Category: the art of discipleship


re-membered holy and whole body identity

I don’t much like looking in mirrors. I find them critical, unkind and discomforting because the image there seems to confront me with all the things I am not: skinny enough, beautiful enough, skin imperfection-free, hair-free… the world tells me in a myriad of ways this is my truth. In fact, the capitalist economy relies on me believing this. The reflection I see seems so distorted – how am I to know myself as holy and whole? I’m not called to a deficit existence but one of abundance.  Made by God and belonging to God. Cheryl Lawrie’s beautiful poem invites us to remember and re-member ourselves through the power of raw grace.

We are each of us made in the image of God.  God knitted us together and we are made as we were intended to be.  A special mention here to those LGBTIQ+ identifying whose personhood has experienced base-abnegation by the church, particularly throughout the recent plebiscite debacle.  I would pray for your wounds but its really not you I think are broken. Please don’t ever doubt that you are wanted and loved.

In his book, Our God Is Undocumented, Ched Myers  tells us to share communion in order to “Remember what has been dismembered. (p.200)  Whenever you ingest this memory, said Jesus on the eve of his execution, you join yourselves to our historic struggle to make the broken body whole.  It was, and is, both invitation and imperative, equally personal and political.  If we refuse to heed it, we are doomed to drift forever on or be drowned by the tides of empire, refugees all.”

I don’t go to church or and belong to a community, in this way I am perhaps a refugee, but I enjoy regularly observing the ritual of communion by myself at home, 1) because I believe absolutely in this invitation to wholeness – for myself and others and 2) I frequently garnish my communion with cheese. I f**ken love cheese.

As with most queries for which I have no answer, I try and pray my way through and that went a little something like this…

As I reflected on my culturally and societally-imposed, as-is, identity I found myself focusing on those imperfections  – the scars, the stains, the marks… it felt powerful to name those things that sit at the centre – fear, longing, doubt, insecurity, hunger, desire, hope… I juxtaposed this with some bible text to explore how it might reframe some of that thinking and was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the invitation to raw grace. I remember and am re-membered.

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I’ve had a bit of a go at packaging this up as a DIY reflection activity… get in touch if you want to be a guinea-pig. The beauty of the invitation to the communion table is not being limited to a plus-one.

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Let me leave you with a psalm by New Zealand author Joy Cowley by way of benediction:

Seeing

Dear God,
I need to see myself
as you see me.
My own vision is fragmented.
I try to divide up my life
and reject those parts of me
I consider to be weak.
I waste time and energy
in the battle of self against self
and Lord, I always end up the loser.

Dear God,
help me to see myself
as you see me.
I forget that you made me just as I am
and that you delight in your creation.
You do not ask me to be strong;
you simply ask me to be yours.
You do not expect me to reject my weakness,
merely to surrender it to your healing touch.

Dear God,
when I can see myself
as you see me,
then I will understand
that this frail, tender, fearful, aching, singing
half-empty, shining, shadowed person
is a whole being made especially by you
for your love.

Joy Cowley
 
 
Amen.

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The gorgeous Dusk Liney of Inspirit Creative recently ran a customised (pretty damn special) contemplative birthday for me down at Pipemakers Park. As she as gifted, so are we all. Please be encouraged to  use this for your own reflections on 2017. 

Pipemakers Park mosaic

Wurundjeri Garden 

Mosaic

This mosaic depicts Aboriginal life before European settlers arrived. Find a place around the mosaic to reflect on your own life this year. Create your own Mosaic/picture – using illustrations, colours or words – that reflects how you experienced 2017.

Capture the good, the bad, the ugly. What surprised you? What enlivened you? What challenged you? What were the unexpected gifts?

burning paper

Fireplace

Before you leave the Wurundjeri Garden, if there is any part of this year that you would like to leave behind, make your way to the fireplace.

Take a piece of paper, put that image, word or feeling down on paper, and burn it.

Childs feet

Early Settlers Garden

Footprints

As you walk to the next station, pause and place your feet on the child’s footprints. Take a moment to be still and be present to your inner child.

Whisper to her what your heart yearns for her to hear.

