Saturday, 8 December 2012

Finding where heaven and earth hang together

Some of you reading this may be familiar with the concept of “thin places”. Attributed to Celtic Christianity, a thin place is a place where one can catch a glimpse of heaven from the mundane world, where something of the divine is temporarily visible to those of us normally earth bound. On a blog entitled of life, laughter and liturgy, a contemporary poet Sharlande Sledge is quoted with this description:

“Thin places,” the Celts call this space,
Both seen and unseen,
Where the door between the world
And the next is cracked open for a moment
And the light is not all on the other side.
God shaped space. Holy.

It is a fascinating concept, and has gained some currency in mainstream scholarship. The New Testament scholar Marcus Borg, in his book The Heart of Christianity, writes about "thin places". He describes them as "anywhere our hearts are opened." Thin places can be actual places, or an activity, such as worship or meditation.

I have experienced thin places a number of times in my life, where the veil between heaven and earth unexpectedly and inexplicably lifted. Sometimes these experiences had the force of an epiphany, at other times were a fleeting and tantalizing glimpse of something numinous and ephemeral.

Sometimes one just walks into a thin place.

It has been our custom when we are at home to support our local Farmers Markets. There are two – one in Wauchope on the 4th Saturday, and one in Port Macquarie on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Today was Port Macquarie’s turn, so we arose from our beds at the ungodly hour of 7.00, with a view to arriving at the markets at 8.00, their normal opening time.

We like to leave early because they are popular markets, and this is the last PMQ one before Christmas. Leave your arrival until 10.00 am, and you may as well park in Wauchope and walk from there.

We have our favourite stallholders that we regularly patronize. The Baba Lila chocolate lady claims I keep her in fuel and milk for a month. Ray, the macadamia farmer (who tried to kill me via a huntsman spider concealed in a package of coffee; but that is another story) supplies us with a kilo of macadamia coffee each month. The gourmet food providores who live locally in Wauchope have the best local cheese, relishes and smoked trout, which is smoked in a real smokehouse near Coffs Harbour. We get organic oranges, garlic, beef and pork from local farmers. And an abundance of fresh produce from various market gardeners, including two parishioners in the Comboyne, who grow exotic things like medlars, sapotes, Chinese raisin tree, ice cream bean and yukons.

The Port Macquarie market also has a blacksmith, crafts, painters, soap makers, homemade candles, jewellery, clothing and a variety of homewares and knickknacks. It is a fine place to visit before Christmas if you are looking for handmade, locally crafted gifts. My daughter and grandchildren have benefitted from these stalls a number of times.

One of the other attractions about this market is the buskers. Sometimes they are quite ordinary musicians, playing guitars and singing. At other times they are more exotic creatures, playing a variety of different instruments. There is an African drummer that that makes a regular appearance who makes and plays his own djembes. There are folk bands with indigenous instruments from around the world. Occasionally someone appears with a didgeridoo. They add to the atmosphere, though somehow I don’t think any of them will retire on their busking procedures.

Today there was someone new, from the town of Bellingen, an interesting community around two hours north of us. Bellingen is something of an aberration in the Mid North Coast, as 26% of its population vote for the Greens. It has a large alternative community.

Walking back up the pathway from inspecting the craft stalls, a very different sound was being carried on the wind. Neither of us recognised the source of the ethereal sounds that wound themselves around us. The music definitely had a strange effect on me, a thin place effect, in fact. Perhaps my brain chemicals changed under its influence. Perhaps I really was feeling something of the divine. It certainly transported me somewhere different.

We found the musician a few yards further on. He was playing a Hang, little known German instrument that was invented in 2000. He told us that it was modeled on the idea of the metal drums of Barbados and the Indonesian Gamelan, after first joking it was his mother’s wok. It is wok-shaped, and looks like two glued together at the rim to form a metal orb. You can see it and read about it here

The Hang was strange enough, but our musician was also a talented didgeridoo player. He also had bells around his left ankle, to give some extra percussive sound. The two instruments together created an extraordinary effect, and the veil lifted. I could feel and glimpse something unearthly, something beyond. I had stepped into a different place, a place where the divine and mundane collided in midair to create something transcendent.

