Make An Enquiry
Image - illuminated window - Wasting time with God

Weekly Reflection

Each week the Dean offers a reflection through which he seeks to speak to the world in which we live and to explore how our life and faith intersect.

The riches of the Christian and other spiritual traditions, poetry, art, music and the writings of commentators who are trying to make sense of our lives and create a better world are brought together.

The Dean welcomes you feedback and insights.
Click here to Email the Dean

Monday 18th October, 2021

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme; …   

Click for more

 

 

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
                            Gerard Manley Hopkins, As Kingfishers Catch Fire

A few weeks ago I referred to another of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems, God’s Grandeur. In it Hopkins celebrates the gift of nature, which he sees as revealing the beauty of God, and finds himself wondering why humanity treats it with such disrespect.

In As Kingfishers Catch Fire Hopkins again proclaims the magnificent capacity that nature has to reveal God and reminds us that even the stones have value simply because they are. His poetry provides a significant challenge to our utilitarian culture which values things, even people, on the basis of their usefulness to humans.

Today is the Faiths4Climate Day of Action. I and a number of people of varying faiths took part in a vigil outside the office The Member for Brisbane, Trevor Evans, during the morning. We are calling on the Federal Government to set meaningful and significant targets for carbon pollution reduction by 2030.

Hopkins speaks for people of all faiths when he proclaims the value of nature. The approaching COP26 in Glasgow will provide our leaders and leaders from around the world with the opportunity to show that they too appreciate nature’s gifts and beauty.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 11th October, 2021

The house of my being was not secure against the elements…

Click for more

 

and too many windows were open.
A stormy wind hurled me along a passage,
and my foot dis­lodged the catch of a trapdoor that I did not know existed.
I fell down rotten steps,
the door clanged shut,
and I land­ed unconscious on the stone floor of a dark cellar.
There was enough air through a ventilation shaft for survival.
From time to time voices and shadowy figures would im­pinge on my awareness,
and they became clearer as my eyes got used to the dark.
Some were earthed enough to sit with me without intruding
and helped me discover that the stone floor was trustworthy.
And little by little the steps were re­paired with the help of ‘angel-messengers’
descending and ascending upon them.
A few sat on the top step and blocked out the light …
                       Brainsquall, Jim Cotter

Jim Cotter was a Welsh Anglican Priest and poet. In 1994 he suffered a breakdown. This was followed by a time in deep depression. He kept a record of his depression journey which he titled, Brainsquall. The excerpt above is his description of a dream he had as he descended into the depression.

I read Brainsquall when it first came out. At the end of that read I felt that for the first time in my life I had gained some sense of the experience that people with severe mental illness have to endure. I caught a glimpse of how deep and profound such experiences can be. It helped me learn how to listen to those who are experiencing a mental health crisis and showed me the importance of being present and available for those who find themselves in some of the earth’s darkest places. In Brainsquall, Jim pays tribute to the friends who kept on turning up.

In more recent times I have found Les Murray’s poetry equally helpful.

We are currently in Mental Health week; a week to listen and attend.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 4th October, 2021

‘Francis rebuild my church which, as you see is falling into ruin….
Click for more

From the cross
Your saviour spoke to you and speaks to us
Again through you. Undoing set you free,
Loosened the traps of trappings, cast away
The trammelling of all that costly cloth
We wind our saviour in. At break of day
He set aside his grave-clothes. Your new birth
Came like a daybreak too, naked and true
To poverty and to the gospel call,
You woke to Christ and Christ awoke in you
And set to work through all your love and skill
To make our ruin good, to bless and heal
To wake the Christ in us and make us whole.
                       Malcolm Guite, Sonnet for St Francis

 Today is the Feast of St Francis and the last day of the Season of Creation.
 
Guite’s marvellous poem reminds us that Franics not only experienced a deep sense of connection to the other creatures, whom he saw as sisters and brothers, but was also moved to challenge the church to be renewed.
 
 
At the core of Francis’ call was the need to see Christ in the poor and for the rest of us to be transformed in our relationship to possessions.
 
This is an astonishingly difficult challenge to hear from within the context of our culture. Nigh on impossible in fact… Bound to be resisted.
 
And yet, the connection between acquisitiveness and the eco-catastrophe is something we are going to come face-to-face with more and more.
 
 
May Francis’ example give us the courage to face this incredible challenge.
 
