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Faysal Ishak Ahmed

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We gathered today to acknowledge and show respect to Faysal Ishak Ahmed.

We gather knowing we will do this again. We will do this again because there will be more deaths. They are preventable. This is unacceptable.  We know this will happen again because it has happened and is still happening with 23 deaths in the last two years (Australian Border Deaths Database).  Perhaps it’s feeling like there’s too many vigils, we had one just last month… to this we say “Yes. There are too many vigils.”

The origin of the word “vigil” is to do with being awake and keeping watch. We want to acknowledge the sorrow, grief and anger of Faysal’s friends and family. The other survivors of Dafur who know how few survivors there were wondering whether they might ever feel at home here. Those yet in camps on Nauru or Manus who wonder what help, what hope, might yet come for them.

Faysal, refugee – yes, and also a son, a husband, a father, a human died at 27 years of age. Today we say his name, hold his picture up – we say not only that your death meant something, but your life meant something even though we did not know you.

I imagine Jesus on his knees praying in the garden of Gethsemane wondering what help, what hope, might yet come but having some sense of inevitability about his situation asking of his companions: “Can you not stay awake and watch with me for even an hour?”.   To those waiting in the camps it must seem as though we are asleep for surely if we knew they were sick, surely if we knew they were being hurt, surely if we knew they were hungry this would not be a situation we would let continue… I hold my goddaughter in my lap, she is just starting out at school – learning to read – I imagine her asking me in years to come when this is a social studies project at school “Where were you while this was happening? Why didn’t you do something? Why did it take so long to change?” and trying to explain how it could be that some of us, so many of us, should be “asleep”. Yes he had refugee status – that didn’t seem to make a difference. The PNG government declared the camps illegal – that didn’t seem to make a difference.   The UN said aspects of Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – that didn’t seem to make a difference… What will make a difference?  I overhear one woman say to another: “What people don’t understand is that to do nothing is to do something.”

 

We have met today on the Princes Bridge, I don’t know why. I look around while I wait for the formalities to begin and notice that all along the bridge is the Latin motto Vires Acquirit Eundo (the coat of arms of Melbourne) meaning ‘she gathers strength as she goes’ referring to the Roman goddess Fama or rumour personified. Following the speakers and a moment of silence, those holding flowers are invited to throw them from the bridge into the Yarra river and I realise my hope is that these vigils might gather strength as they go.

Those who are on their knees praying are asking us if we can be awake.
Those crying alone in the darkness are asking if we can stay awake with them.

Unbidden some of those at the vigil move out onto the road and block traffic on the bridge. They are asking us: “Are you awake?”

The next action calling for the camps to be closed, for the refugees seeking our protection to be given their mandated human rights, will be held on Sunday 9 April (Palm Sunday) – this is a question for people of all faiths and none: “Are you awake?”

 

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Consider looking into the Love Makes A Way movement or Refugee Action Collective for other ways to be involved and further details for the Palm Sunday event as it draws closer. I’ve drawn on inspiration from many of tonight’s vigil speakers above, thanks for your voice and advocacy.

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 8: Travelling light

We value the difference that can be made when we sacrifice personal gain, pouring out our rich resources in an act of worship.  Through simplicity, good stewardship and a common commitment to sharing our lives with others, we seek to lessen the power imbalance in Footscray.

Biblical basis: Luke 9:23-24


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

Basically the whole thing! Timing of this value feels significant when we are losing what has been our community home base and are working out what we can bring with us and what we can’t.

Giving out itself is worship

Don’t have a lot. Doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small, pouring out of what we have is the act of worship.

“Power imbalance” good to name, not only our power but our desire to share it.


 

Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 NRSV


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

 

“deny themselves” is another way of saying “living simply”

“will not taste death” we experience the privilege of glimpsing the kingdom (heaven) right here, before dying –  we see it at our community dinners, John reading grace, all the different people who come together around that meal, seeing the kids grow up in this environment that includes so much diversity.

No division between people – lovely watching Balal and Alex together…

We all of us have a desire for appreciation. But what comes from your heart, the value of that is more e.g. Kim could buy a cake but instead takes the time to make one and personalise it thoughtfully.  She uses her own money to buy wool – makes things that take time and money to create… we choose to value/appreciate that more.