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One sided Table 

So much of the year is spent preparing food for others. In this moment, come and sit at the table. Think about the hospitality that you show to others and imagine the ways in which you can show that same beautiful hospitality to yourself.

What would it be like for the Divine to prepare a table for you? What would feed your soul? How can you show that hospitality to your soul this year?

Mum and baby under an apple tree

Take a walk over to the apple tree and think of an apple dish that captures that imagining. Write it on a sticker and place it on your clothes.

woman sitting in a fig tree Pipemakers park

Pipeworkers Garden

Dry Garden

Take in the fig tree, the succulents and the drought resistant plants. Each of these plants have survived dry, hot, tough conditions. It is actually in this landscape of lacking that they grow.

Sit here and acknowledge the dry places in your life. Think about the qualities that have grown in you within the dry parts of this year. Write them on a post it and stick it to the dry plant captures that quality.

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Grapevine Colonnade

Then walk under the pipe colonnade shaded by the grapevines. Allow the coolness and shade to wash over those dry places. As you come to the end, sit with the sun mosaic.

Ask God / the Divine / the Sun to shine on you this year, to shine you with light and warmth. Name the desires of your heart and lay them at the Sun as offering. 

Picnic Pipemakers park

Picnic Circle

When you’re ready, come and find a place on the blankets and we’ll gather in a circle to reflect together.

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I push the miscellany of moving to one side of the table. Housing applications, to-do lists, measuring tape, a stray key… the tissues can stay.  I light a candle.  I have to.  Nothing else makes sense. Be Thou my Vision O Lord of my heart.  It didn’t make much sense to take this on – planning a vigil, to add in an extra thing. What time or strength or capacity did I imagine I had? It’s a conceit for people to imagine the idea is mine or its execution.

I light a candle, teal, it transitions in colour from light to dark and I think of the waves. The overloaded boat you give up everything to catch – all that remains is you – skin, flesh, person, a life… alive. Unless the sea takes you.  You are rescued, you think saved, you are taken to a waiting place but it isn’t liminal or moving. It’s not a threshold to a new door.  It’s not a threshold to anything.  The door you knock on, pleading, cold, hungry, desperate, skin, flesh, person, alive… remains closed.

 

 

It’s hard to know how to respond when circumstances seem beyond understanding (such as Australia’s inhumane and fear-driven approach to asylum seekers and refugees).  It’s tempting to think ‘there’s nothing I can do’ or ‘nothing I do will make any difference’ and feel absolved of taking any action.  Both personal and political power are at play here.  The person I need to answer to is me.  Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do something because I believe people are using their agency where they can – doctors, teachers, church and community leaders, yes even some politicians…  in speaking out you aren’t raising your voice alone but joining in a bigger chorus that are asking for the world to be different. Do you want the world to be different? Say so.  Even if it’s with only the cat watching and some “Radical Paint”.

 


What are Australian politicians saying about refugees?

“And so what I say to people when they are a little bit apprehensive about Australia taking more refugees, it’s really about what are the services we are going to provide, what communities are we going to put in and how are we going to integrate people into our community.

“These are beautiful people.

“I am so proud of humble country folk who are being part of the solution. We can do this, we can replicate this in many towns across Australia and it will bring so much good.”

Andrew Broad, National MP

 

… the current refugee crisis [is] the defining humanitarian issue of our time “and a challenge Australia has all too often failed to rise to”.  While Australia’s refugee debate was toxic, there were points of potential consensus between political parties. “I believe we can build out from these areas of consensus to increase the positive impact Australia can have on the international refugee crisis.”

TimWatts, Labor MP

 

“We have been taken for a ride, I believe, by a lot of the advocates and people within Labor and the Greens who want you to believe this is a terrible existence. These photos demonstrate otherwise. People have seen other photos in recent weeks of those up on Manus out enjoying themselves outside this centre, by the beach and all the rest of it.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

“This is exactly what we have done with the program to bring in 12,000 Syrian refugees, 90 per cent of which will be Christians. It will be quite deliberate and the position I have taken — I have been very open about it — is that it is a tragic fact of life that when the situation in the Middle East settles down — the people that are going to be most unlikely to have a continuing home are those Christian minorities.”

Malcolm Turnbull

 

“They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them …

They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here… They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them.”