 
Peace,
Peter+

Monday 27th September, 2021

The world is charged with the grandeur of God…

Click for more

    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil…..
God’s Gandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins

Gerard Manley Hopkins was writing his poetry in later half of the Nineteen century. He was enamoured by the beauty of the natural world and the way it manifested the presence of God.

He was also troubled by the effect that the industrial revolution was having on people and the environment. It was the era of working-class slums and heavily polluted rivers and air. And so, his poem, God’s Grandeur, continues:
Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

Hopkin’s concern was shared by many poets. William Blake, predated Hopkins but shared his also concern. His poem, Jerusalem, visions England as a holy land: 

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

But laments the disfiguring presence of the dark Satanic Mills.

Blake then dedicates himself to fulfilling a vision of the earth restored. He will not rest
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Thomas Traherne provides a third example of this doublet that celebrates the presence of God in creation while lamenting the loss of that appreciation by many in his day. In his work The First Century, he first points the reader to the delight of being connected to the natural world: 
You never enjoy the world aright, till the Sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens, and crowned with the stars: and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you. Till you can sing and rejoice and delight in God, as misers do in gold, and Kings in sceptres, you never enjoy the world.

He then shares his lament and concern:
Yet further, you never enjoyed the world aright, till you so love the beauty of enjoying it, that you are covetous and earnest to persuade others to enjoy it. And so perfectly hate the abominable corruption of men in despising it that you had rather suffer the flames of hell than willingly be guilty of their error.

There is some comfort, a kindling of optimism, to be had as we note that previous generations faced an ecological crisis, a crisis that was largely overcome. Today England is far more green and pleasant land than it was in the days of Blake.

May their gift to us be a sense of optimism that we will see us tackle the ecological crisis that faces us.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 20th September, 2021

I’ve always tried to make a home for myself,…..

Click for more

but I have not felt at home in myself.
I’ve worked hard at being the hero of my own life.
But every time I checked the register of displaced persons,
I was still on it.
I didn’t know how to belong.
Longing? Yes.
Belonging? No.
            Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

The title of Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, comes from a comment that her adoptive mother made as she was evicting Jeanette from the family home. Jeanette was 16 years old.

Jeanette had just revealed that for the second time in her life she had a girlfriend. The meant that the adoptive mother’s attempts to have the ‘lesbian’ demon exorcised, following the discovery of the first girlfriend, had failed. And so, Jeanette herself was now to be ‘cast out’.

Why be happy when you could be normal?

Later in the memoir we discover that Jeanette’s adoptive mother had also sacrificed happiness for ‘normality’. 

The whole tale is one of the tragic waste of human potential.

Our culture, and much of the church, is still incredibly cruel to LGBTQI+ people.

I am constantly in awe of the LGBTQI+ people I encounter though my life and ministry. Most of them have had to struggle against some version of the pressure to conform to ‘normality’ at the cost of, not only happiness, but of their true self.

I for one, today, wish to honour the way so many hold to the living of an authentic life in the face of such a nihilistic demand.

The Cathedral Community is observing Pride Month during September.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 13th September, 2021

Earth burning mother
Hear the roar, feel the heat…

Click for more

Hearts rapid beat, screams, cry, weep
Consciousness must awaken
Ancestors whisper in the wind
Ensures a timely roar
Totems burning, trees gone it’s time
Return to sacred now
Join hands awaken
honour first people’s knowledge
Ones who walked the earth since the Dreamtime
listen and learn proper way
Fire knowledge passed down
Respect and honour fire wisdom
Care for land the right way
Ancient teachings state
time to listen
Interconnectedness is the only way forward
bring back pride in our countries Indigenous knowledge and wisdom
We share in this together embrace each other live in harmony
the animals, birds, and plants are our kin
Respect them and each other
that is the one truth
for our Mother Earth our creator she nurtured all
It’s time
to grow up the country proper way
Indigenous sacred way now.
                      Earth Mother by ‘Miimi and Jiinda’ – Gumbaynggirr Elder Lauren Jarrett and her Daughter – Culture is Life’s National Project Manager – Melissa Greenwood.

As we move into the second week of the season of creation we are encouraged to embrace the idea that the eco-catastrophe and the climate emergency, which is part of the the eco-catastrophe, present humanity with a very complex set of issues. Simple responses to complex problems are never helpful.

To deal with the complexity that faces us we are going to need to listen well to the various sources of wisdom that are available to us: scientists and experts, technocrats and innovators, farmers and ecologists. We are also fortunate to have the wisdom of our first peoples, the people who have lived in and with this land for millennia.

