I was asked to compose a prayer for International Women’s Day. I wrote this, particularly, with my grandmothers, my mother, my two sisters and two daughters in mind and heart. And, of course, my wife. I hope this small piece does justice to my task.
May this one day, life-giving, life-bearing God, cause us to remember for each day, every day.
We give thanks for leaders and servants, for scientists and prophets, for farmers and economists and radical actors.
We have been blessed by nurture, by proclamation, insight and scintillating humour.
We have seen hope enfleshed, as the courage to crack the shackles of disbelief and dismantle the bastions of culture is lived out again and again and again.
For those who suffer, who risk their lives by living them, who are unsafe because of their humanity, we pray justice, we pray action, and we pray it now and always.
For these women, and so many more.
We bless you, for your image we have met in them, for grandmothers and mothers, sisters and daughters, of our shared blood, or shared story.
I am listening to my favourite piece of music as I write
this. It is the first classical recording I ever purchased, at the record store
in the Manning Building at Sydney University.
Apart from the beauty of the piece, it raises the memory of when I first
heard – and saw – it.
I had just been to a movie, Children of a Lesser God, where a teacher of students, who are hearing
impaired, is asked to show what a piece of music “looks like” when someone is
unable to hear the sounds. And so, I fell in love with the Second Movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor, and
Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb moved
into second place.
We are invited, as disciples, to bear witness to the gospel
which has changed our lives. What does that look, and sound, like? Our word
“martyr” is a direct descendant of the Greek word which means to bear witness,
to testify. We bear witness not just with our words, but with our bodies, our
Easter is when God bears witness to us. It is when Jesus
Christ, in his very life, testifies to all that God is, in mercy, and
suffering, and hope. And love.
We are inheritors of a story where the God of all creation,
and all of history, becomes as one with us, suffers and dies. We wait, in
silence, and are astonished when Christ’s resurrection proclaims God’s
intention to save creation and all within.
So, when we are asked to show what this symphony looks like,
to those whose hearing is impaired by all the other demands and voices and
fears and sounds of our raucous world, what shall we do?
How shall we bear witness to this Christ, with more than our
words, or with actions that confirm our words?
Some of us persist with the false dichotomy, being either “evangelists”
or advocates of “social justice”. This conversation is a waste of God’s mission
and a waste of our time. When Jesus healed people, they received their lives
back socially and physically. When Jesus offered forgiveness, it was
restorative of life and community.
I was asked recently why our Uniting Church is so engaged –
and progressive – around concerns in our community. I responded that our faith
in Jesus places us squarely in the marketplace of our world.
Our faith in Jesus has us kneeling beside those whose lives
seem beyond repair. Our faith in Christ crucified would have us nowhere else,
and whether the brokenness comes from our own hands, or the hand of another,
that is where we belong.
Easter is why we feed those who are hungry for bread and
justice and forgiveness; that is why we advocate for refugees, chained by
politics here and overseas; that is why we agitate about fair treatment for
those trapped in the prison of addiction; that is why we offer a voice for our
planet, particularly to those leaders who ears are stoppered.
And we are not there only because Christ is crucified.
We are there because Christ is raised.
The hope of Christ’s resurrection proclaims our belief that
forgiveness for sins is real. We believe that chains can be broken, and
prisoners released; we declare that our ears can be opened, as well as our
Easter is why we worship, in voices and languages and music
which reflect the world in which we live, the hospitality we offer and the God
whom we serve. We worship and witness and serve, imitating the crucified and
risen One, with the Spirit’s inspiration, to the glory of God.
Receive this cross of ash upon your brow, Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross. The forests of the world are burning now And you make late repentance for the loss. But all the trees of God would clap their hands The very stones themselves would shout and sing If you could covenant to love these lands And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.
He sees the slow destruction of those trees, He weeps to see the ancient places burn, And still you make what purchases you please, And still to dust and ashes you return. But Hope could rise from ashes even now Beginning with this sign upon your brow.