If you’re not giving something from you heart then you’re not giving for the right reasons.

I think it’s worth contextualising this passage and reading it again – the birth of John is foretold, the birth of Jesus is foretold, John is born, Jesus is born… Jesus speaks out in the temple at 12 years old, he gets baptised by John, he gets tested in the desert, then his ministry kicks off  – healing lepers, paralytics and possessed – he calls his disciples. He teaches and preaches, we’re given parable and beatitudes. The 12 are given their mission and Jesus feeds 5000 when it seems like there is not resource enough to do it… who do you say that I am?  The disciples want to lift him up, want to exalt him, put him on a pedestal and give him titles and Jesus says nah… that’s not what I’m about.

 “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

We’re not in this for the titles, appreciation or recognition; or using power for our own gain, to gain a position of authority, or to act out of our own power instead of trusting God’s. Jesus says I’m not going to value those things the world values and invites us to make that choice too.

Taking this idea of “travelling light” – we are very directly in a place of needing to let go of some material things that have meant a lot to us: this house, its garden, the soccer pitch… a band called Invisible Boy out of Tasmania have a song “I’m going to hang your picture high” it’s about who and what you value  and hanging them high like photos of our family that are special or posters and pictures of what we like. If you look around the walls of this house you can see everywhere what and who we value in the pictures – who our family are and what we like. Let’s capture some of those ideas of what we want to “hang high”, of what we value that sometimes others don’t and capture it on bunting we make together – something light we can take with us!

 

 

Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

Perspective

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Hey, here… I brought you something.

 

 

 

What is it?

 

 

 

It’s just a little branch I picked up. I think it’s beautiful.

 

Some trash you picked up somewhere?

 

 

One man’s trash is another…
Oh. You don’t want it?

No. Why would I?

 

 

Then I’ll keep it.

What for?!

 

 

That’s what I do.

 

Look for the beauty in things no one wants.

Look for the beauty in things that seem broken and useless and try and find a place for them.

It’s the way you see things that makes them matter.

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 7: Doing the hard yards

We value servanthood in the big and the small – choosing to do the “crappy” stuff.  We want to be people of personal and spiritual maturity (enduring personal cost) in order that the vision is accomplished.

Biblical basis: James 5:7-11


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

“We value” – this is about making personal choices to value things differently than most of the rest of the world… not a flashy project, it doesn’t attract attention.

Trusting there is purpose in the crappy stuff.

 Need to acknowledge the way our current situation impacts my approach to this value, how would my/our interpretation differ if we weren’t crisis.

Is it ‘given’ that in order for the vision to be accomplished, it needs to cost me?




James 5: 7-10

My friends, be patient as you wait for the Lord to return. Be as patient as the farmers. Farmers sow their crops and then have to wait patiently, hoping for good seasonal rains, because the harvest that pays their bills ripens in its own good time. There is nothing they can do to hurry it up. You can’t hurry the Lord up either, so be patient. Stay focused though, and condition yourselves, because the arrival of the Lord is not far off.

My friends, don’t go whinging and putting each other down. If you do, you’ll find yourselves having to answer for it. The judge could reopen the case against you at any moment.

Take as your role models the prophets who brought us God’s message in the past. They really suffered for their stand, but they hung in there, never giving up, and their patience paid off.  11 That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

“This work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me”

Thomas Merton

 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

John Lennon


Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

Being patient sounds passive – I’m bad at that!

It’s not passive it’s active! “stay focused”… “condition yourselves”… farmers till, plant, fertilise, prepare the soil… still required to exercise what is within your ability to influence, power, control. There are things we can do but then there are things we can’t… we have to rely on God for those.

Begin work or make choices with an outcome in mind but often things don’t go as we plan, despite this things work out.

You have to do what you can and trust the other stuff to happen. 

Often in Christian circles the personal cost component can become competitive and be worn as a badge-of-honour.

Perspective makes a difference – choosing, for example, to work part time could be perceived as a ‘cost’ but for us, from our perspective it feels like an opportunity.