He stopped playing and I bumped back to earth. Our musician, whose name was Jesse, tried to explain that for him, the Hang was somehow unearthly. I suggested ethereal. He agreed. But he also thought that it needed earthing. “That’s why I play the didgeridoo”, he said. “You need to bring heaven and earth together.”

Bringing heaven and earth together. No wonder that music created a thin place. How could it not? As for me, this music somehow made sense of Advent. It wordlessly expressed something of the essence of incarnational theology, where the divine entered the mundane and the word became flesh.

In this world, where things can easily be broken and ugly and miserable, we need thin places. And we need to bring heaven and earth together as much as possible, to create a space where the Advent values of hope, peace, joy and love can sprout and grow and run luxuriantly like a tropical bougainvillea over and through broken lives and despair to bring them life and colour again; a space where we glimpse the kingdom; where we can even reach out and almost touch the face of God.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Gold-plating power in the King's navy

I have just received a letter from our erstwhile local state MP, Mr 72%. As the new Co-coordinator of Climate Change Australia Hastings Branch, I get to sign the letters we write on various issues to politicians.

This particular letter was to ask why the NSW State government was using electricity bills as a political forum by including a statement on how much the "carbon tax" had increased electricity bills. This information appears in a little red box on the bill. Like a Readers’ Digest competition, it screams “Important! Read me because I am in red letters and there is a box around me and therefore I must be true!”
For those of you who do not read the Readers Digest and therefore ignore important red lettered messages in boxes, the message says:

"NSW Government estimates that the Federal carbon tax and green energy schemes add about $316 a year to a typical 7MWh household bill – see"

As it happens, our CCA group think that this box is a misuse of legislative powers, in that it requires that this negative message be included on public companies' bills. In our opinion, this message is solely there to have political impact and is selectively misinformative. The red coloured message is clearly meant to stand as a protest against current Federal policy and law in Australia.

As most of us in CCA objected to our household bills becoming political capital, we asked it be removed. Alternatively, we reasoned, if the State government thought this unreasonable, we thought that all extra taxes and charges should be shown. So a full breakup, including infrastructure costs, wholesale pricing and profits, a full and honest disclosure of the true economics of electricity pricing for each consumer, could all have their own important boxes. Heck, we could even colour coordinate them, so our bills looked like little rainbows.

We also suggested that there should be corresponding details about how the Federal government's compensation package had offset any rises caused by the carbon price.

And there are those little details in a report, released in April 2011, from the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPRT). They found the average price increases of 18 per cent for electricity in 2011/2012 were due to a number of factors including:

•Federal Labor's Renewable Energy Target (RET) (34 per cent)
•additional generation costs, (5.5 per cent )
•additional network costs (poles and wires), (55 per cent)
•retail increases in billing, marketing and metering, (5.5 per cent)

Note that 66% of the above increases are due to State costs.

Not surprisingly, Mr 72% and the State government do not see things this way. Mr 72% has helpfully replied that it is the State government's business to inform consumers of the Federal government's ‘carbon tax’ but not the State government’s business to tell the consumer that they are compensated by the Federal government because that is the business of the Federal government and not of the State government. It would also seem that those huge price hikes as detailed above – caused by the State government's business with power companies, to do with pricing and infrastructure – aren't anyone's business either as they don't get a mention in his letter. Mmmmmmmm.

A friend has suggested to me that this reads like the plot line of a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera. I believe he is right. It particularly reminds me of the Admiral in HMS Pinafore:

”Stay at your desk and never go to sea…and you could be ruler of the King’s Navy”.
Or to paraphrase: “Ignore all the facts and avoid coming clean…and you could be interviewed by Ray Hadley” Or maybe: “I gold-plated infrastructure so carefully, that now I am the NSW deputy.”

