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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Epiphany 3, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
January 24, 2021

‘The Story of Australia - the story of an extraordinary nation’

As we approach Australia day 2021 after a year we would rather forget not RESPECT or CELEBRATE it does give us cause to at least REFLECT on the journey we may have made as a nation towards a mutual understanding of the stories of Australia. The Story begins 60,000 years ago. New chapters are written every day.

On Australia Day, we reflect on our history, its highs and its lows.

We respect the stories of others.

And we celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all, its people.

My colleague Brian Woodhouse shared this story with me as we reflected on the theme of the story of Australia.

“Sometimes I don’t get you Christians.” John (his real name is not mentioned out of respect for his family and culture) was an Elder of the Wiradjuri Nation. I sipped my coffee, waiting for him to continue.

“You come into a place, buy some land, clear away the trees and grass. Then you dig holes down, fill them with concrete, lay a floor, put up walls with tiny windows no one can see through. Then you put on a roof. You sit on chairs lined up in straight rows, so you can’t see each other’s faces. And you say, ‘this is where God is’”

 “How do your people do it?” I asked.

 “We sit in the shade of tree,” he said. “The land is our mother, she holds and provides for us, and we sit in her lap. We feel the breeze on our cheek, and the sun shines on us. When we feel the breeze, we know that here is God.”

I have often pondered this conversation with John. He doesn’t call himself “Christian” but I feel that he is closer to the heart of God than most people I know.

I read again the creation story in my Bible. Those first people created by God were called “Adam” - people. When God reached into the earth to take the dirt from which these first people were formed, God reached into “ad amah” (the feminine form of the word Adam). When John spoke of sitting in the lap of the mother earth, he was helping me understand the ancient origins of my own faith.

As our nation celebrates and acknowledges Australia Day, we are aware that this is not a day of celebration for all Australians. The First Nations People lost a lot when Europeans arrived uninvited. Damage was done to ancient culture, and the hurt of those events is still felt profoundly by all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We cannot undo that harm. We can, however, take time to reflect, choose to demonstrate respect. We can listen with a willingness to learn and I can celebrate the stories of Aboriginal culture. There is a deep wisdom in these shared stories that is more ancient and more resilient than our own, we can, however, stand along-side and share their journey, and listen to their hopes and pain.

This Australia Day is an opportunity for all Australians to learn to live with respect, to listen to one another, and work together to create a better, fairer community for all.

Pastor Susan Russell & Rev Brian Woodhouse
Chaplaincy & Pastoral Practice Sydney South East region

Homily by Pastor Susan Russell & Rev Brian Woodhouse