You can love different people if you put you mind to it. A lot of people don’t go out of their way… instead they love to put people down.

Standing up for someone when you notice the truth. When they can’t stand up for themselves.

 

Taking this idea of where our influence ends and God’s begins let’s write down on these “seeds” what we know and what we don’t know, doing what we can, planting them and leaving the growing to God remembering “we need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and imperfections”

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…all we can do is plant our seeds and trust that the outcomes that come, while not what we might imagine,  work toward the vision of God being accomplished.

 

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Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges.

The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it.

 

With thanks to Dusk for sharing this when I needed to hear it.
An excerpt of a meditation from From To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue 

 

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Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us that have not yet been cast out by love

 

Let us pray for all who suffer, and ask that God would give us peace:

For all who have died in the violence of war,
conflicts or acts of terror,
each one remembered and known to God.
May God give peace

For those who love them in death as in life,
offering to God the distress of our grief
and the sadness of our loss.
May God give peace

For all the peace-keepers and peacemakers,
and all who are in danger this day,
remembering especially their families and friends.
May God give peace

For those whose lives are disfigured by war,
conflict, acts of terror or injustice,
calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity
May God give peace

For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership,
political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom
and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.
May God give peace

For our country Australia, its land and seas;
its struggles in adversity, its courage and hope;
for tolerance and our respect for one another,
and our commitment for justice and reconciliation for all
May God give peace

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we’ll 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 forever.

Amen

 

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 6: Being honest about who we are

We value the humility and forgiveness required to live transparent lives in community.  We want to submit to each other in accountability and honesty, allowing Christ to use our weaknesses and failings.

Biblical basis: 2 Cor 12:9-10, 2 Cor 3:18



Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

All of those words – humility, forgiveness, transparency, submission, accountability, honesty elicit an emotional reaction – they’re strong words, they’re challenging words.

Not only are we often not rewarded  for being honest ,  we can be penalised for speaking up.  

It often requires vulnerability in the first place ‘weaknesses and failings’  are on display so then you’re open to a “hit”.

Once you start hating people it keeps going. Sometimes you have to forgive people and walk away.


 

 

2 Cor 12: 9-10

…there is no reason to think I’d end up with egg on my face if I did talk big about my own experiences. It would be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but don’t get me started! I’d rather let my actions do the talking for me. Let me be judged simply by the value of what I teach and what I do. Any spectacular revelations I may have experienced in the past should not inflate your opinion of me.

……..And believe me, God has seen to it that they haven’t given me an over inflated opinion of myself. To balance them out and keep my feet firmly on the ground, I have been given a special gift — a real thorn in the flesh, a condition that torments me and causes great anguish in my body. Satan used it to try to derail me, but it is probably what has kept me on track. Of course I couldn’t see that at first. Three times I put everything else aside and gave all my time and energy to seeking the Lord for healing and deliverance. But the Lord said to me, “My generous love is enough for you. Your weakness clears the deck and opens you to my strength.”

……..So then, if it means that Christ’s strength will be all the more active in me, I will gladly wear my weaknesses like a badge of honour. Indeed, given the opportunity to talk about them, you can’t shut me up! So nowadays, whatever comes my way — failure, bad-mouthing, tough times, harassment, tragedy —I take it all in my stride and just allow Christ to come to the fore. You see, it is when I am at my weakest that I find the greatest strength.

 

2 Cor 3.10-4.3

The people back then were as thick-headed as the people of our own day — they could hear the words of God’s law read out, but it never seemed to penetrate their hearts and minds. It’s as though the scarf has stayed in place ever since to prevent anyone from catching sight of the glory revealed by the words. Only Christ can uncover what is hidden. It’s the same for anyone who reads the scriptures without opening themselves to the Lord for insight: it is as though the wool has been pulled over their eyes and nothing gets through but the bare words. It all changes when we turn to the Lord, though, because the Lord is a real eye-opener. The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the freedom to see clearly. The wool is pulled away from our eyes and we come face to face with the glory of God. This experience is truly transfiguring! We are set ablaze by the Spirit — lit up like the Lord — so that more and more we become like mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

……..We have nothing to hide then, and no reason to lose our nerve, for God has been incredibly generous in trusting us with a share of this work. We have sworn off any methods that we’d be ashamed to have brought to light. We don’t hide behind masks; we don’t do anything shifty or manipulative; and we don’t twist God’s word to promote our own agendas. Instead, we simply lay all our cards on the table and let our integrity speak for itself. By stating it plainly and living it openly in the sight of God, we give everyone the opportunity to make up their own minds about the truth.