The bottom line is that for those of us who have fought long and hard for effective action on climate change, this manipulative political message is offensive, to say the least. The studied ignorance of Mr 72% and his government cronies is offensive. Their aim is not to address climate change. Their aim is not preserve our planet from the catastrophe now being grimly predicted by climate scientists. No, their aim is no higher than scoring cheap political points at the expense of our world and our children.

Tonight John and I attended the annual concert and dinner for our church’s children’s club. We sat at a table with a pleasant young couple and their two children. Someone at one point commented on the weather being hot, as you do at such events. The little girl, who is about 8 years old, informed me that the hot weather was NOT climate change. She was emphatic that there was no climate change.

Despite what some people may think, I am not given to arguing with 8 year olds who can only be parroting what they are taught by their parents (who did not contradict her). Those parents are being taught well by the National Party and their ilk, aided and abetted by News Limited, Fox News, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones.

Mr 72%, the people of this electorate voted for you in good faith. They expect you to make the right decisions for them, in terms of their health, their towns and their future. You are meant to represent them, not your party. Playing political games with their future for the short term gain is doing no one any favours, including yourself.

So one day I really hope you have the grace to be ashamed of yourself. I hope that you come to the full realisation that the sneaking partisan actions of you and your colleagues, aided by the parrot and the budgerigar of 2GB radio, may have devastating consequences far beyond which party is in power in the Federal arena.

Ignoring the science and the problem will not make it go away. Not only will it not mitigate the effects, but it will delay vital adaption strategies, that will adversely affect our water supplies and the land we rely on to produce food.

Do we want a clean energy future or not? Heck, do we want a future? The 4 degree warming predicted now by climate scientists is a grim scenario of species extinctions, floods, droughts, extreme weather events and decreasing food and water. Not to mention climate refugees from low lying nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Climate change is taking place before our eyes. Time for our politicians – all of them – to take off those partisan spectacles and replace them with for-the-common-good-glasses.

Time in fact, to stand up and be counted, all of us, all of you.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Honi soit qui mal y pense: shame to him who thinks evil.

While I know this is being written a little bit after the event, I still think the accusation of misogyny against Tony Abbott is still worth exploring. What is bothering me the most is that males keep wanting to define ‘misogyny’ as the attitude of someone who hates women.

Many otherwise respectable interviewers have bought into this debate. Tony Jones on Lateline kept asking Wayne Swan whether he agreed Tony Abbott was a women-hater. Many less respectable journalists have done the same thing - Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and Paul Sheehan all ranted and raved about it. And whenever I raise it (in context) on Facebook, people – men – want to correct me, direct me to dictionaries and sneeringly tell me I do not know what the word means.

As it happens, I do know what misogyny means. I also know that language evolves, something that my erstwhile male friends apparently do not.

Mike Secombe, in Word of the day (12 October 2012 points out that the word has changed its etymology. He quotes the Oxford English dictionary, and New York Times writer on language, the late William Safire. Safire says: “The word misogyny has since its earliest recording in 1656 meant “hate or contempt for women.” The etymology of misogyny is straightforward: In Greek, miso means “hatred,” and gune means “woman.” A misogynist is a woman-hater. When I looked up the word … in the Oxford English Dictionary online, however, I noted that the meaning of misogynist had changed, slightly but significantly. In 1989, the definition was “hatred of women”; in the 2002 revision, the definition was broadened to “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”

Julia Gillard correctly labeled Abbott a misogynist. He has clearly displayed prejudice against women when he said, on various occasions, gems such as: “if men have more power generally than women, is that a bad thing?”
Or that men might be “by physiology and temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command.”

Abbott also challenged the “assumption” that women’s under-representation in positions of public power was “a bad thing”.

Secombe asks whether we should call this evidence of prejudice against women. I certainly think it is, so Abbott is, by definition of the Oxford English Dictionary and William Safire, a misogynist.

