Sorry Day is more than just saying sorry, it is a time to reflect on the deep sadness caused to so many, and to stand in solidarity.
In April 2017 Aboriginal Christian leader Brooke Prentis and Rev Dr Geoff Broughton led three bible studies at the Surrender Conference in Melbourne, exploring justice, reconciliation and recognition.
Surrender have produced podcasts of these studies and today we encourage you to set aside some time to listen one or more of these studies:
- Embodying Justice: Jesus and Aboriginal Injustices (also on iTunes)
- Embodying Reconciliation: Jesus and the Great Australian Silence (also on iTunes)
- Embodying Recognition: Jesus, Guests and Hosts (also on iTunes)
Aren't able to listen right now? No worries, Jessica Smith has produced the below reflection from the first bible study Embodying Justice: Jesus and Aboriginal Injustices.
In Luke 16-19 Jesus introduces us to a series of people who are privileged. A rich man with a poor man Lazarus at his gate, a Pharisee going to pray who thanked God that he was not like others, and a rich man wanting to inherit eternal life. All three are unable to receive from Jesus. Jesus declares ‘How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’.
Following Jesus requires being a recipient, a receiver of grace. When Jesus meets Zacchaeus in Luke 19, he asks Zacchaeus to receive him into his home; Zacchaeus ‘was happy to welcome him’. Further, Zacchaeus receives Jesus at depth such that Jesus declares ‘salvation has come to this house’. How? Zacchaeus recognises his position of wealth & privilege, the injustices he has committed and repents with action – ‘half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pray back four times as much’.
As Christians, we know that meeting Jesus is an invitation into a great reversal. We acknowledge our need and come to him to receive. In the practice of communion, we come to Jesus’ table empty handed, naming our need, and we receive the bread and the wine – his body and blood – enacting our dependence and need, naming that we are his guests. Rowan Williams declares ‘we are to live as people who know we are always guests’ (1) and the communion is an embodied reminder of this reality.
This spiritual practice is essential for life in Christ and important for those who have come to Australia in the last 250 years. It is the foundation for what might underpin right seeing of our history and what will energise a life of reconciliation.
Today in Australia, ‘the land of the young and free’, those who have arrived in the last 250 years find themselves wealthy and privileged. Unlike those who have been here for 60,000 years, we are not
- disproportionately in prison (27% of the prison population as compared to 3% of Australia’s population 2)
- under represented in education (60% of Aboriginal children significantly behind non-Aboriginal children by the time they start Year One 3)
- suffering from health issues (Estimated 9-10 years lower life expectancy 4)
- burdened by a history of stolen generations, stolen land and stolen wages.
Those who have arrived in the last 250 years find themselves the privileged, the rich and the blessed.
However, if we have come to faith in Jesus we know what it is to receive, to be a recipient of Jesus’ gracious welcome, to have become a guest. We know that the only hope of salvation is to repent and change our position from privileged and powerful to open-handed receiver.
Today in this land called Australia, we need to realise that –
Just as at the communion, I am not the host but a guest at Jesus’ table. So in this land, we are not the hosts but guests on someone else’s country.
Just as at the communion, I am not at the centre of God’s story, but one who receives from Jesus. So in this land, we are not at the centre of Australia’s story, but one who receives from many Aboriginal nations who have lived here long before us.
Just as at the communion, I am undeservedly welcomed by Jesus and transformed into a guest. So in this land called Australia today, I am undeservedly welcomed by Aboriginal nations and need to see myself as a guest.
In this land now called Australia, we need to not assume the role of the privileged, but to recognise ourselves as guests.
This transformed vision of ourselves and our position to Jesus and to this land is needed to energise a life of reconciliation. Just as Zacchaeus recognises his position of wealth & privilege, the injustices he has committed and repents with action, we late comers need to be ready to see the reality of our position. It is right that those who know Jesus and who have had our hearts shaped by his generous welcome and invited into the great reversal, should be at the forefront of reconciliation.
Let us open ourselves to become guests where we live and work. Let us open ourselves to meet and listen and join in friendship with our Aboriginal hosts. Let us honour and be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders. And let us ask ‘how can we help our nation to declare that ‘half of our possessions, we will give to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and if we have defrauded any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of anything, we will pray back four times as much?’ such that salvation might come to this land.
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This reflection was produced by Jessica Smith taken from a podcast called Embodying Justice: Jesus and Aboriginal Injustices, a bible study at Surrender Melbourne this year led by Aboriginal Christian leader Brooke Prentis and Rev Dr Geoff Broughton.
Geoff has also written about his experience at the Surrender conference here.
Go Deeper: Listen to Uncle Graham & Grant Paulson
In 2015 Common Grace & the Bible Society invited Christian leaders to reflect on the Lord's Prayer. Uncle Graham & Grant Paulson spoke together about the phrase 'forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us'. A powerful reflection in light of the history of Australia.