Understanding and interpreting the Scriptures is a tricky one and the reality is that mystery is just too much for humanity! One of the readings for the Sunday at the beginning of Refugee Week is the creation account from Genesis. The expression of the creator, creating, I like to think about art, Art and artist are intimately connected, his/her work and expression of the creator. The Genesis creation account for me is reminder that all human life has worth, we are called to respect the dignity of all of humanity – all created in the image of God. The call to care for all creation, not lord over! Called to relationship, and our relationship with God no different from any other relationship it’s by speaking and hearing that the interaction between creator and creation takes place and God calls creation, humanity, into that role of caring with justice, dignity, respect and compassion in communion with God.
In the gospel reading this morning Jesus commissioning the 12 – to go and to make disciples of all nations baptising and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. As Easter people, yep you got it, that’s us this commandment is for, we have agreed to work in unity for the purpose of God.
It’s the beginning of Refugee Week and the lectionary, I think provides a great springboard to look at some of the issues – humanity created in the image of God with a commission to care for humanity and the whole of creation
Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection in his maiden speech proclaimed:
“I made a commitment to my faith at an early age and have been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders. My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said, our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message. In recent times it has become fashionable to negatively stereotype those who profess their Christian faith in public life as ‘extreme’ and to suggest that such faith has no place in the political debate of this country. This presents a significant challenge for those of us, who seek to follow the example of William Wilberforce or Desmond Tutu, to name just two. These leaders stood for the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith. They transformed their nations and, indeed, the world in the process. More importantly, by following the convictions of their faith, they established and reinforced the principles of our liberal democracy upon which our own nation is built.”
This is the man who is making decisions to send refugees, who are actually people created in the image of God, to high security facilities for protesting! Entering into negotiations, with countries known for human rights violations, about the resettlement of people. This is a man who publicly declares a faith in Christ who, as far as I am concerned, it seems has actually forgotten the very basic call – to care for all of creation and the basic principal of all created in the image of God.
Jesus was a Jew and a refugee – today he would be rejected from the shores of Australia, unwanted and given a label rather than a name, a label rather than a face, a label rather than a voice! Immutable truths and principles of the Christian Faith I do not see in the actions and words of Mr Morrison.
Labels always make it easier to discriminate, dismiss and judge? Refugee/Asylum Seeker ‘v’ a woman, man or child created in the image of God seeking safety from persecution? The label certainly makes some of the decisions a little more palatable don’t you think?
Scott Morrison also quotes the book of Joel 2:28 (or part of it at least) in his speech “‘Your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions.’ I wonder if he deliberately left out the first part which says “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” All flesh means the whole of creation and prophecy is about speaking the truth to reveal injustice even when it doesn’t want to be heard! Context and interpretation is always going to be important. Some truths about Asylum seeking and refugees – we are ranked 68th compared to other countries and the intake of refugees, no matter how a person seeking asylum arrives – it is not illegal, Asylum seekers arriving by boat are not queue jumping -there is no queue, if there was its reckoned it would take a newly recognised refugee 170 years for resettlement, stopping the boats is important but for the reasons of safety, as of April this year there are over 2000 children held in Australia’s immigration detention facilities or community detention and about 25 on Christmas Island.
We are called to be a voice in many situations. The commission to share the teachings of the gospel and baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit needs to prompt us to reflect on our baptism’s, to be challenged to think about what it looks like to share the good news and teachings of the gospel. This is not about heading out with a sandwich board over our heads trying to convert people to our way of thinking or believing – but it is about engaging with each other, open to listening, it’s about trying to break free from the need to be literal and rational and accepting the invitation into relationship and being able to sit with the mystery of God’s gracious and empowering speech, grounded in the mystery of faithful commitment.
Are we prepared for the experience of God in Mystery, are we prepared to hear the call afresh? Are we prepared to claim our relationship with God as creator and Spirit and to enter deeper into the commitment we have made and be the prophetic voices?