My friend and I were sharing coffee and enjoyable conversation, as we do, quite regularly. And, as so often happens, the topic turned to music. I am a babe in the woods compared to my friend, who not only knows an extraordinary range of music, but can play.
Our conversation was around music which lasts, and the bands – or the music –which glimmer for a moment, and then are gone, like Flock of Seagulls (note insightful eighties music reference).
In a season of anniversaries, it’s fifty years since The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I was too young to appreciate it at the time, but have discovered it in the intervening years.
Most rock and pop aficionados agree that it’s an album that has lasted; you can play it for the first time this week and it has musical value and beauty now. Classical music lovers will, or course, direct our attention to Mozart, Bach and Sibelius for their particular emphasis. This week, however, is about Sgt. Peppers.
It’s also fifty years this week since the National Referendum was passed (90.77% in favour) to remove discrimination against Aboriginal people in the Constitution. The fact that this only happened in my lifetime is a cause of great sadness for me; I remember telling my children that this act of history was so recent, and they were astonished and dismayed.
Sometimes anniversaries can be about nostalgia, remembering that concert, that date, that moment. Other anniversaries are about the event and the journey which follows, with more to learn and achieve. Sgt. Peppers is good music fifty years later. I celebrate our wedding anniversary only slightly because of the day, but essentially because of how Fiona and I have grown together since that day.
The Referendum only makes real sense if it set in train other changes and achievements – justice and reconciliation – in our community for Aboriginal people. People march and act this week, partially to remember that act of hope, but mostly to keep that hope before our community.
Our Uniting Church 40th Anniversary is rolling around in less than a month. For most of us it’s probably not even highlighted (highlit?) in the diary.
I’ll say more about it when we draw nearer, but if the mark of our celebrations – large or less so – is about nostalgia, then I will be disappointed. We don’t want to sing the same hymns, or look the same as we did forty years ago. A stage filled with middle-aged and older white men has been replaced by women and men, old and young, of cultures in Australia ancient and new.
The symbol which we hold before ourselves, which identifies us as Jesus’ disciples, is the cross. The cross is not just a reminder, but our hope. We are bookended by the cross, a story and a promise which has never been more relevant than now.
The cross declares that an act from two thousand years ago changed – and continues to change – people’s lives, life and death, forgiveness, the trajectory of the whole creation.
In this season of anniversaries, we can celebrate a truncated story: what was then. Or we can choose to grasp our hope of what can be, and as Jesus’ disciples, our hope of what is continually found in Jesus Christ.