 

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?  What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Being honest about who we are?

“We have nothing to hide then, and no reason to lose our nerve. for Go has been incredibly generous in trusting us with a share of this work…” in our current situation this feels like an important reminder – encouraging, challenging and comforting.

“To balance them out and keep my feet firmly on the ground, I have been given a special gift – a real thorn in the flesh…”  radical idea to reach for, being grateful for the thing that gives you pain and seeing it as a gift. Thanks… thanks SO much for this pain.

“…failure, bad-mouthing, tough times, harassment, tragedy – I take it all in my stride and just allow Christ to come to the fore” Paul was a bit smug wasn’t he?

Sometimes to try to please people we can try to be something we aren’t but we have to be true to ourselves.

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The reference in the passage to the scarf/wool being over our eyes and nothing being able to get through felt like a good excuse to pull out the veil I made – “…wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the freedom to see clearly. The wool is pulled away from our eyes and we come face to face with the glory of God… we are set ablaze… lit up… we become like mirrors reflecting the glory of God.

These layers of the veil represent some of what I need to peel back (expectations, tradition, learned/taught behaviour, fear…) to be living as I was made to be.

What stops us from being able to be transparent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity: The People’s Mike

Drawing on the idea of being one body – what holds you back is what holds me back. The People’s Mike is an exercise in naming and holding together.  As people call out words (anyone can have a go), the rest of the people in the crowd repeat the word in chorus affirming the speakers truth (perhaps our own) and confessing our own culpability because what harms you harms me – what is holding us back from being honest about who we are? What are we afraid of? One person calls it out and then we all repeat it together in chorus.

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Similarly, what leads one of us to wholeness might lead us all,  what makes it easier to be transparent? What helps us to feel ok about being honest about who we are? One person calls it out and then we all repeat it together in chorus affirming the speakers truth (perhaps our own) and calling ourselves into the community we seek to create.

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Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

 

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The river water

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The river water

runs high and fast.

Unknown depths,

cloudy murk obscuring

what is usually

so clear.

The season

is changing.

The high tide

lifts debris that has

been stuck since the last

spring storms

and carries it away.

In the run-off and rain

new biodiversity are

introduced, seeds from

places never seen here

downstream.

The land alters under

the authority of this new flow

the landscape – forever changed.

Not better, not worse, but new.

Talitha Fraser

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“Old words do not reach across the new gulfs, and it is only in vision and oracle that we can chart the unknown and new-name the creatures.

Before the message there must be the vision, before the sermon, the hymn, before the prose, the poem.

Before any new theologies however secular and radical there must be a contemporary theopoetic.  The structures of faith and confession have always rested on hierophanics and images. But in each new age and climate the theopoetic of the church is reshaped in inseparable relation to the general imagination of the time.”

– from the foreword to Grace Confounding: Poems

 

 

 

You are not unknown

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Hey God,

We’re not down, we’re not out, but we’re hurting.
This vulnerability sits like an open wound and
every new hit jars it.
We breathe through it, lean into it,
listen for what the pain has to tell us.

Lend us quiet that allows us to hear
the harmonies of the universe that let
us know, even in this, as we are, we have
a place in the order of things.

Lend us space that allows us freedom
for those things that are tight to loosen,
those thoughts and events moving quickly
time to slow so that we can look and
see them clearly.

Lend us peace that allows us grace
to tell the difference between our internal
and external insecurities – our own and
also of those around us.

There is much that is unknown,
but You are not.

We are grateful for that.

Lead us. Teach us. Send us.

Amen

 

Talitha Fraser