At its best the Christian community is a listening community; it seeks to train itself to listen to the ‘still small voice’ of God. Perhaps our role in responding to the eco-catastrophe might be to model good listening to a world that has become increasingly full of shouting.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 6th September, 2021

My profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature – to know his lurking places to attend to all the oratorios and the operas in nature.
Henry David Thoreau (Notebook)

Click for more

Henry David Thoreau took himself off to live for two years, two months and two days in a cabin that built for himself in Massachusetts.

He attended to the place, observing the species of animal, fish, plants and trees, making notes and writing poetry in response to what he was experiencing. He was deeply transformed by the experience.

As we enter more deeply into the Season of Creation, Thoreau’s experience invites us to reflect on separated many of us have become from what we ‘other’ through the use of the word nature.

How can we reconnect to the world in which we live and move and have our being so that we too can be moved by the oratorios preformed by God in the world?

Peace,
Peter+

 

Monday 30th August, 2021
 

“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”…..

Click for more

In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us

The first two paragraphs of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ second encyclical, set the scene for us as we prepare to enter the Season of Creation.

The Season of Creation commences on September 1, the day the Orthodox Churches celebrate Creation Day, and concludes on October 4, The Feast of St Francis of Assisi, the Western Church’s ecological saint.

Pope Francis reminds us that at its heart the ecological crisis and the related climate crisis both trace their origins to a breakdown in our relationship with our sister, Mother Earth. In this season we will reflect deeply on how we might be restored to right relationship.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us

Peace,
Peter+

 

Monday 23rd August, 2021
A Lament for Afghanistan

O my idol! A cloud from Paradise….

Click for more

Has bestowed an emerald gown on the earth.
Deserts are like blood-stained silk
And the sky has the fragrance of musk.
With a mixture of musk and red wine
An artist has drawn an image of my love on the desert.
The world has become peaceful
For both the tiger and the deer.
For such occasions. we need a sun-faced idol,
And a moon. leaning on a cushion of sun.
We must have an idol with cheeks like rubies,
And red wine to match the cheeks.
The world has become a peacock,
With roughness here and smoothness here.
Mud smells of roses,
As though kneaded with rose water.
                                                Daqiqi of Balkh

I have been reeling as result of the imagery and reportage that has been coming out of Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of the nation.

I am deeply saddened by what I imagine will be the plight of women and girls. I can only imagine the feeling of terror that must be surging through religious minorities, those who assisted western nations and who have now been betrayed and abandoned to their fate, those who are fleeing and those who are unable to flee, those who face certain death.

I find myself thinking too, of those who gave themselves so wholeheartedly to the mission to which our government committed us; those who must be questioning whether it might all have been in vain; those who loved ones were killed or permanently altered.

It is a complex time, and the series of emotions are just as complex.

As is often the case when I face complexity, I turn to the poets. Today’s poem is by the Afghan (Persian) poet Daqiqi of Balkh.

Peace,
Peter+

 

Monday 16th August, 2021
Planet-Centred

Civilized, crying: how to be human again; this will tell you how…

Click for more

Turn outward, love things, not men, turn right away from humanity,
Let that doll lie. Consider if you like how the lilies grow,
Lean on the silent rock until you feel its divinity
Make your veins cold; look at the silent stars, let your eyes
Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man.
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes;
Things are the God; you will love God and not in vain,
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. At length
You will look back along the star’s rays and see that even
The poor doll humanity has a place under heaven.
Its qualities repair their mosaic around you, the chips of strength
And sickness; but now you are free, even to be human,
But born of the rock and the air, not of a woman.
                                         Sign-post, Robinson Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers was an American poet who died in 1962. He was deeply troubled by humanity’s self-centred approach to the earth and nature.

William Everson, in Robinson Jeffers: Fragments of an Older Fury, suggests that Jeffers ‘saw that only a humanity which contemplates unremittingly the divine Otherness can be whole, can maintain wholeness; that a humanity turned from contemplation inevitably becomes obsessed with itself’.

Although Jeffers was writing over half-a-century ago, his poetry places before something of the nature of the significant challenge we face as we come to terms with the Climate Crisis.

The relational and spiritual aspects of the challenge of dealing with climate change are not often included in the conversation we are having about how we move forward. Most often the needed response is seen in simple terms: reducing our carbon emissions, installing solar panels, buying electric cars, and eating less meat.

