust that what God has spoken about in the Bible is true.

Today is Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday. This is the day that the church celebrates that Jesus of Nazareth, who was killed on Friday, has been raised from the dead.

The Greek word for resurrection means to stand up or rise up again. Resurrection Sunday is therefore a day for us also to stand up and celebrate life, risen life, new life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Resurrection Sunday would have to be the day of the Christian faith. But not everyone gets excited about it.

For as long as I can remember I have known about the resurrection story. I have grown up with it, heard it, sung about it, listened to sermons about it and even preached on it myself a few times.

It doesn’t surprise me, I know the story, I know the ending, or the beginning if you like. It doesn’t surprise me, but it doesn’t stop exciting me!

But for many Easter Sunday is a surprise. It certainly was for the disciples and the women of Jesus day. It certainly was for the writer of the gospel of Mark who ends the gospel with no resurrection appearance story but says about the women…’and they ran from the tomb and told no one, for they were afraid. – That is the ending of the earliest Gospel- Mark!

Those who venture to the tomb, women and men are surprised at what they see, or more accurately what they don’t see.

The women, particularly had no idea that what Jesus had said previously would be true. They, or she (depends on which gospel you read as to how many women actually go), didn’t go to wait for the resurrection to happen (with videos and iphones), but rather to anoint or prepare a dead body. That is why the women go to the tomb.

In Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary simply go to have a look. Mark has MM, Mary mother of James, and Salome go to anoint the body. Luke has simply ‘the women’ taking spices, and John’s gospel has the solitary Mary going to the tomb.
What did they see? The stories vary but common to all was that Jesus was not there. The tomb was empty of Jesus and that is what evoked faith (or scared them silly.)

Within the Easter Sunday story there is an emphasis on seeing.

The resurrection is about seeing the empty tomb, the clothes, and even Jesus himself. The people of that first Easter witnessed, they saw, they touched, they talked, they believed.

But not us! That’s all gone, covered up by 2000 years of sand, time, tradition, memory and legend.

We have never been able to see what the people of that day saw. But thank God for Thomas, also known as Doubting Thomas, because he is the one with whom many of us identify. Its hard believing because we have not seen.

Thomas, however, when he sees, does believe. But then there is that line, those comforting reassuring words of Jesus, words spoken for us, John 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” That is faith!

Jergunn Moltmann says in his book The Crucified God (173) “The resurrection of Jesus from the dead by God does not speak the ‘language of facts’ but only the language of faith and hope, that is the ‘language of promise”. The literary evidence for the resurrection is strong, yet it still requires faith.

The gospels mention it, Peter declares it, Paul expounds on it. The disciples and Apostles and the early church stake their lives on it.

Would grown women and men, in the face of certain death, be silly enough to stand up and confess faith if they didn’t absolutely believe it, if they were not convinced?, if they had no faith?

Would the church face persecution if there was no faith, faith that says because of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, I have hope, hope now and hope to come, hope that whatever is before me is not the final end.

This is CELEBRATION!!! This is what gave Handel the passion to compose the Halleluiah Chorus. Or Mozart – the Sparrow Mass

This is what sets the church apart from any social club, that Jesus is RISEN, he is risen indeed.***(pause)

This is the one day we make no apology for being excited. If we were allowed to be happy, noisy, excited, exuberant, over the top, then TODAY is that day.

This day makes every other day dull in comparison. This day makes the Christian faith real. We are here because of this day.

Friends, Christ has been raised and lives today.

The resurrection is believed by faith. And faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 1)

We can keep it ‘out there’, at arm’s length, or in the intellectual grey matter up here. If we do that, then the resurrection will remain just a distant part of us.

Yet, we don’t trust our vision, we don’t rely on our knowledge, for the resurrection is not complete until the real presence of the risen Christ is felt, is taken on, and is experienced, in our lives, by faith, and we allow Christ to meet us personally and call our name, as he did for Mary, as he does for us.

Christ is risen…….Amen

Celebrating risen life

Published / by Sandy

Resurrection changed everything, yet everything remained the same. The first Christians experienced persecution and martyrdom, the church itself became a place of both healing and destruction, and our post-resurrection world is threatened by global climate change and the destructive actions of Christianity’s most “ardent” followers who subvert the all-embracing love of Jesus with a religion of rugged individualism, self-interested capitalism, intolerance, and scorched earth politics. Yet, resurrection lives on—an empty tomb and open future beckons, despite the failures of Jesus’ followers.

Still, let us celebrate resurrection and, in the spirit of Wendell Berry’s poem, “practice resurrection.” But, how shall we practice resurrection today? It is not about enlightenment denial or conservative literalism, paths that lead nowhere. Rather, it is in looking for the Empty Tombs in our world, and seeing within them open futures for ourselves and for others. It is in bringing forth beauty, especially in children and marginalized and vulnerable persons. It is in resisting the politics of division, coercion, and greed, and learning to live in terms of a beloved community in which all persons can rise to the heights of abundant living.