So why do otherwise rational men wish to leap to Tony Abbott’s defence?
I have discovered the answer to this. They all must have been reading the opinion of that unlamented and aging zealot of left wing politics, Bob Ellis.
In Sydney University’s newspaper Honi Soit, one Michael Koziol (October 17, 2012) interviewed this poor excuse of a man on how he viewed the world, the universe, the past and women. It was eye opening. Like Mary in the gospel of Luke, Michael Koziel waited breathlessly at the feet of the master or pearls of wisdom to be dispensed like manna from heaven.

For my part, I have to say Bob Ellis actually gives misogyny a really bad name. Misogyny would do well to disassociate itself from Bob Ellis. Misogyny is a pleasant state of being compared to the raging pot of bitter cynicism that is Bob Ellis. But I digress. Let us examine the article, which you can find at

Bob Ellis is introduced as a writer. He may have been one once, even a good one. Apparently he even blessed the hallowed pages of Honi Soit, becoming editor in 1963.
Bob deplores the change in university life. What, no alcohol in the Union after 7? This is tantamount to the death of civilization. This alone guarantees the death knell of all creativity.

But this is not what weighs most heavily on his mind. Instead, it is the events in Canberra, including the now famous Gillard speech against Abbott, that has colonized his brain.

Ellis argues that forcing Slipper from the Speaker’s position sets ‘a scary and dangerous precedent'.

I now quote from the article:
The implication of his persecution, Ellis says, means that “two billion males who have derided the female part and are still living must be removed from their jobs”. The hysteria and the overreaction stem from what Ellis calls “wowser feminism”, and it incurs a wrath he might have once reserved for old enemies like John Howard.

“It’s a threat to everything. It has thus far destroyed the world by impinging on the electoral chances of Al Gore through the unhidden scandal of the blowjobs of Bill Clinton. Gore would not let Clinton, as he begged, campaign in Arkansas, which was then lost.

“The Gore presidency would have saved the world from global warming [but] wowser feminism destroyed the Gore presidency. And it may do worse. It’s horrible.”
So there you have it, fellow females. Those of us who are feminists are to blame not only for the miserable Slipper’s demise, but also for the fact that global warming continues checked.

In case you think this is not enough to be blamed for, Ellis goes on to blame ‘wowser feminism’ for the destruction of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the European Union. The woman he coerced into sex was obviously a fascist plant. Ellis sums it up:

“So wowser feminism has firstly destroyed the world, secondly the world economy, and now it’s coming after Australian freedom of speech.”
Ellis also doesn’t think Tony Abbott is a sexist. Mmmmmm. Apparently it is OK to stand in front of signs that say ‘ditch the witch’ and Gillard is ‘Bob Brown’s bitch’ and not be seen as encouraging sexist behavior.

Gillard, of course, has asked for this. After all, says Bob, “she’s never been to a play, she’s rarely been to a film with subtitles, she hasn’t read a novel since she was 18”. Says it all really. How much unfit can she be?
And there is that other dreadful woman of power across the sea, Hillary Clinton. Ellis describes the Clinton of 2008 as being of “towering frigidity”, describing her as “a stranger to consistency, sincerity and (at a guess) oral sex”. And Bob would know, wouldn’t he? Never mind about Hillary’s husband’s infidelity, Hillary was “frigid”.

Apparently Bob has also questioned how serious the allegations of sexual harassment are in those hallowed halls of the Australian Defence Force Academy.
“Women, it seems, are tough enough for service on any battlefront but not tough enough to be peeked at in the shower,” he wrote.

Of course, Bob knows about this as well. His polite and respectful descriptions of women in public have earned him the right to make such remarks. What would we women do without Bob to tell us we deserve to be peeked at in the shower? These remarks have really contributed to the debate about sexism. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just get back to my kitchen and start knitting those saucepans once more (see earlier blog).