Malcolm Turnbull

 

“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English,”… “These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that.

“For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

“The difficulty of course on Manus is that this Government never put anybody on Manus. We inherited a situation where 50,000 people had come on 800 boats and it was a terrible, terrible situation. The deal that was struck between Prime Ministers O’Neil and Rudd at the time provided for no arrangement for what would happen to the people the end. It was open-ended and we have the mess to clean-up.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

“You’re talking about those that have been found not to be genuine refugees. What should they do? They should go back home. Because if we allow people who are not refugees to come here, we then displace people who have a legitimate claim to make of persecution like the Yazidis we brought in most recently under the 12,000 Syrian and Iraq program. So if you want to displace genuine refugees you allow those in that are here simply for an economic claim.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

 “The loss of one life is one too many, and I’m determined to get people off Manus, [and] to do it in such a way that we don’t restart boats.”

Peter Dutton, Immigration & Home Affairs Minister

 

 “To start off, you open up the camps. You bring transparency, you actually process these people, and you start actually finding a place for these people to go. I think that is a huge change from what we’re doing at the moment.”

Sam Dastyari, Labor MP – Shadow Minister for Immigration

 

“Well we’re the Opposition, so we’re calling on the Government. Australia has a moral obligation to ensure that these refugees have access to essential services- including security, health services, medical services- and we want the Government to be upfront. The Turnbull Government must work with PNG to guarantee the safety and security of these people and these men should immediately relocate to alternative accommodation in East Lorengau and the other facilities so they can access water, food, shelter, and receive the appropriate medical attention.”

Sam Dastyari, Labor MP – Shadow Minister for Immigration

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Sung beautifully at a L’Arche Black Rock community gathering… I come thinking: “what might I have to give this community?” and instead receive abundantly. What do the sights, smells and touch of the flowers and leaves have to tell us? It could have been a Credo gathering and I’m heart-glad there’s this and other shade tree places yet to discover… do you need a shade tree place? Do you need a place to go? You are welcome here.

I need a place, a shade tree place
I need a place a new cool waterhole
I need a place, a shade tree place
A sanctuary for my very soul
I need a place where I can go

I need a place, a shade tree place
I need a place where the swallows swoop low
I need a place, a shade tree place
Today is seems such a long way,
Way down the road
I need a place where I can go

Something there, inside of me,
is trying to wake me up
Something there, is shaking my shoulders to see
The rocks and the tree and the centipede

Land, O  land, you keep calling to me,
Come and sit with me a while
Land, O land, you keep calling to me,
To rest in the grace with the lorikeet

I need a place, a shade tree place
I need a place a new cool waterhole
I need a place, a shade tree place
I need a place where the swallows swoop low
I need a place where I can go
I need a place where I can go
I need a place where I can go

 

From “A Sanctuary of Soul” – A writing collaboration between two Australian artists – songwriter John Coleman and poet Noel Davis. They met in Alice Springs in 2013 where many of the works were written. It explores themes of the Australian bush/desert, silence and the vulnerability and surprising fruits of meditation.

 

Lectionary Reading

Romans 12:1-8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual[b] worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

 

I know nothing

(to the tune of Frere Jacques, Kinsler Institute)

I know nothing
I know nothing
Not a thing
Not a thing
Nothing about anything
Nothing about anything
This is good
This is good

 

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Begin, Begin

(words Talitha Fraser, melody Samara Pitt)

begin
begin
begin anywhere
set out
step out
that is where to start
one day you do it
different than yesterday
ever so slightly
and it changes the world

 

Let it go

Leunig

Let it go,
Let it out,
Let it all unravel,
Let it free
And it will be
A path on which to travel.

 

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The Oratory glows golden for a moment. Lit by wintery midday sun. Behind the lids of my prayerfully closed eyes it seems the light filling the room is the same light filling me and I turn my face to Your warmth.

We light candles. Mine is a confession.

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God, I trust You are holding all these chats and more. You encompass all that is possible beyond any limitations of my mind and imagination to dream of. “Prepare ye the way”… Who prepares for who? You are not a God of poverty and scarcity but love and abundance. The answer is in the story and the story is still unfolding.
I want to know how it ends.
Amen

I dream

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