Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the eleventh day of Advent, 2021, Neil Holm takes us on a journey through Country towards a new way.
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
Isaiah 40:31-5 NRSV
I have just spent four days walking in Carnarvon Gorge National Park. I am overjoyed that someone preserved this magnificent wilderness and then made a new way through it. With numerous twists and turns and 18 creek crossings to Big Bend, the way is hardly straight.
The track passes between dramatic sandstone cliffs that reach toward heaven. Lush vegetation borders the track. The side gorges reveal 4m tall cycads, fan palms, flowering shrubs, massive mosses, and rare ferns.
The track through this splendid, majestic wilderness became a Holy Way, a new way, that moistened the desert of my life. This was not the typical Biblical wilderness of desert, hardship, and sensory deprivation. Like the wilderness of Isaiah 35, streams bubbled and chattered then silently flowed through pools of clear water refreshing pretty-faced wallabies, echidnas, and platypus.
Water is the heart of Carnarvon, shaping the landscape and more. A tiny rivulet burbled and carved its way through rock, turning left then right and at each bend hollowing out a tiny pool with a rusty-coloured bed, then cascading over a ledge to become a miniature waterfall, and then repeating the pattern several times before joining a larger stream. The sights and sounds of clean, fresh, and life-enhancing “living water” evoked Biblical memories. This living water and its artistry shaped and sanctified me.
And then I lifted my eyes to the hills, to the mighty sandstone bluffs, to the massive cliffs rising vertically from the gorge floor. I imagined God placing me tenderly high in a narrow cleft as glory was manifest.
Walking to Cathedral Cave on a cool Sunday morning, thousands of birds hymned me. My soul soared. In the cathedral, the presence evoked over centuries by the Bidjara and Karingal lingered. For this “outsider”, the beauty and significance of the stencil art was veiled yet I was blessed and I honoured them.
“Outsiders” have a place. In a far distant gorge and time, Abram met an “outsider”, the mysterious Melchidezek, who blessed him.
Who will bless our nation? Already Aboriginal music, dance, cinema, sport, art, and respect for Country bless us.
Will the Christian Church flourish only when we welcome the blessing and full contribution of Aboriginal Christian Leaders?
A new way for a new day in an ancient land and Church?
Neil Holm enjoys tennis, bushwalking, gardening, movies, and Australian literature. After a 20 year career in Aboriginal education in the Northern Territory, Neil has served in a cosmopolitan university college, with an inner-city social-justice oriented church, and as a curriculum specialist in theological education. He now lives on Yuggera country in Inala, a diverse community on the outskirts of Brisbane, Queensland.
Creator God, as we walk the Way,
may the beauty of every kind of
artwork and animal,
boulder and bird,
creek and critter,
plant and person
sing your majesty,
provoke greater love of you,
and give urgency to
deeper appreciation of
and compassion for,
every work of your hand.
Photograph: Jane Kelly, Sunset, Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Visual Description: A pink, grey and golden sunset reflects onto the shoreline in front of the silhouette of bushland in the backdrop.