The gallant author of the piece thinks that Ellis’ critics are wrong to see him as a misogynist. “This is a serious charge that demands serious evidence”, says young Michael. “How fair is it also for a younger generation to condemn an elder for not subscribing to the absolutist feminism of today?” he continues.
I would say absolutely fair. Bob Ellis’ views are appalling. Does he seriously believe that women, who he has blamed for destroying the world via global warming, the world economy, and Australia’s freedom of speech, will take him seriously and not see him as a misogynist?

Well, just in case you missed the point, Bob, let me tell you. I completely reject the notion put forward by yourself that “wowser” feminism is “destroying the world”. I totally reject responsibility for the economic problems of the European Union. And all feminism’s fault there is global warming? Oh, please. Let’s not talk about the companies with fossil fuels interests, and the politicians who support them. Let us blame all those nasty feminists, who through their wanting to reject sexism, and abuse of power, violence against women, and who are demanding a decent and civil society, are clearly destroying the very fabric of our world as we know it. Bob Ellis, you give even misogyny a bad name.

To come back to where I started. You go, Julia Gillard. You articulated what many women have experienced and felt, and were not able to respond to. You touched a nerve in our collective psyche, about bullying, sexism and creepy men like Bob Ellis who think because they are men they can get away with their offensive and misogynistic remarks.

I really don’t care about Peter Slipper’s sleazy schoolboy texts. But I do care about women being seen as equals. Despite the criticism she copped from the press, I felt Julia Gillard did defend women and their right to be heard, to hold positions of power, to be themselves. Now if only her male colleagues could follow suit.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mocking God? When religion and poltics don't mix

I have always thought that religion has a duty to interfere with politics: to critique policies, to challenge unfair legislation and to keep governing bodies honest. I particularly associate Christianity and Jesus’ teaching with this idea, in that I believe Jesus challenged the oppressive social, religious and political structures of his day and stuck up for the least of our world.

I now find myself wondering about the mix of religion and politics. Not that I have changed my mind, but with the lunatic right wing Christianity in America seeking to influence more and more government policy and to impose their world view on others, I am wondering how one differentiates “good” interference in government from “bad”.
If I believe that abortion is morally and religiously wrong, for example, do I have a right to impose this on other women who hold a different world view? I would have said no, but then I am not a right wing, conservative fundamentalist.

I have been prompted into this line of thought due to events up here in National Party heartland over the last week. Our local member’s wife has found herself in the spotlight thanks to a number of interesting tweets she has recently made.
Mrs 72% is usually fairly quiet in the media, apart from some ‘what is like to be the State member’s wife and what do you do in your spare time’ type of interviews. From reading these, I know she attends a Pentecostal church, raises her five children, and has an online fashion business as a hobby. She supports her husband in his important work. She also until recently had a Twitter account. And recently, she was pretty busy with her Twitter account.

Mr 72% is currently the Deputy Premier of NSW and the Trade Minister. When not kissing babies and attending 90 year old ladies’ birthday parties, presumably he attempts to help govern NSW and woo overseas business.

This last enterprise would appear to have been compromised by his wife’s recent tweets, where she questioned US first lady Michelle Obama's religious beliefs due to Mrs Obama's membership of a US political group for women.

"How does Michelle Obama, who is a member of Emily's List, say God Bless and mean it...," tweeted Mrs 72%.

Having looked up Emily’s List, the answer for Mrs Obama probably is because she supports equality for women, which is the group’s fundamental aim. As part of this aim, they believe in reproductive freedom for women. I assume this is Mrs 72%’s problem, as this would probably include abortion. No room for true religious belief here then.

So asking God to bless people is fine, unless of course, you are a feminist, or believe in equality of the sexes, or you perhaps are a deviant atheist, or just one of those despicable people who worship the wrong god.

This last idea was also the subject of some of Mrs 72%’s tweets, during the Moslem demonstrations in Sydney last September over the silly movie about Islam released in the US.

The divisive retweets by Cathy Stoner included: ''A MESSAGE TO ALL MUSLIMS THAT THREATEN AUSSIES?! If you don't like our freedom/democracy GO BACK TO WHERE U CAME FROM!!!!''

