25th November 2009
The Apostle Paul was a trans-cultural ancestor of Hebrew Roman origin who considered himself a debtor to both Greek and Barbarian. To him it was no longer a matter of one culture being more superior to another or of needing to accommodate pagan thought forms or mysteries. In Acts 17:22-31 Paul makes a number of important points.
1. God has guided history. He was behind the rise and fall of nations in the past. His hand was and is on the helm of things.
2. God has made human kind so that instinctively we long for God, "groping in the darkness" to find Him.
3. Searching in the shadows people could not know God and they were excused of their follies and mistakes.
4. Now however the days of groping and ignorance are over, the full blaze of the knowledge and revelation of God has come.
Paul was inclusive with view to announcing the Good News to everyone. In fact in light of the resurrection of Christ he declared without apology that now God commanded all people everywhere (Jew and Gentile) to repent and to turn to the Living God because life is a journey that inevitably leads to Christ who is the Lord and judge of all things.
Christ was part of a particular culture with rituals, laws and ceremonies but they were temporary signs that pointed to his uniqueness. Here advocates of "Rainbow Theology" seem to be consistent with the Sacred Book by honouring the centrality of Christ. They say the Creator Spirit took on human flesh in Jesus Christ and fulfilled the searching of all people. While this Christology needs yet to be unpacked, here is the good news; Christ transcends culture, race, class and gender.
He alone rightly claims the title of being the "first person" of a new humanity who through his death makes forgiveness possible to all people. Real reconciliation then is only possible by being literally united "in Christ"
No amount of dialogue, political positioning or classification will reconcile outside of what it means to be spiritually one with Him.
Now I could see that I had been drawn to Lake Mungo, to this sacred national icon of world heritage proportion that preserves the natural heritage of Australia in a unique way to not only confront the power of the desert wilderness but to be made aware of the ancient continuing connection between indigenous peoples and their sense of belonging to the land.
As the Uniting Church is seeking to understand itself in a corporate way and in the relationship it must have with Indigenous people, so I as a non-Indigenous individual had been on a journey to discover how I should relate to the traditional owners of this land. Without a detailed critique of the wording of the Preamble Statement, to some extent I had identified with the pain of dispossession and discovered that God's heartbeat can be heard in the whole of life. I now had a clearer awareness of my Australian identity and Christian conviction. --------
* I conclude that before anyone promotes their own agenda we must always start by acknowledging that "the earth is the Lord's" and that a "home-place" and the mandate to culturally possess it all comes as a gift from Creator God. (Gen 1:28)
* Through circumstance and an injustice of the past, today I am a born and bred true Australian and I proudly call Australia home. It is part of my authentic national heritage and Christian identity. An awareness of our heritage and a care for this, one of the driest environments in the world has been entrusted to all Australians by the same Creator God
* With many Australian's, part of my cultural journey has been complicit in adhering to an ignorance, a comfortable indifference, and to racist and paternal attitudes that must be renounced and repented of. I can never adopt or cloth myself in an Indigenous Aboriginality but with an openness and humility I can learn from some aspects of their spirituality
* An Aboriginal perspective helps us to see God in all creation so all is inter-related. In all creation and people the light of God is there to be glimpsed. However this does not mean we are free from the darkness of deception, evil or the bondage of sin. Nor does it mean we have encountered the personal redeeming love of God.
* There is no real reconciliation or forgiveness apart from Christ. I readily embrace Christ as God's full revelation whose death reconciles me to God the Father and who sets me free from the past to move forward with the Spirit. This means I will respect Indigenous people and what they see as sacred. Through Christ I will adopt an attitude of oneness towards Indigenous people as brothers and sisters created in the image of Father God and where possible I will seek justice, and make restitution for the past.
* In a secular world that seeks a more natural, intuitive and environmental expression of God's Word. I am willing for my inherited adherence to the institutional-cultural form of church to be less important so that alongside the revelation of the sacred book, of Holy Scripture and the Living Word, I will cultivate a heightened awareness and awe of the sacred book of Holy Creation so that seeing God's hand in the wonderful design of the environment I may more readily see Him in the people around me.
.* I will be open to developing the senses related to the right side of the brain and the prompting of the Spirit within. I will be more observant of the world around me exploring the use of metaphor as Jesus and Celtic spirituality did.
* I will more readily recognize the importance of an Australian expression of the Christian faith and with care and respect be open to recognizing that new Christian significance can be given through traditional Indigenous practices like the smoking ceremony or wiping of eucalyptus leaves.
* I recognize the importance of developing a lifestyle that reflects Simplicity, Quietness and Humility. These values seem closer to the values of the Kingdom, to those of early Christians and to the values of our Indigenous Bother's and Sister's.
Ted Curnow Lake Mungo Retreat September 2009