Understanding that the way out of the crisis also involves attending to the way we relate to the other creatures, to the planet as whole, and to our spirituality, helps us appreciate that both the problem and our response are more complex than they often appear. We must attend to the way we understand ourselves in nature and look for ways to live in balance.

Recognising the complexity of the situation enables us to look carefully at the simplistic approaches to solving the climate crisis that have been offered so far. Following simplistic solutions might see us trash the planet as we mine Lithium and ever more iron ore, further adding to the ecological crisis that is also with us.

Appreciating the complexity allows us to explore options that are more transformative than the simplistic approaches at present on offer.

Climb the great ladder out of the pit of yourself and man.
Things are so beautiful, your love will follow your eyes.
Things are the God, you will love God, and not in vain.
For what we love, we grow to it, we share its nature. …
Now you are free to become human.

Peace,
Peter+

 

Monday 9th August, 2021
Ordinary Time

In terms of our worshipping life, we are into the long stretch of the year between the seasons of Lent/Easter and Advent…
Click for more
This long series of weeks used to be known as Ordinary Time. Nowadays we call them the Sundays after Pentecost.
Despite the name change these ‘Ordinary’ Sundays still stand to remind us that life is made up of very ordinary living. The following poem by Ken Sehested invites to discover the gifts they contain.
 
There are, to be sure, moments of high drama in the work of holy obedience:
marches to be made, confrontations to be staged,
dangers to be endured,
corruption to be exposed, trips made to distant or
unfamiliar places,
occasional rackets to be raised,
maybe even jail cells to be filled.
On rare occasions, the whole world is watching.
Much more often, the storyline of faith is lived without
notoriety, is forged without fanfare:
in familiar places, in small acts of courage
resisting petty tyrants,
with commonplace forbearance
in the midst of garden-variety stress.
Much more often faith is mapped by intersections
with family and friends and neighbors and co-workers,
in traffic lanes and grocery store lines,
with tired children and harried partners.
All the while—like crack to the addict, drink to the drunk
the bread of anxious toil seduces with its illusory bliss.
To be sure, dragons need to be slain. Much more often,
though, gardens need to be groomed,
young ones tutored and old ones cherished,
watersheds protected, hobbled ones freed,
and civility practiced.
Mostly it’s these thousand million little things,
the minute particulars that, strand-by-strand,
are needed to reweave life’s shapely, sturdy fabric.
For these, persevering patience is more imperative
than conspicuous daring.
For these, tireless collaboration is
more important than personal heroism.
Give thanks and praise in these most ordinary of days.
                              Ken Sehested, Most ordinary of days: A prose poem for ‘Ordinary Time’, inspired by Galatians 5:19-26
 
Peace,
Peter+

Monday 2nd August, 2021
Earth Overshoot Day

Last Thursday we observed Earth Overshoot Day….
Click for more
Earth Overshoot Day is the day when humanity’s demands for ecological resources (such as water, fish and other living creatures, forests and soil), exceeds what the Earth can renew in a year. More info: WWW.OVERSHOOTDAY.ORG. The fact that overshoot day occurs so early in the year means that we are running the Earth down.
 
As I see it, Overshoot Day asks three things of us:
1. To see that it is a more significant (and interrelated) challenge to our future survival than Climate Change. In fact, some of our solutions to Climate Change would see us using even more resources and so speeding up the depletion the earth.
2. To recognise that we need to attend to our relationship with the planet. We are called to overcome the idea that the planet is somehow ‘other’ to we humans. We are not separate but part of the whole. This means that there is ‘spiritual’ and relational aspect to the work we need to do to get ourselves out of the crisis in which we find ourselves.
3. To appreciate that the way ahead will only emerge once we have accepted that we are dealing with an incredible amount of complexity. Simplistic solutions, such as only moving to (the necessary) end of the use of fossil fuels without reducing our demands on the planet will not get us out of this problem.
 
Ultimately, we need individual and collective “ecological conversion”.
 
Peace,
Peter+

Monday 26th July, 2021
The Way of the Wise

The first king was on horseback.
The second a pillion rider.
The third came by plane…

Click for more

The first king was on horseback.
The second a pillion rider.
The third came by plane…

 Where was the god-child?
He was in the manger
with the beasts, all looking

 the other way where fourth
was a slow dawning because
wisdom must come on foot.
                      A Slow Dawning
— R S Thomas, Counterpoint (1990)

In A Slow Dawning R S Thomas plays with the imagery of the three kings visiting the Christ child. He introduces a fourth king to the story. The first three arrive using forms of rapid transport. They rush at and into the Christmass scene.