Another stated: ''Muslims can have 4 wives, stoning, beheading, genital mutilation, honour killings all in the name of Allah? Yep, religion of peace, I get it.''
Another message on her Twitter feed declared the ''Multiculturalism experiment is dead". Another stated: "Six boats this weekend … Needs no comment."

It would appear that God mostly loves those who are Christian, white Australians and possibly bigots, just like Mrs 72%. No room for inclusiveness, acceptance or even tolerance here. Forget welcoming the stranger in case you fail to entertain angels. Understanding and compassion and forgiveness appear to be missing in action. Could this be why Western Christianity is in decline?

Mrs 72% has also taken aim at the local Independent Federal Member, Rob Oakeshott, claiming he ''abused the trust of…constituents'' by choosing not to vote against the then speaker Peter Slipper on the floor of Parliament. Mr Oakeshott and the independent MP Tony Windsor persuaded Mr Slipper to quit in return for their vote against the Opposition’s motion to dump him, allowing him to resign and retain some dignity. I for one, would describe this as a compassionate response to an untenable situation.

It is hard to know how this constitutes his abuse of trust of his constituents. As an independent, Mr Oakeshott has shown on many occasions that he does not operate by political allegiances. Surely it is rather Mrs 72% that has the political and ideological allegiances. Mr Oakeshott presumably should have voted with the Liberal/National Party, demonstrating the same allegiances as she has.

But as he did not phone each and every constituent to canvass the opinion of all, including herself, perhaps it is inevitable that Mrs 72% went on to accuse him of mocking God.

"You were put there for a reason. God will not be mocked," she tweeted.

Mmmmm. I am not sure I am following this. How does the support of Mr Slipper to resign with dignity mock God? Did not Jesus tell us to love our enemies, forgive 70 times 7, and offer love and compassion to all? So how is compassion for Slipper and his predicament, yet coupled with the desire to have the right outcome achieved, mocking God?

A very surprised Mr Oakeshott responded: "This is a surprise tweet, and very unexpected. Trolls maybe, but partners of deputy premiers?? You accuse me of mocking God???"

“Wife. Not partner” was the response. OK. At least we have established, then, that unlike the Prime Minister (according to Tony Abbott), this is an honest woman.

So far so good, but problematically, we come to Rob Oakeshott's reported response:
"When people associated with high office in Australia and the trade and investment portfolios in NSW, start trolling the first lady of the United States, the debate in Australia has gone off the page,'' Mr Oakeshott said. "I don't know whether she truly believes that god doesn't like Michelle Obama or me but I look forward to her explanation."

Note that ungodly reference here to a lower case god. It's 'God' to Mrs 72%, but it's 'god' to Mr Oakeshott. A Freudian slip, surely, and no mere typo. This tweet clearly establishes him as pagan. Never mind his claim that the debate has gone off the page, or the implied difficulties this might cause her husband. Rob Oakeshott is clearly godless, and she will be suspicious of him from now on. He is obviously a corrupt vassal in an evil empire that does not represent her or her world view accurately. The corollary to this is that she believes that hers is a world view that everyone should share.

Not unsurprisingly, Mr 72% has defended his wife's right to speak her mind. She is, after all, a constituent of Mr Oakeshott.

"My wife is an individual entitled to her own opinion,'' he said.

"Like a lot of people in Mr Oakeshott's electorate, she obviously feels betrayed by him and his support of the Federal Labor/Green government and its disastrous policies, including the carbon tax."

Right. So the carbon tax is at the bottom of this tirade from his wife. Of course. Everything that goes wrong in this country is blamed, by the Opposition, on the carbon tax. How though, the carbon tax extends to America’s First Lady is more complex, and harder to tease out. Does he suspect Obama of wanting one too?

But then Mr 72% goes on to say: "I am a public figure and will defend what I say and do, but she will not be commenting."