Today, we are called to be resurrection partners, to roll away the stone, imprisoning marginalized people, and open pathways to the future for all creation.

We are called to be God’s celebrative companions—to say “yes” to life in all its complexity, contrast, and beauty. To rejoice in birth and rebirth. Christ is Risen, today, and every day! Hallelujah!

The in-between time

Published / by Sandy

Easter Saturday – the time between.
A gentle time for contemplation on ‘liminal space’ and grief and loss.

PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT OF EASTER SATURDAY
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
We pray in this liminal time,
This in-between time,
The place of paralysis in the midst of confusion,
The bit or gap where the chasm of despair or hopelessness seems sometimes all too close.
We pray for those who are in-between.
For those who have to wait,
Mourners,
The grieving,
Refugees,
For those who walk in the shadow of death,
For those waiting for results or treatment,
Those between employment,
Those between opposing powers.
For those for whom the promise of paradise seems but a mirage or a place beyond the horizon of their hope.
Lord of Easter,
You have walked by this way before us.
For us the Easter story moves ahead towards resolution and resurrection, but for many the reality of the future is unclear and uncertain, just as it was for your disciples and followers that Easter Saturday.
Be with us, Christ, and all those caught in the vortex of waiting.
Carry all beyond our fear and despair to hope.
Lift us all and strengthen us when the weight of uncertainty presses down upon us.
Sustain us when we feel trapped by circumstance.
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
Comfort and uphold us all.
Enfold us in your love, that we may bear the angst is waiting.
Transform us into survivors.
Walk with us into tomorrow.
Walk us into how and healing.
Bring us into resurrection.
This we ask of you.
Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Good Friday – ‘it is finished’

Published / by Sandy

It is finished.

We hear these words in many ways – celebration when something has been completed, resignation when something has finished. Here, these are the final words on Jesus’ lips – ‘it is finished’. The tone is not clear from the words on the page. Was it a gasp, a shout, resignation, desperation, completion, disappointment, anguish. 

It is the close of a chapter, assured from our view of history that there is another chapter about to open. ‘It is finished’ is a statement followed by a comma, rather than a full stop. Or, perhaps even better, an ellipse – those three dots that come at the end of a sentence, or sometimes in the middle of a sentence to indicate something is missing, before continuing on with the next idea. We know how it turns out, that the power of death is overcome, that risen life is just over the horizon. So we do not grow faint at these words: It is finished. For we know there is more to come in the next chapter.

But the disciples and followers of Jesus would have heard those words differently. It is finished. Ended. Gone. In the brutality of Empire, death was but a sideshow in the larger scheme to assert control and power. When breath was gone, when life was gone, when the body was left limp on the cross – then, any hope that had been nurtured and cradled, that things could be different, would have been cruelly and deliberately trampled under the boots of Empire. The lifeless body and the grieving mother – she could see it was finished. And yet, all those years ago, she had sung her hopes and dreams to him even when he was still growing within her body. But now body no longer carried life – it was gently lifted, carried, wrapped. All that touching of his physical body only brought home more deeply that the spirit that animated his life was gone, and that the dreams and hopes that had been fanned into flame had been extinguished.

It is finished.

The theology about the cross, lifting the cross up high, came much later. But here, the disciples knew that this cross was not an extra-ordinary place, but one where common criminals were executed. Publicly humiliated as they struggled for breath, a long slow tortuous death. The cross was just a means to an end for the Roman authorities, to put to death anyone who threatened the power and control and imposed order of Empire.

This day, that’s all the disciples knew. Because nothing could have prepared them for what happened that day – the trial, the crucifixion, the torture. Nothing could have prepared them for what they did – betrayal, cowardice, abandonment. But then they could never have anticipated that the man they had followed and loved for three years would be crucified so cruelly by the Roman occupiers – in cahoots with the religious authorities. It all happened so quickly. And now… it is finished. Everything had changed. Now, the disciples simply seek the solace of shadows – crushed, broken, defeated.

The pathos and tragedy of the death of Jesus hides for a moment the question that has been on the lips of so many since that time – It is finished? What is finished?

Take a moment. Look around the world. Look around! The world edges closer to disaster. Famine is taking the lives of innocents in Africa. Poverty saps the spirit of millions of people. Hate speech escalates, and denigration of others is emboldened and public. Violence, hate, oppression, and despair permeate the cracks in our global community. Trucks mow down innocent people in the streets. Bombs in subways and city streets. People’s lives ended in a flash while they are singing in church. Chemical warfare in Syria, with the image forever etched in my mind of a father holding his twin sons, their lifeless bodies looking like they’re sweetly sleeping. Weeping, as he buries them in the cold earth.

