Sermon for The Third Sunday After Epiphany (Australia Day Weekend)
Kaurna miyurna, Kaurna yarta, ngadlu tampinthi.
‘We recognise Kaurna people and their land.’
We would like to Acknowledge that the land we meet on today is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and that we respect their spiritual relationship with their Country. We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.
Those simple words and acknowledgement recognize on this Australia day weekend that the ongoing journey of reconciliation is a crucial part of the story of our nation.
Introduction – Matthew Flinders
It’s good to be back after holidays. We always enjoy staying at Encounter bay in a holiday house that sits between Matthew Flinders Drive and Nicolas Baudin drive. With Australia day yesterday it seems especially notable that during this past week the grave of Matthew Flinders was discovered in an archeological dig under Euston Station in London. Flinders died in 1814 and his burial location has been a long mystery. Flinder’s story of circumnavigation and mapping of this land is extraordinary. To look at his map, whilst it has a few gaps in it, it represents an incredible achievement and was the basis for the first map of Australia. Indeed the name Australia was popularised by Flinders in 1804 and from 1817 became its official name. Spanish navigator, Pedro Fernandes de Queiros has previously used the term Austrialia del Espiritu Santo” (Southern Land of the Holy Spirit) in 1606 and he thought he had discovered the long sought mythical land but in fact he landed on an island in Vanuatu.
I never cease to be amazed by the story of Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin’s encounter on 8th April 1802. Which, of course, gives the name to Encounter Bay. When Flinders and Baudin had left their countries of origin, England and France were at war. For all they knew, the war was still on (as news of peace had not reached them) and yet they held a peaceful meeting and exchanged scientific information. It is just one part of the story of this fascinating person whose legacy is all around us – Flinders Park, Flinders Street, Flinders Ranges, Flinders University. One of the house teams at SPW Grammar School is Flinders.
Living a vision for justice
There is so much to be thankful in living in this country of ours. Like anywhere, it is not without its struggles and difficulties, but they are relatively few. According to the World Economic Forum we rank fourth in the world behind Finland, Canada and Denmark in their Quality of life rankings. It says this on their website https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/07/these-countries-have-the-highest-quality-of-life
“There is a good reason so many people want to start a new life “down under.” Australia has fantastic education, job opportunities and a strong sense of personal freedom. Its “tolerance and inclusion” score could be higher though.”
Something for us to work on perhaps, and a point that ties in with our gospel reading today. As we celebrate our nation we pray that we can grow especially in terms of tolerance and inclusion.
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks in the Synagogue, in his home town of Nazareth, at the very beginning of his public ministry. He proclaims in no uncertain terms to his listeners that his life and ministry is founded on and shaped by God’s word. And he draws out this amazing passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 as his ministry vision statement.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
I have been anointed to bring good news to the poor
I have been sent to proclaim release to the captives,
And Recovery of sight to the blind
To give Freedom to the oppressed and
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
Jesus claims these words for himself saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Whilst this angers his listeners, he can, (like our cartoon sheep in the pew sheetsuggest) “back it up” with his actions. This statement from Isaiah becomes the blueprint for his ministry, shaped by God’s word and lived in the reality of the challenges of his culture and time.
The challenge for us
For us, living in this great south land of the Holy Spirit, we can similarly be inspired and shaped by this particular word of God. By and large we like to think of our nation of a place of equality, realising the great Aussie value of egalitarianism. A place of freedom and acceptance. No nation is perfect but we have done better than many in this regard, but there are still those in our nation who do experience poverty, captivity, marginalisation and oppression.
How do we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour in our culture and time? How can we cut across the boundaries of fear and conflict, like Flinders and Baudin, and share deeply with those who are separated by barriers that exist in our society.
Well if there was an easy answer to that, then life would be pretty simple. But today we can hear the challenge that Jesus’ words give us to think of what we may be being called to do in this coming year as a parish in order to brings good news, freedom, healing, liberation and blessing to those who come to us and to our local community. We cannot do everything but we can always do something… always.
I look forward to journeying with you on this spiritual journey as we enter the second year of our parish vision. Seeking to provide inspiring worship, be a welcoming community, a place of growing faith, serving beyond our walls, being responsible stewards of our resources and growing co-operative relationships with other church and community groups. May we have the courage of explorers like Matthew Flinders to explore ways to grow God’s kingdom in our world, to be shaped by God’s word and to be a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive community growing in faith and love.