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"Unity in ethnicity and love."

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

220528 Easter 7 C Reconciliation.

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today in the service booklets you have received, you will find some extra prayers This week we have come almost to the end of the Easter Season. Ascension Day and National Sorry Day was on Thursday 26 May, and we are entering into a time of Prayer for Reconciliation and Christian Unity which will officially last until the Day of Pentecost, a week away. The work towards unity needs to continue.

The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998, a year after the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Parliament. It was an inquiry into the past policies which caused children to be removed from their families and communities. Today, twenty-five years after the Bringing Them Home report and fourteen years since the National Apology, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are still 10.6 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be removed from their families. Unless this has happened to us, we cannot begin to understand the pain and anguish this would cause to a family.

We cannot begin to fix the problems of the present or even imagine what it would be like to have a much loved child removed from our home, without accepting the truth of our history. Sorry Day asks us to acknowledge the Stolen Generations, and in doing so, reminds us that historical injustice is still an ongoing source of intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Islander families, communities, and peoples.

It will take years to heal the pain and anguish of dispossession of land, language, culture and family kinship that people we have come to know and love have experienced. How can we understand that this could happen, when people believe they are doing something good, but caused such trauma and pain?

Today our gospel reading is part of a prayer, prayed by Jesus before his ascension from the earthly realm to return to his rightful place before the foundation of the world. Reflecting on the substance of this prayer, we would have expected, if the requests were answered, that the world and our history would have been very different. This gives us a glimpse into the nature of God. We are loved, we ,are grieved over and we are guided, but we are left to make our own decisions and sometimes our choices do not have a good outcome when selfishness, self-righteousness and greed control our actions. Jesus’ prayer was not only for those he knew in the world at the time but is also for us and for future peoples.

Jesus asks that those who trust and believe in him, be supported to be used in the world for good and that we would follow him in unity. Jesus prayed that we would be protected from evil and sanctified or made holy. His great desire was that there would be unity among all people irrespective of other differences because united we would all be a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love. This unity is based on the unity of those in the world with Jesus and with God the Father through the work and power of the Spirit of Jesus. We know that we can have unity if we are living in union with God.

To find union and common ground with people around us, can we begin to know them as we grow in knowledge of God? To know God really is to be able to show and share God. And to show God to others can we begin to know those we would like to share God with?

Today we have a special opportunity to learn something of another culture through listening to a story told in music when Evette Clague plays “The Light” from “Ochres” on her clarinet. Evette’s ethnicity spans Yaegl, Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr peoples. Ochres is a work of music and dance which explores the spiritual significance and the traditional uses of the various colours of ochre, while also illustrating the essence of culture – its strength, its contemporary relevance, and its power to heal and nurture. 1

My first contact with ochre was when I was a small child and our house needed painting. To make the Calcimine paint water was added to powdered lime which boiled and bubbled, and we needed to keep a safe distance. Yellow Ochre, which was ground, fine grained local stone was added to give the creamy colour. Ochre has been used for millennia by Aboriginal Australians, spiritually and physically for body decoration, sun protection, mortuary practices, painting, and artwork, and the preservation of animal skins, among other use.

As generations of Australians begin to search their family history it is interesting to find that through lines and DNA increasingly links many of us.

Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged around. 37,000 years ago, long before the physical separation of Australia and New Guinea, some 10,000 years ago. These people, coming from mainland Asia and travelling into Australia, were the ancestors of most if not all modern day Australians. Since colonisation from the British Isles Europe and other areas there will be a further blending of ethnicity and in years and generations to come we will all be moving towards a shared ethnicity.

Thus Jesus’s prayer that we may become completely one has increasing relevance as we live and love together in this ancient land. Can we realise that all of us are loved and grieved over, by God, that all of us are offered the guidance and insight of the Holy Spirit in the way we live? We pray that those still remembering pain and loss will live in faith that all people will rise from the depths of despair and hopelessness to a life of glory and hope in unity with our Triune and loving God.


The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF

1) I acknowledge and give thanks for our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and also thanks for information taken from the Bangarra Dance Theatre OCHRES Study guide for teachers and students.

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