It is finished! For this? What happened to Mary’s song of freedom and liberation, of justice and mercy. What happened to the hope that things could be different? What about the reign of God that Jesus spoke about so often? Mary’s song now becomes the song on our own lips, of longing for the day when things will change, when the reign of God will be seen in the way people can live together with freedom, justice and hope, and be embraced by the Love we name as God and share that Love with friend and foe.

But for now we find ourselves in this godforsaken wretched day of brokenness, loss, grief, and sorrow. We need the courage to face it square on, for it is the lived reality of millions of people this day. Through conflict, war, the misery of famine, the deprivation of freedom, grinding poverty, the desperation of refugees. Ask, and they will tell you what this day feels like.

There are two others in this ancient story that allow us to enter through a back door. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who had been silent and discreet followers of Jesus, watching from the sidelines and shadows. Not for them the public display of allegiance. They were people of wealth and status, who had too much to risk in openly follow Jesus. And yet they emerged from the shadows in the very gap between Jesus’ death and his risen life. They are central to the story we share today, playing their part in the very moment when all hope seemed lost, when they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose. They remained with Jesus. They literally claimed him, not as the one who is Messiah and exalted, but as the crucified one. They gather him up; they bury him in the tomb. They hold the tragedy of Good Friday in their arms. They found the courage of faith even in the darkest of times.

I wonder if this offers a word of hope. For these two did not need to wait for the wonders of risen life, but dared to play their part in the Jesus story, even when there was so much risk. They found courage to be bold where they had not been bold before, to personally stare down the powers of Empire exercised by domination, persecution, and control.

We have countless examples of people who have played their part in God’s story through the ages, those whose selfless responses were in response to following the way of Jesus – even in risky and dark times. People whose names are widely known to the global community and whose legacy continues, as well as everyday people engaged for the common good in small and large ways.

I wonder which of these stories of courage and goodwill you treasure? These stories need to be told over and over, so we emerge from the shadows and find boldness in faith. For when all seems lost, we can depend on this: God is never lost to us.

It is true that we live in a world where the impending darkness and the constant perils make us want to draw back into ourselves where we can feel safe. But more than ever, those who follow the Jesus way need to step out from the shadows. To find the inner conviction that compassionate service is an inescapable response to the gospel – yes, even in the midst of darkness and disappointment. For the darkness and disappointment will always be part of our human condition, repeated over and over through the years, the centuries, the millennia. Let us name it for what it is, and then take our place as those who are hope-bearers, light-bringers. peace-makers.

Where we leave the Good Friday story today doesn’t finish with a full stop. It is those three dots… watch.this.space. We can with imagination and boldness be confident that God is up to something new. Hear the words of the ancient prophet Isaiah saying, ‘Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness’.

On the horizon lies risen life. It beckons us to new hopefulness. Let us hold onto that hopefulness this day, anticipating risen life that God prepares. And let us be those who give flesh and life to that hope, as we continue to enact the journey of discipleship with Jesus. May it be so. Amen.

A prayer for the Coptic Church in Egypt

Published / by Sandy

At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 wounded after suicide bombers targeted two Coptic churches in northern Egypt during Palm Sunday celebrations.
As we grieve this tragic loss of life and attack on the Church body,
we hold our Coptic brothers and sisters in prayer.

Prayer for the Coptic Church in Egypt
On this Holy Week,
As we journey with Jesus to the cross,
We hold our brothers and sisters in Egypt in prayer.
We pray for the congregations in Alexandria and Tanta,
We pray for Coptic Pope Tawadros II,
and the families of the victims.
May our condolences be a support in their sorrow,
May the passion of Christ be their solidarity
as communities in the process of counting of their losses.
If one part of the Body of Christ is suffering, all members are suffering.
We pray for Coptic communities in Australia,
In the face of this brutality, we speak faith-inspired peace.
Where there are hateful deeds, we pray for good will and actions.
In the world of religious diversity,
We pray for Muslims and Christians, and people of all faiths.
Be unified in the common good of humanity.
May their interfaith dialogue be a pathway towards understanding and respect.
We pray for national leaders to work in collaboration for the people
May they recommit to upholding religious rights.
We also pray for ourselves
In this Holy Week, we look to each other.
Where fear distorts people’s judgement,
Let us step forward and lay our burdens onto the Cross.
Where anger intensifies violence,
Let us put the sword away and proclaim compassion to all.
In this Holy Week, we look deeply into the Passion of Jesus.
Where hopelessness rests in the minds of many
Let us listen to the cry of Jesus.
In the emptiness of his forsakenness,
There rests the source of perpetual truth
-His passion is our path of salvation.
Rev Dr Ji Zhang, Uniting World

Faith in the ordinary

Published / by Sandy

…. a journey from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection. 