The fourth, wisdom, takes time to arrive.

The writers of the Wisdom literature we find in Biblical books like Proverbs help us to understand the essence of wisdom. They do this by comparing and contrasting the behaviour of the wise one and the foolish, the unwise.
       Those who gather crops on time are wise, but those who sleep through the harvest are a disgrace. (Proverbs 10.5)
       Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness. (Proverbs 13:16).
       The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15).

Wisdom is a slow mover because wisdom comes from seeing clearly, noticing, and then thinking carefully about what is happening before acting. Sadly, intelligence is not a measure or guarantee of wisdom.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 19th July, 2021
Compassion

Of all the public places, dear
to make a scene, I’ve chosen here.

Of all the doorways in the world…

Click for more

to choose to sleep, I’ve chosen yours.
I’m on the street, under the stars.

 For coppers I can dance or sing.
For silver-swallow swords, eat fire.
For gold-escape from locks and chains.

 It’s not as if I’m holding out
for frankincense or myrrh, just change.

 You give me tea. That’s big of you.
I’m on my knees. I beg of you.
                                              Give, Simon Armitage

One of the pivotal aspects of last Sunday’s gospel story was that of Jesus being moved with compassion for the crowds. Compassion is a deeply felt emotion. In fact, the Greek word used in the New Testament which we translate as compassion, literally means ‘to have your intestines wrenched’; to feel for another in the depths of your being; in your bowels.

The thing about compassion is that it spurs the one who feels it into action; it makes them into agents of change. Whether we become change agents or not in response to the plight of another, reveals whether we have felt compassion for them or merely felt pity. Experiencing pity in response to the plight of another leads us to hand out food and blankets. If we have compassion for them, we are driven to want to change the system. Pity can get fatigued; compassion doesn’t.

In his poem, Give, Simon Armitage plays with the word change. At first reading the homeless person who has inconveniently appeared on the front step of a hapless householder might be understood to be asking for a few small denomination coins. A deeper reading suggests that the change they are seeking is the one that can only be achieved by transformation.

Peace,
Peter+ 

Monday 12th July, 2021
Fragility

There are so many fragile things, after all.
People break so easily,
and so do dreams and hearts.
         Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Click for more

I have been thinking a lot about fragility lately, and about how we need to give it more attention.

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic, political shenanigans, the plight of our planetary system and the stories I have been hearing from members of our faith community have all led me down this path.

Authorities in various jurisdictions, football players and people who think that their party must go ahead have failed to see how fragile the safe place we have managed to create in this covid-affected world is, and how easily that safe place can slip away.

Many of our political leaders are prepared to stretch our democratic framework for short-term gain. Rorting, prideful, naked contempt for accountability, cynical messaging and pandering to powerful interest groups, all undermine the confidence that the people have in our institutions. Our institutions float on a thin bubble of trust. It is more fragile than a butterfly’s’ wing.

The sheer size of the earth and its abundance – its extravagant abundance – lead us to think that it is stable and infinite. In fact, it is fragile, held together by frogs eggs and gossamer threads. The recent heatwaves in North America, wildfires across the globe, including here, remind us of the inevitable consequences of shattering the earth’s system. No amount of political spin or hubris-driven self-assurance will put a shattered eco-system back together.

People are fragile too. Our culture talks too much about independence, resilience, and self-reliance. Such talk makes people feel like they must be strong and impervious. Many assume that others can and should take whatever they dish out. Yet the truth is that some who seem to have it all together are holding on by their fingernails.

If we understood one another’s fragility, we would be more kind.

Peace,
Peter+

 

Monday 5th July, 2021
NAIDOC Week

This week is NAIDOC week.
The theme for the Week in 2021 is Heal Country.
Click for more
We are invited to recognise that the wisdom possessed by the First Nations people of this land, a wisdom that recasts our understanding of our relationship with and to land, provides us with a way of dealing with the ecological and climate catastrophes that have been manufactured by our current approach to land. It is a week for dedicating ourselves to listening.
 

Look up, my people,
The dawn is breaking,
The world is waking

To a new bright day,
When none defame us,
No restriction tame us,
Nor colour shame us,

Nor sneer dismay.

