Rev Katherine Rainger reflects on the ancient and contemporary desire for peace.
Longing in the Struggle
Brooke Prentis reflects on generations past, present and future, and the longing for Aboriginal justice in the midst of The Struggle.
Daily Reading Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’
The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’
Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’
Then the angel departed from her.
I think ancestry is fascinating.
Many people know I am a descendant of the Waka Waka peoples. I also know my German, Scottish, and English ancestries. Many people today are trying to find out what their ancestry is. This passage in Luke sets out the lines of ancestry of Joseph, David, Jacob, Mary, and Elizabeth, and then we hear that Mary will give birth to Jesus - the Son of the Most High. Looking at ancestry often means reflecting on births and deaths, and generations - past, present and future.
Another opportunity where I reflect on generations is when I have the privilege of giving an Acknowledgement of Country. As part of the Acknowledgement of Country I say the words “we pay our respects to the Elders, past, present and future”. When I pay my respects I am actually thanking real people - Elders with faces and names, and Elders who have been in what we call “The Struggle” fighting for Aboriginal justice, rights, and freedoms.
The Struggle is real and has raged for over two centuries from Stolen Land, to the Frontier Wars, to Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, to the lack of Closing the Gap, to the underfunding of Aboriginal Christian Ministry. These are Elders who fought so that I would be able to be a citizen of Australia, who fought so that I would be able to go to school past the age of ten, who fought so that I would not have to suffer Stolen Wages, who fought and are still fighting for my and our voice to be heard. These Elders were, and still are, longing in The Struggle for a different Australia for future generations.
On the first day of Advent this year, I had the privilege, as one of the younger generations, to sit at the feet of three Aboriginal Aunties, all who have been in The Struggle, all who know what it means to be longing. The Aunties were Aunty Jean Phillips, one of Australia’s most senior Aboriginal Christian Leaders from any denomination and founder of many Aboriginal Christian organisations, Aunty Alex Gater, the first Aboriginal women in Queensland to be made a priest, and Aunty Ravina Waldren, who works with the Catholic Murri Ministry. These Aunties have been working in The Struggle for decades, in Aunty Jean’s case for over six decades! They spoke of our current injustices and the lack of Government action over centuries - they were longing for justice. They spoke of the need for non-Indigenous peoples to join us - they were longing for relationship. They spoke of the need for Jesus - they were longing for healing and hope in these lands now called Australia. To fight for justice, to invite relationship, to work for healing, to believe in hope, and to long for something that seems impossible, takes courage. The courage these Aunties have shown me, other Aboriginal Christian Leaders, and so many non-Indigenous peoples, especially the courage to have faith under such heartbreak and suffering, is inspirational, for they are, humbly and simply, servants of the Lord.
Their courage reminds me of Mary’s courage with all her unknowns as a virgin mother about to give birth to the Son of the Most High who dares to believe “For nothing will be impossible for God”, humbly and simply, as a servant of the Lord. “Here I am”, she says. “Here I am”, I say. Can we say together in the longing of The Struggle, “Here we are”? These Elders, past and present, and Jesus, have longed for you to join The Struggle for Aboriginal justice so that with faith and courage, and by taking action, together we can see God make the seemingly impossible dreams come true in these lands now called Australia.
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