I am sitting in Sydney at my brother’s place with the rain falling outside. Tom & I have just returned from a wonderful week in Melbourne where we were able to catch up on old friends and make some new ones as well.
I loved the Forge festival with Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi), Sally Morgenthaler, Mike Frost, Ray Simpson and others where 400 plus people gathered with lots of creative energy & discussion. We had a particularly good discussion on co-housing. There are many here in Australia that are looking for alternatives to the single family detached home. (more on this later).
We have beed kept moving from meetings with the Evangelical Alliance to World Vision as well as catching up on friends Ev & gary Heard & Rob & Lois Kilpatrick. We also visited one of the only 2 Baptist monasteries in the world – yes Baptist – complete with robes, incense and icons. It was a very rich experience – wonderful hospitality and conversation that nourished our souls.
Wednesday we drove back to Sydney through a dry but beautiful Australia. Scary to see the continuing results of 10 years of drought and wonder about the future of our plant in light of such problems. Tom flies to Perth next Tuesday but I will be staying in Sydney to spend time with my family. Wonderful to be back with them after 2 years away. One of the struggles for all of us in this highly mobile society is how to stay connected to those we love. Home is where the heart is they say but my heart is spread around the world
Yesterday we drove from Sydney to Melbourne, a drive I have not done for 30 years. There is something very special about reconnecting to one’s roots and I am feeling quite energized as a result. The beauty of sunset skies behind a hill studded with snow gums is breathtaking. More than anything I am enjoying the birds – galahs, cockatoos and lorikeets are everywhere.
Today we start our busy time in Melbourne – a meeting with the Evangelical Alliance this morning and then on to Forge this evening. We are looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
Tom and I have just returned from a very challenging breakfast talk by David Batsone who is in Australia to promote his book Not For Sale. Seems strange that we travel half way around the world to be challenged by someone who lives in San Francisco. His book is about modern day slavery and the need for us to as Christians to redeem the lives of people who have been sold in this way. I think what shook me the most was his stories of church pastors in the US and elsewhere who buy slaves to work for them.
Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia began the morning by showing a very compelling video shot on a recent trip to Africa called the Gate of No Return. World Vision Australia is very active in advocacy against slavery. Their current focus is the production of cocoa which is mainly produced by kids in slavery.
I was particularly challenged by the call for us to be redemption people – not just bringing the message of Christ to a small spiritual compartment of life but truly reaching out to bring redemption to those that are bound physically or spiritually.
Well, lift off time is only a couple of hours away and this seemed an appropriate time to share a Celtic journey prayer. Celtic Christians often set off on journeys or perigrinatio sometimes with no specific destination in mind. they believed that every journey was an opportunity to walk with God and for God to walk with them. The destination did not matter because the journey was an inner journey of discovery to discover Christ in new aspects of life. They viewed themselves as guests of the world. Every experience encountered or activity undertaken was an opportunity to meet or to represent Christ. Here is one of my favourite journey prayers. Of course the most famous journeyer of all was Brendan who many believe discovered America.
God be with thee in every pass
Jesus be with thee on every hill,
Sprit be with thee on every stream,
Headland and ridge and lawn
Each sea and land, each moor and meadow,
Each lying down, each rising up,
In the trough of the waves, on the crest of the billows,
Each step of the journey thou goest
Tomorrow we head off for Australia where Tom will be busy promoting his new book The New Conspirators and I will have a chance to spend time with my family. April is not a good time for me to be away – not because of the work that will pile up while I am gone but rather because this is prime planting time in the garde and spring will wait for no one. Even though the days are rather chilly I have been madly planting – cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbages, greens & onions in the garden (with much able help from the Mustard Seed House community) and transplanting tomatoes inside – at least 80 little plants are gracing our indoor front porch at the moment. By the time we get it will look like a tropical jungle. Thank God we live in community or they would all be dead by the end of April.
The day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church. I wanted to get in early with this because I have some suggestions on things to do at the end that you might like to think about as some of them need some preparation.
As the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples the barriers of language and culture were broken down. This festival draws us beyond the resurrection to remind us that through the coming of the Holy Spirit we become part of a transnational community from every nation, culture and social strata. At Pentecost we are reminded that this kingdom of God community is one in which, in spite of our cultural differences through the power of the Spirit, ours eyes are opened so that we can appreciate and understand each other. This community embraces rich and poor, male and female, slave and free. This kingdom of God community is a place in which we treat each other as equals, with mutual love, care and respect.
Pentecost also reminds us that the coming of the Spirit of God unites us as a single family with the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the oppressed & the abandoned. This is a time when traditionally churches prayed for peace between nations. It is also a time when we encourage each other to be reconciled with those we have been separated from because of lack of cultural understanding.
1. During the season of Pentecost find out about how different people experience God. Visit some churches of different traditions and of different ethnic backgrounds. Afterwards have lunch at ethnic restaurants that you don’t normally frequent.
2. Ride the bus to work and try to talk with fellow passengers from other ethnic backgrounds and religions.
3. Get together for an international feast. Ask each person to bring a dish from another culture as well as a prayer or a hymn from that culture. Start the evening with a time of storytelling about your experiences either in another culture or as a result of working with people in other cultures then
Whichever of these activities you engage in take some time afterwards to reflect on the following questions:
· In what ways do you help to break down barriers & foster understanding between people of different cultures?
· In what ways do you discriminate against others who are part of God’s international community
· Because of race, class, gender or colour?
· Because of culture, disabilities or body type?
· Because of intellect or educational differences?
· This season calls us to identify with those who are less fortunate than we are & to be willing to sacrifice our own comfort in order to attend to their needs. Ask yourselves: What does it mean for us to be drawn into community with the poor & the abandoned in our society?
Here is a very powerful video that a friend just sent me about Nick Vujicic who was born without limbs. I don’t think that any of us understand why God allows suffering and pain in this world but what we can hopefully understand is that whatever we suffer God is there in the midst of it.