“Bear with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bones of peace: One Body and One Spirit.”
~ Ephesians 4
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love You,
and worthily magnify Your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen
This Sunday we remember St Matthew, whose Feast Day is September 21. As we read in the Gospel, Matthew was going about his business at the custom post.
Jesus was just passing by; saw Matthew and said: “Follow me”, which Matthew did — Call and Response! Matthew responds; as we pray, we do when the Call comes, including a Call in fresh ways.
Like this Call to pray for the “healing of the land”, led by First Nation Christian elders. This week, I realised how, to this end, I needed to pray intently as regards the personal “healing of the family tree”.
Responding to the Call of Jesus took me places I had not been expecting, both spiritually and physically. This is elaborated below.
Perhaps this reflection on a national and personal call may also have some resonance with your responses to the call of Jesus. Together, as our Ephesians reading reminds us: “We are the Body of Christ.”
PRAYING FOR “THE HEALING OF THE LAND” ON SATURDAY 26 AND SUNDAY 27 SEPTEMBER, LED BY FIRST NATION CHRISTIAN LEADERS.
I imagine that you are now aware of this initiative. In summary, after our National Day of Prayer regarding the Pandemic, on August 2, new connections were made to Indigenous Christian leaders as we planned for subsequent Days of Prayer. Guided by the Holy Spirit, after listening to some of their dreams and visions of recent years, and discerning their yearning for our unity in Godly purpose, our Indigenous Christian leaders have been asked to lead our prayers on September 26-27.
As we pray each day, towards September 26-27 and our National Solemn Assembly, the purpose keeps taking us all deeper. We are seeking God’s face “for the healing of the land”. (Chronicles 7:14)
Jesus assures us in the Sermon on the Mount that the pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8). Hence our praying for the healing of “this great south land of the Holy Spirit” (as our First Nation Christian leaders keep referring to our continent), necessarily involves our personal and corporate endeavour to live with a pure heart.
Our yearning for the healing of our land; our prayers to this end, in openness to the Holy Spirit, is therefore bringing many matters into awareness. Matters that broke hearts, matters that, in response, made a purer heart more difficult and more problematic.
With this summary (and recognising you can see the elaboration again in recent Reflections), let me offer three reflections as to why I am asking for your prayerful contribution. These are reflections of a more personal kind.
*In our most recent Preparatory Zoom meeting on Tuesday 8 September at 4 pm, with now some 90+ joining in, Pastor Peter Walker, our leader in this, reflected that the First Nation people have to keep dealing with their own stuff in apology and forgiveness.
“The white folk have their own issues to deal with”, he said in his gracious and matter-of-fact manner. That is how it is, on the journey towards the healing of our land. We each have to take responsibility for our own stuff and cease projecting onto others those things we should face in ourselves. In my case, that has taken me back in time — praying in Jesus, for circumstances and people long ago.
The nature of this has been most unexpected. As ever, one does not know all the “why” of this or the spiritual effect of these prayers.
It is just a matter of being faithful and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit when matters and people, in that wonderful phrase, “come to mind”.
As one example, a forebear on my father’s side came here as a convict. He was a boy of 15. Later, his father also came as a convict, we surmise, to try and find his lost son (which never happened). The life of the boy, Thomas Napier, has been researched by our family historian and a friend. The story is full of brutality by those with power in Tasmania and on Norfolk Island. Both towards young Thomas, but also, as the record shows, towards the First Nation people. Our family historian, my cousin Margaret Munro, has recently discovered the unmarked grave where Thomas is buried, in Inglewood, not far from where our family has farmed since around 1870.
I do not know whether Thomas was ever prayerfully trusted to God’s eternal care. On Monday, we met beside his grave and I offered the prayers of the church for him and for others “brought to mind”. We read the Road to Emmaus Gospel; burned some incense; placed under rocks a cross from Jerusalem, offered prayers. Afterwards, Margaret said she felt very peaceful. Something important was completed emotionally and spiritually.