Damn right she won’t. Her Twitter account has been deleted. And I am sure that it will stay that way. No more potential diplomatic stresses for her husband. From now on, he will do the talking. Mrs 72%, you have put women’s rights – including your own - back 100 years. Thanks a lot.

I wonder if she sees the irony of criticising the First Lady, a woman who would have championed her right to have a point of view, a point of view that publicly at least, will in all probability no longer be expressed.

I wonder if she sees the irony in worshipping a saviour that championed the oppressed, the sinners, the tax collectors and the unforgiveable, and who freely forgave those who acted in an unrighteous manner. Or who was himself a refugee in another country that practiced a different religion.

Perhaps, Mrs 72%, it is time to really read that bible of yours, to put aside the political ideology and to recognise what Jesus stood for, and the people whom he championed. It wasn’t the rich, or the people in power, but those who were down trodden and oppressed by the purity and harshness of the right wing religion of the day. It was the sick, the sinners and the racial outcasts like Samaritans that Jesus’ upheld.

Surely as Christians, we mock God if we aspire to any less oursleves.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Musing on an ecological economy: why creation groans

Below is a sermon I delivered today, entitled “A Reflection on a Green Economy”. I acknowledge here my free use of the resources provided on Uniting World’s website. I am particularly indebted to the resources provided on this website of Dr Clive W Ayre. Unfortunately, his words and mine have become so intertwined I found it hard to extract either cleanly. So apologies to Dr Ayre, and I trust he will not be too displeased with my use of his ideas. I also sourced the memo from former World Bank economist Lawrence Summers from Ross Smillie's excellent book Practising Reverence.

I reproduce my refelction here because I am really tired of the “economy” apparently determining everything. It doesn’t. Nor should it. There are other measures of life and well-being we need to consider. In this spirit of anti-economism, I make the following theological and biblical offering.

Today has been set aside in the Uniting church as the time to celebrate World Environment Day. This day was established by the United Nations in 1972 to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action. In this reflection, some of the material I will be is from UnitingWorld’s resources, and written by
The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All and the theme for World Environment Day this year is Green Economy: Does it include you?

Should the idea of economy include Christians? What do the economy, the environment and the bible have to say to each other? As it happens, they do speak to each other on a number of levels. God’s spirit is at work in humanity, in nature, in creation. And God requires that we practice justice and have reverence for all life.
This means that Christians have a responsibility to explore biblical understandings of justice, and how this is carried out. The Christian tradition is clear about the dangers of pursuing wealth to the exclu¬sion of all other things, and the bible is clear that resources are to be shared and carefully used. Secondly, acknowledging the sacredness of the earth is central to the vision of how God calls us to live together, both with each other and our environment on this planet.

In the last two centuries, some unfortunate trends have developed as to how we measure what is good. The natural environment, in the eyes of many, has become just a resource to be exploited, with little thought for immediate and future consequences. Alongside of this, we find people’s value measured primarily in terms of their financial assets. The best way I can demonstrate this is to show you a short video. It was filmed in the Niger Delta, an oil-rich place that Western oil companies have been drilling for some years. It is the home to many thousands of indigenous people, who have lived on this land for many thousands of years. They live on it, and farm it for their food. This youtube video shows what most of it now looks like. Amnesty International has produced this clever parody of Shell’s own publicity, to expose their hypocrisy. See it here at:

As you can see in this short film, the environment is ruined for those who live there. They will never benefit from the wealth generated by the oil. Their land, their crops and they themselves are not valued in this economy. Shell Petroleum has consistently refused to spend money to clean up the mess they have made. The people of the Niger just aren’t important to them. In this economy, the poor black people do not matter. In this economy, the cost of restoring the degradation and ruin to the environment is not counted.

What is measured as good is the price of the oil. If we just look at what we call a resources boom, then the economy looks good. If we count the true cost of getting and using those resources, then we have a large problem. The problem with this standard Western way of judging whether the economy is good is that no one is counting the damage as part of the cost.

You have all probably heard of the World Bank, an organisation which is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programs.