Now brood no more

On the years behind you,
The hope assigned you

Shall the past replace,
When a juster justice
Grown wise and stronger
Points the bone no longer

At a darker race.

So long we waited
Bound and frustrated,
Till hate be hated

And caste deposed;
Now light shall guide us,
No goal denied us,

And all doors open

That long were closed.

See plain the promise,
Dark freedom-lover!
Night’s nearly over,

And though long the climb,
New rights will greet us,

New mateship meet us,
And joy complete us

In our new Dream Time.

To our fathers’ fathers
The pain, the sorrow;

To our children’s children
The glad tomorrow.
                   A Song of Hope, Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

Peace,

Peter+

Monday 28th June, 2021
Coming of the Light

This Thursday, 1 July, is the 150th anniversary of The Coming of the Light to the Torres Strait Islands.

A Reflection from the Anglican Board of Mission, Australia:

Click for more

The London Missionary Society with Melanesian leaders landed on the shores of Darnley Island and introduced the Bible to the people who lived there. This event, The Coming of the Light, is an integral part of cultural identity to Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is marked as a public holiday within the region and there is much joy around its anniversary. It is also an important anniversary for the national Anglican church, hence its being in our lectionary.

The Coming of the Light invites us to reflect on our national history, on the good and the bad. It invites us to celebrate mission and ministry, particularly within the Torres Strait, and it invites us to listen to the church in the Torres Strait, which is made up of vibrant communities of hope.

In 2020, the Melanesian Brotherhood established a household on Thursday Island. The Melanesian Brotherhood is the world’s largest Anglican religious order and is headquartered in the Solomon Islands. The Brothers will live and minister at the cathedral on Thursday Island, nurturing community and supporting clergy and lay ministers across the islands of the Torres Strait.

The Anglican Church of Australia faces many challenges, and in the words of the Rev’d Canon Victor Joseph, it is time for the church to be “missioned to” by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders. The church in the Torres Strait has much to teach the church around Australia, much salt and light to offer. The Coming of the Light is not simply an historic event, it is an invitation for all of us to be changed by the work of God in the Torres Strait.

St John’s will be hosting an event to celebrate this anniversary on Sunday 4th July at 2pm.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 21st June, 2021
Refugee Week

On 1st May 1517 the streets of London erupted. Angry locals attacked immigrants and looted their homes. Thomas More was the deputy sheriff of London at the time. He tried to protect the immigrants by reasoning with the crowd. The day came to be known as Evil May Day.

Click for more

In the late 16th Century William Shakespeare and two collaborators sought to bring prominence to the story. They wrote a play called The Book of Sir Thomas More. Shakespeare was responsible for penning a pro-immigrant speech which is placed on the lips of More. The original hand written manuscript of the speech is the only piece of writing existing in Shakespeare’s hand.

The authorities at the time banned the book and prevented the play from being performed for fear that its pro-immigrant stance would stir up resentment. The book was banned for 400 years.

Here is part of the speech Shakespeare wrote:
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
                          Sir Thomas More: Act 2, Scene 4

Shakespeare invites the reader to stand in the shoes of the despised immigrant.
What if it were you seeking asylum?

This week is Refugee Week.
The challenges remain unchanged.

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 7th June, 2021
PTSD (Land Forces Expo II)

Hi,
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge…

Click for more

Hi,
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.*
Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est

* Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori = It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. (Horace)

This week I am still reeling from the fact that last week Brisbane was host to the Land Forces Expo, a trade fair for weapons.

I am not against having a defence force, but as US President Eisenhower warned in his farewell speech at the end of his presidency in 1961, to have an armaments industry that is driven by the profit motive and the need to grow businesses destabilises the world rather than making it a safer place.

This week’s poem was written by Wilfred Owen, one of the soldier poets, who responded to the carnage of World War I by writing poetry that stripped away the romanticism of war. Owen was himself treated for shell shock, which we now call PTSD, during the war. He was killed in action just one week before the war ended. The poem is stark in its imagery.

June is PTSD awareness month. Owen and his colleagues want us to remember that war is incredibly costly in human terms. We still have PTSD sufferers in our midst who served in World War II and Korea.

The Land Forces Expo received funding from the government, public money.

We say we value peace, but I have never heard of our governments funding a peace expo.

Blessed are the peacemakers….