Margaret and Paul Haw, with the blessing and permission of the Dja Dja Wurrung elders, have also written a history of the Aboriginal people in that area near Boort in Central Victoria. It is called “Footprints across the Loddon Plains” and has a foreword from Gary Murray Yong Balug Clan, Boort — grandson of Pastor Doug Nichols. It is a story of displacement, in a generation or two, of people who had inhabited the area for over 1000 generations! “The land of Australia”, in its fullest meaning as including us all as well as the rivers and oceans, every living creature, needs deep healing.
On September 26-27, we are praying for this, in the healing power of our Risen Lord Jesus. Our country farmhouse kitchen in Central Victoria had a picture of Aboriginal men with ceremonial markings, taken down on the nearby Loddon River. It is now quite a famous picture. They look so healthy. Soon after, they were all gone. Mostly, because of imported diseases …
Elsewhere there were massacres. When I was Bishop up on the north coast of New South Wales, I was asked by local Indigenous people to come and pray in an area of massacre, near Ballina. Long after the massacre, bones could still be found close to the surface of the earth. Trust had been built over a long period, leading up to this ceremony. I was inheriting the work of many others before me. It was very public. I prayed as best I could but, years later, I feel that it was all too rushed.
We should have sat longer together. I should have heard more of the stories. There should have been more time for the tears. Much more time was needed so that we could ponder together what the next steps were for genuine and lasting reconciliation. I regret that I did not help us go deeper in relational and spiritual harmony.
As there, how many other places? “The healing of our land.”
Our prayers, leading to September 26-27, are opening us up to being more reconciled and reconciling, “till God is all in all.”(1 Corinthians 15:28)
So we keep praying:
“Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us Your peace.”
When we reach Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September, there will be prayers and biblical reflections offered from 9 am to 9 pm each day. To reaffirm, this is being led by our Indigenous Christian leaders, as guided into place by the Holy Spirit.
In recent days, an international connection is shaping so that Indigenous Christian leaders in Africa, Asia, the Americas, etc. are also joining in. The whole world needs reconciliation in the healing power of our Risen Lord Jesus. Nothing is more obvious. The pandemic has amplified this reality.
As current President of the NCCA, I have been drawn into this, also unexpectedly. I write all this now in a personal way to make one thing clear.
The matter I would make clear is that this is all about prayer. It is not about politics. It is not about the various “reconciliation” agendas and programs which people promote or dispute. It is entirely about people who are disciples of Jesus, of many different backgrounds, offering their prayers for the healing of our land. I have to emphasise this because, in a culture habituated to division, the innocence of this prayerful purpose can be lost.
Without undue elaboration, I hope you will understand why I might be saying this. We walk the Way of the Cross and know what spiritual forces can get aroused along the way. The Program for the days involves a 90-minute cycle repeated 8 times, with different Indigenous Speakers, their Songs and Prayers taking up most of the 90 minutes, aside from a 5-7 minute offering from non-Indigenous leaders. It will all be virtual, the Zoom address is below:
Reconciled and reconciling — that is God’s yearning for us.
With prayers now,
Bishop Philip Huggins,
The Dragonfly carries the wisdom of transformation & adaptability in life. When the dragonfly shows up in your life it may remind you to bring a bit more lightness and joy into your life. It’s also an indication that it is time for change. Just like the dragonfly changes colours as it matures, you may be called to live and experience yourself differently.
Painting and story by Christinaray Wadya Weetra.
- Be Thou My Vision
- Hymn — Monks singing Gregorian Chant
- Hymns of Hildegard von Bingen — Feast day 17/9 (12th century)
- My Song Is Love Unknown
- Mendelssohn — Violin Concerto in E minor
- Shalom Aleichem
- Inta Elaahi — You are my God
- Tchaikovsky — Hymn of the Cherubim — Liturgy of St John Chrysostom