This is how all the Eagles fans in my congregation will be greeted this morning. They were merciless last week, anticipating a huge knockdown in last night’s NAB cup. It was a knockdown all right – but the other way – 78 points! As much as I rant against tribalism, I can’t expunge Port Adelaide from my genes, so I will say nothing apart from wearing my new liturgical dress.
Lent is not a customary observance within the tradition of Christian formation that nurtured me. But I have come to it much in latter years. There is something very powerful about being caught up in the re-enactment of the Christian festivals and fasts that tell our story year after year.
Contrary to the popularised idea of Lent as a time of denial of self-indulgence in one (usually small) simple pleasure, prompting the oft asked question “What are you giving up for Lent”, I am attracted to the idea of “taking something on for Lent.” I notice that other bloggers have also been attracted to this variant and in my view, truer stance. See More Meredith Gould and The Go-Between God. After all, Jesus’ constant refrain throughout this season’s commemorated journey with his confused disciples is “Take up your cross (daily) and follow me.” The invitation is to consider what this metaphorical cross is like. Surely it is the work of allowing God’s Spirit to mould oneself to the way of Christ – the way that gradually replaces self-indulgent me-ism with other-focused compassion. These are the hallmarks of the reign of God that Jesus modeled and taught. It takes focus, and, for many, fasting helps pay such sustained attention.
For me, meditation works best. So it was affirming to hear, during his Perth visit, the leader of the World Christian Meditation Community, Fr Laurence Freeman, encourage us to “take on compassion for Lent.” He also said “practicing kindness” was the best preparation for meditation. So – an outer practice that is other centred to prepare for an inner focus that is self-stripping – not in self-negation but in a way that engages silence, stillness and simplicity in the quest for the reign of God in all that matters.
That’s worth taking on!
Jenny and I took in the Festival of Perth production of “Happy as Larry”, a contemporary dance devised by Shaun Parker and inspired by the themes of the enneagram, an ancient system used today in personality profiling and spiritual direction. As someone who has worked with the enneagram over many years, I was particularly interested to see how contemporary dance might interpret and present it. The energetic and winsome performance was engaging in its own right, but might have frustrated those who were bent on seeking to identify categorically the specific enneagram spaces. It was much more subtle than that, and therefore, in my view, a faithful presentation of the moving and integrating energies within the system. Here and there an identifiable “label” appeared, but was quickly subsumed into the dynamic of the drama of interaction that did not ignore the dark places of the types in their “pursuit of happiness.” My remark at the end of the performance was “I’m not sure what they did, but they did it well.” It was only on awakening the next morning that I remembered and became aware of what had been happening in some of the more enigmatic dance sequences.
Neither Prime Minister Rudd nor Opposition Leader Abbot sponsor policies that deal adequately with climate change challenges. Inevitably, the politics of funding gets in the way. A Eureka Street article by Peter Hodge points to a possible solution called the “Tobin Tax” – a tax on foreign currency transactions.
“Set at a tiny 0.005 per cent (the most commonly cited rate), the tax could collect around $76 billion each year, although estimates vary significantly. The funds could assist developing countries cope with the effects of climate change and finance the necessary technological adaptations; it is unlikely any legally binding climate agreement that includes most developing countries will be signed without such commitments.” (Hodge)
I guess it would be ever so slightly irritating for those of us who buy books on Amazon, but it would be a tax less worth grumbling about if we knew it was invested in constructive solutions to protect developing countries from the effects of climate change catastrophe.
Not that this alone would address our global ecological responsibilities – incentives for renewable energy sources and reduction of carbon emissions would still be on the table, but funding arguments would differ.
I wonder if economists and accountants who are much more qualified than I would be prepared to discuss the merits of such a solution?
My flock and I have been experimenting a little lately with “mutual mentoring” – something that Paul’s theology of the church says we ought to be good at. Reprising Eugene Peterson’s “Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work” as a framework, we use the Revised Common Lectionary, our source for Sunday’s readings, as a guide to reflect on how together we make stories, build community, share pain, direct prayer and nay-say. On the first Sunday of the month, we use “sermon-time” to share our stories and reflections and receive our fresh printed guide for the coming month. This morning was our third attempt, and by George, we got it! Reflecting on January’s Epiphany stories, we had been looking to be aware of how the presence of God was manifested in the ordinary, and particularly in the stories of Jesus’ growing awareness and announcement of his mission mandate to bring humanity to wholeness.
Some of what we heard from within our small 60 strong multi-generational congregation
- our Peruvian contact deploying the resources of their tourism business to bring relief and aid to hundreds of remote villagers whose livelihood and houses have been destroyed by mudslides
- a young lad who volunteers at a farm school “knowing himself to be close to God when he’s with the animals.”
- folk who, in seeking accommodation and relocating living quarters, discovered fresh connections to their vocations
- a couple sharing fifty years of marriage in celebration
- the trials, tribulations and joys of building community in a retirement village setting
As Epiphany comes to its climax and we prepare to begin the Lenten journey to Good Friday and Resurrection, this morning demonstrated to us all what strength there is in sharing our journeys of faith in the supportive setting of Sunday morning worship. The buzz over coffee and wedding anniversary cake afterwards suggests that stories continue to be shared and made.