Before I begin I acknowledge with grateful thanks, the research and words of Elder Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, whose voice echoes significantly in this sermon.
As a relatively new stranger in these lands I feel like every day’s very much a school day. Fortunately, I loved school and was that annoying kid who put their hand up to say ‘sir, you forgot to set us our homework’ or ‘miss so-and-so is talking during the test’. Yes, that child. But that love of learning and keenness to know new things is standing me in good stead now. My senses are on high alert! Those storms stop me in my tracks; I lapped up every bit of knowledge I could find about Wadjemup; and this week has been another education in Antipodean life and culture.
On Thursday the church celebrated the Ascension of our Lord – that glorious moment where the Risen Christ’s physical body rose to heaven and the Holy Spirit was charged with taking it from here. And we also marked Sorry Day. So, I got to work learning about this too.
National Sorry Day remembers and acknowledges the mistreatment of First Nations people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities and became ‘The Stolen Generations’. Sorry Day honours the strength of those Survivors and gives us chance to reflect on how we can play a part in the healing process for this country, and all her children. It allows us to repent – stop, turn around, and act differently – and ask those big questions like why aboriginal children are still nearly 11 times more likely to be removed from their families than their non-aboriginal friends.
It give us space to look back, so that we might look forward to what could be. And for us people of faith it focusses our prayers on asking God to continue God’s remarkable work of reconciliation, and see how we might join in with that. And it brings to the fore those things humanity prefers not to look at – trauma, injustice, oppression, evil – and asks us to respond.
So, on Thursday, many of us gathered in the chapel amid all of that – the glory and hope of the Ascension and the weight and despair (and indeed the hope) of Sorry Day. And together, we began exploring the Aboriginal concept of quiet stillness, and deep listening, called Dadirri.
Dadirri is a recognition of the deep spring within each of us, which is the very Spirit of God.
Dadirri is a conscious listening to the sound within us; the sound of Deep calling to Deep.
Dadirri is waiting; reminding us that hurrying achieves nothing, and our best is found in moving in the flow of the spirit. Waiting allows things to be done with care.
In the morning we sat, together, and walked alone.
In the evening, we sat by candelight and gathered around the sacrament.
And we tried to listen to that deep spirit. We tried to hear deep calling to deep. And we waited. And I’m sure something happened, but I don’t know what. But God’s spirit was definitely with us, of course, because that is the promise of Ascension.
And then Friday marked the start of Reconciliation Week – another lesson for me – and, in this week, all Australians are encouraged to, quote, ‘tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation [or even begin it] so we can make change for the benefit of all’. And that is an amazing opportunity and a big work, and a significant responsibility and we need to be here for it.
And, as followers of Jesus, we have something specific, something unique to contribute to this work; something the world is waiting for.
As Jesus-people, we have gifts that our community, our country is looking for.
We, like those first disciples in the Acts reading, can call upon that holy name and see people set free, we can see slavery end, statistics changed and chains broken, we can shake the very ground we walk on and speak words of life and salvation.
Those words in Revelation promised us we will see the hungry fed and the thirsty receive water. And our gospel gave us that glorious reassurance that we can do this because 2000 years ago, in that garden, Christ prayed for us – for all that was to come, for all that we would be, for the jobs and roles we would have here today: ‘I ask not only on behalf of these – those disciples who were with Jesus – but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word’ – that is us! We have been prayed for by the Christ, so we don’t act alone and we don’t need to drop our heads in the face of big work.
Friends, we are fierce. If only we knew that and believed that!
We have been promised all we need. It is ours. It always was.
We just need to get into that slipstream of the Spirit, that we might be guided by that flow and taken to where we are most needed, to do God’s work of reconciliation. And that is why we are calling this week our week of Dadirri, our week of contemplation and listening – because we don’t know upon which banks this river will wash us up, but we are choosing to get in and go with God.
So, this week you are invited to immerse yourself in the spirit of Dadirri – you are invited to wait and deeply listen, every day, and be still and silent, every day, because our task in this generation is huge and it can only be done with and through the work of God’s spirit. I urge and encourage you to take that time, each day, knowing your brothers and sisters are doing the same and expecting that God will guide us to the next thing and that it will be good.
Come Lord Jesus, Amen.