Before the eyes of the world,
in the dead of night
they came,
seeking passage between
their lands of desolation
and the possibility of a better life.
There were no palms
beneath their feet,
no shouts of hosanna,
only the rubber of a life raft
buffeted by the waves,
amid the silence imperative in making an escape.

Before the eyes of the world,
in the glare of daylight,
our eyes glued to our television screens,
he sat before us,
a young lad on a Middle Eastern mat;
his chest stripped, laid bare revealing rows of ribs,
bare-boned evidence of malnutrition,
no bread to break, no wine to bless, no fish.
And the voices cried crucify them, crucify them
as they refused entry of food to their villages.
Women wept,
mothers wept – wept, wailed in desperation for their children.

In the midday heat of the sun,
before our unseeing eyes,
they clambered ashore,
scrambling over rocks,
crawling under barbwire barriers,
going to who knows where – somewhere,
peering into the vacant stares of the onlookers,
hoping desperately for an offer of asylum.
On and on they stumble,
on and on across borders, boundaries and seas,
continuing their journey along the Via Dolorosa.

The stirring of the dust
from the remnants of an exploding bomb clouds vision.
Suddenly Simeon appears
scooping up one son in haste and throwing him
into the back of an open truck.
A lone child stands momentarily still,
stunned,
then runs
crying Daddy,
Daddy, Daddy.
Suddenly he jumps, scrambles on board the waiting truck.

What time is it?
Dawn or mid-afternoon?
The glint of the sun strikes
a figure hanging lifeless on a cross.

The glint of dawn light bathes
a small child, not yet school age,
as he lies lifeless,
face down
in the water.

The sky darkens, storms approach,
further bombing is heard as the veil
of the temple is rent in two.

Dawn breaks.
A woman’s eyes peer into an empty tomb.
A new day in far-away lands begins.
Women open doors.
Men gather around barbeques on beaches.
Families open arms as
eyes recognise the pain etched on worn faces.

Rallies begin, marches continue,
palms, banners, voices cry, plead;
“Let them stay, let them stay, let them stay.”
Though the doors were barred, Jesus stood among them.
Roll back the stone, stand among us, you are welcome.
Resurrexit!

* Marie Casamento is a Good Samaritan Sister
First published in the March 2016 edition of The Good Oil, the e-magazine of the Good Samaritan Sisters

In the aftermath of TC Debbie

Published / by Sandy

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has asked Church members to lend their support to UCA appeals for communities suffering in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

“Our Church will be there to support people in need and help Queensland and northern NSW recover,” said Mr McMillan.

“Please continue to pray for the safety and the welfare of all affected communities, as they come to terms with their losses.”

“I ask all UCA members to please try to support our appeals, which go to support ministry in these communities.”

Cyclone Debbie made landfall on the Whitsunday Coast as a Category 4 storm with winds of more than 260 kilometres an hour on Monday 28 March causing extensive damage.

Five days later water, shelter and communications are still limited into towns of Ayr, Bowen and Proserpine.

Torrential rains from the weakening cyclone have also seen rivers in south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales reach record peaks, causing major flooding in Beaudesert, Lismore and the Tweed Valley.

Tens of thousands of residents had to be evacuated.

Counsellors from Lifeline UnitingCare Community in Queensland are working in the disaster-affected communities to supports locals to deal with the trauma of the last week.

Disaster relief chaplains in NSW are working at evacuation centres in flood-affected areas in Lismore and the the Tweed Valley.

National Disaster Recovery Officer Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson says all communities face a long road to recovery.

“What’s most needed now are our prayers and support,” said Rev. Dr Robinson.

“Your donations will support the recovery of those affected by providing personal and practical care to people, many of whom might otherwise fall through the gaps of formal support.”

“The Uniting Church is well-placed to provide this kind of support, because we’re part of the affected community, and we’ll be there alongside the community into the future.”

In the weeks ahead, the Synods of Queensland and NSW/ACT will be sending trained peer supporters to come alongside church leadership as the process of recovery begins.

Rev. Dr Robinson will be following up with affected presbyteries and congregations and working with Synods to assist the recovery effort.

Queensland Synod has launched a Disaster Relief Appeal.

The Assembly’s National Disaster Relief Fund remains open to receive donations, with funds to be drawn on by Uniting Churches and agencies supporting recovery in affected areas. Donations of $2 and over are tax-deductible.

God of all goodness and love,
in whom we can trust in every time of need:
be close to all those who are enduring the devastation and destruction of cyclones and flooding,
those living in fear and distress and anxiety,
and those who have been isolated by floods and need help.
We pray for wisdom and strength for all who seek to help,
and that through this emergency,
people and communities may be drawn more closely together in service to one another.
Amen.
[Adapted from a Prayer by Christian Aid]