Facebook memories does not help my conscience this time of year. While my feed is filling with accounts of history and people reflecting on some of the horrific moments in our nations past (and some not so pretty current ones)… mine reminds me of the many years I didn’t want to see.
Skyworks was one of our favourite events during the year. We gathered and travelled into the city with our whole youth crowd and played cricket, filled inflatable pools and set out of makeshift watercraft on the river, among other antics, and it was a yearly tradition to try to make the news coverage for some silly stunt. I have great memories of the event going back nearly 20 years now.
2 years ago we decided not to go. Not because it wasn’t appealing as an event or because we had other things on. But because the year before it felt decidedly different. Maybe it was as I made space for the voices of my friends who are First Nations people. Maybe it was the history and culture curriculum I was seeing through the perspective of my primary age children, that still whitewashes our nations past, and the disillusionment that in 20 years since I was in the same classes we are no more honest with ourselves and our babies. Maybe it was the rise of the hard right nationalists and the Cronulla riots, the revamp of One nation and even trumpism internationally that made our flag look a little different to me, or maybe it’s as simple as I was convicted by the Holy Spirit.
You see, the God I know, the Holy Scripture says, is a God of Justice. A God of righteousness, equity and compassion. Encounters with God in the scriptures were not about spiritual thrill seeking or personal growth pay days, but always led to a recognizing of injustice, or personal iniquity (or both) and a move to action.
Maybe it was even in all those things that I began to see, that I learned to hear the Holy Spirit again. That I encountered him in a way that called for action.
I believe most of us want a unified future. Not many would argue against reconciliation. But many have responded the calls to #changethedate of Australia Day with antagonized defensiveness. Why?
We cannot move towards reconciliation with God without reconciliation in our nation. The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom if peace. Not passive peace but active peace as MLKJR explains. We as those who are ambassadors, carriers of the kingdom must be purveyors of peace. Not peace keepers (protectors of the status quo) but peace makers (forgiving, loving and being liberators, Justice leaders, equality seekers, truth tellers).
Let me be blunt. We (those of European heritage who live in this land and all that benefit from the systems having been established) may not have landed the first fleet or wielded weapons or signed for the institutionalisation of children or written the dehumanising legislation. We may not have even harboured prejudice to the best of our ability or discriminated or hated. But in many ways our support for this system has continued the harm. By celebrating on the day marked by Aboriginal Australia as invasion day long before our fireworks and flag capes and playlists proliferated, we have been a part of the injury.
No. Changing the date will not fix everything, but anyone with an understanding of sociology, politics, history or the like will know this, that to have real outcomes and change, first the conversation needs to change, and dealing with recognition is where that starts here. For forgiveness, confession is critical. For healing to start, harming has to stop.
This is not a day that unites. And this discussion needs to divide. It needs to divide us from our comfort, collusion and ignorance to the suffering of others the same way the conviction of the Holy Spirit comes to divide what is not right from his people.
The oft-quoted 2 Chronicles 7 says those who humble themselves, seek his face, he will hear our prayer and heal our land.
I have come to not resist the lament that leads to repentance, because it is in asking for forgiveness, and recognizing our need to be forgiven that we also are able to become forgivers, and be reconciled to one another. To be unified.
True reconciliation will take repentance; recognizing the wrong, reparation; making right the wrong and restoration; healing the wrong.
Matthew 5 says that if your brother or sister has something against you, leave you offering at the alter, because God does not want our religion, our sacrifices, our worship while others suffer at our hands, while injustice prevails. Don’t take it from me, try reading any of the Old Testament prophets.
Christians in Australia, perhaps it’s time we left our church building prerogatives, our government favor objectives, and our privileged majority status at the alter to go and be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. That we would truly seek first the Kingdom, where all are equal in the eyes of God.
I look forward to a day, to celebrate, where everyone is celebrated, Justice is known and The love of Jesus is central. Where every tribe and tongue are at the table. This is the Kingdom we seek, the one that the Good News declares is at hand, if only we would repent and follow him.
What troubles your conscience today? Will you seek comfort or confession.