Peace,
Peter+

Wednesday 2nd June, 2021
The Land Forces Expo I

This week Brisbane is hosting the Land Forces Expo.

Largely unadvertised to the public the Expo is a three-day market selling weapons and military support services.

Click for more

This week Brisbane is hosting the Land Forces Expo. Largely unadvertised to the public the Expo is a three-day market selling weapons and military support services.

It is happening despite there having been no public conversation about our involvement in the international arms trade.

At the end of his two-term presidency of the USA in 1961, Dwight D Eisenhower, a former General, tried to warn his nation about the potential effects of what he labelled the Military-Industrial Complex. The Military-Industrial Complex is made up of companies that specialise in making and selling weapons. Like all businesses they want to grow. To grow they need people to use their weapons. Eisenhower could see how this market driven approach to weaponry could lead to an increased likelihood of armed conflict.

Eisenhower noted that before the World War II most armaments had been produced on an as needs basis by companies that manufactured sewing machines and other products for civilian use. These would turn their hand to making weapons when a conflict broke out in much the same way that several engineering companies have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by retooling to make ventilators. Eisenhower’s words were not heeded and so the Industrial-Military Complex has grown. Large portions of the world have been destabilised.

Our Federal Government has the aim of making Australia one of the top ten producers of armaments in the world. The Land Forces Expo is part of promoting this expansion.

The Land Forces Expo is being held against the backdrop of our withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Afghan conflict is numbered by Australian academic, Henry Reynolds, amongst the list of Australia’s ‘unnecessary wars’. Reynolds contends that our leaders are far too willing to send our service personnel into conflicts. He says they use war, which has long term consequences, for short-term political gain.

The allegations that war crimes were committed by service personnel in Afghanistan remind us that war is a shadowy place. A place we should be reticent to send people. Too easily the rest of us allow our defence force personnel to go into places we would not go ourselves.

Siegfried Sassoon was a soldier and one of the World War I poets. The war poets were highly critical of the way leaders and people alike tend to treat war in a trivialised way:
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go[1].

To the politicians Sassoon said:
Go round the soldiers’ cemeteries; and then
Talk of our noble sacrifice and losses
To the wooden crosses…[2]

Sassoon also wrote of the ‘impotent old friends’ sitting ‘snug at the club’ talking about how lucky their sons were to be at war.[3]

June is PTSD Awareness Month. We still have amongst us veterans for World War II and Vietnam who are living with PTSD, and increasing numbers produced through our involvement in Afghanistan. The human cost is high and long-felt.

And yet here we are aiming to become one of the top ten producers of armaments in the world and hosting a weapons Expo.

On the sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that the peacemakers are blessed, and the writer of Isaiah had a vision of swords being beaten into ploughshares. The presence of this Expo in our midst and our government’s ambitions  for our armaments industry suggest that we are a long way from achieving that vision.

[1] Siegfried Sassoon, Suicide in The Trenches, http://www.greatwar.nl/children/suicide.html

[2] http://jamesmanlow.com/siegried-sassoon-first-world-war-poems/

[3] Siegfried Sassoon, The Fathers in Counter-Attack and Other Poems, 1918. https://www.bartleby.com/136/10.html

Peace,
Peter+

Monday 31st May, 2021
Trinity Sunday

Hi,
On a tranquil night, in deep silence
my boat softly glided onto the immense Ocean…

Click for more

Hi,
On a tranquil night, in deep silence
my boat softly glided onto the immense Ocean.
All was resting under the vault of the heavens
and seemed attentive to the great voice of God.
But suddenly great waves arose
and the fragile vessel disappeared beneath them.

It was the TRINITY which drew me to itself.
There I found my centre in the divine abyss.
I shall no longer be seen on the shore.
I dive into the Infinite, there is my portion.
My soul rests in this immensity
and lives with “the THREE” as if in eternity.
                                                   Elizabeth of Dijon

Sunday was Trinity Sunday, the day when we celebrate God, as three and one:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit or
Source of All Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirt or
Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.

The idea of God being three and one has, down the years, led to some very complex theological writing. It takes a lot of head space to get around he idea that One can be three and three can be one.

Elizabeth of Dijon reminds us that the church came to the idea of God being a Trinity though experience, and she calls us back to that appreciation. As her poem suggests, if we give ourselves over to experience, particularly the experience of prayerful attending, then we are far more likely to ‘get’ God, despite God continuing to be a mystery.

Peace,
Peter+

Make An Enquiry