The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty. According to the World Bank's Articles of Agreement (as amended effective 16 February 1989) all of its decisions must be guided by a commitment to promote foreign investment, international trade and facilitate capital investment. In 1991, the chief economist at the World Bank, a man named Lawrence Summers, encouraged the placing of dirty industries in developing nations.

The reasons he gave for this were lower wages and lower costs associated with potential health problems workers may develop. He issued a memo saying “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest waged country is impeccable and we should face up to that”.

This memo was leaked and Summers later issued an apology, but we cannot fail to perceive that this economic vision made one class of people far less valuable than another, and showed a callous attitude to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on our planet, not to mention the way the environment itself would suffer from the threatened toxic waste. And we can see Summers’ comment played out in places like the Niger delta. Surely the Christian church needs to find a voice and protest against such injustice.

It is not just that so-called good economics comes at the price of water and clean environment for the people who live in this region. The Christian Church has a particular calling to re-vision a much more holistic view of how we see and use God’s world, and how we look after the life that God has created on our planet. If we see the whole world and everything in it as the house of God, we may be more likely to treat everything and everyone with dignity and respect.

I am thinking that we often assume that only humankind, or perhaps even the Church, constitutes the house of God. But this is not the way scripture sees it. Psalm 24 states in verse 1 that the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it, and in our call to worship from Psalm 104 we have recalled the care with which God looks after all his creatures. The Genesis 9 covenant with Noah we heard read today clearly includes not just human life, but all life. Humans are part of the web of creation; we are part of life in the biosphere known as planet earth and we are reliant on it. Our health can only be good if the planet’s health is good. Our economy can only be considered good when all people are benefitting from it. And we need to find other ways of measuring what is good for us – the development of the ‘economy’ as we know it in financial terms should be but one measure.

Instead of just having economies associated with ‘growth’ and ‘progress’, we also need to measure things like people’s happiness, their satisfaction with life, how long they live, and how much of what they consume impacts on the life and health and happiness of others.

We need to value the things that cannot be counted, such as the beauty of a wilderness, river or forest. We need to put a price on clean water and fertile soil. Because poor people, ecosystems and animals are not able to pay, their rights and well-being are not seen as important in our current system. Consumer choices and economic growth should not be the only measure of good stewardship and well-being. Surely God intended us to treat our neighbours everywhere fairly and with love, and his creation with care.

I want to share with you now another example of what happens when Western mining companies move into areas populated by poor, black people. The description on this video introduces the topic as :

Nestled between the blackened pits of the TATA and CCL coal mines, the community of Ramgarh district in the state of Jharkhand has been left without access to basic drinking water. Before the mining companies came in, water was accessed by digging a mere 6-8 feet below the ground but now the deepest wells, about three to five times the depth, are running on empty. Continuous mining has dried out the traditional community wells. While the groundwater is being spirited away, rain water has no chance to replenish the falling water table. The rains collect and stagnate with the pollutants in the mining pits.

You can watch the video here:

It may not surprise you to learn that the Uniting Church has a policy on these issues. In July 2009, the Uniting Church Assembly adopted the statement, An Economy of Life: Re-imagining hu¬man progress for a flourishing world. The statement calls on Australian governments to:
... develop economic systems and structures which recognise that human and ecologi¬cal flourishing require much more than the creation of wealth by ensuring that public policy seeks to address first and foremost the wellbeing of all people, especially those most vulnerable and the environment.

The kind of economic system the Uniting Church is upholding is often referred to as a ‘green economy’. This name recognises that until recently when we’ve been thinking about our economy, we’ve only considered it from the perspective of financial and material growth. Referring to a green economy helps us to remember that a healthy economy is one that is sustainable, benefits all people and respects the sacred gift which is God’s good creation. The principles of a green economy include a commitment to the common good, equitable use and distribution of resources and a belief in the importance of the integrity of creation.

A green economy recognises that unlimited growth on a finite planet is not possible. We need to re-imagine these terms to see ‘progress’ and ‘growth’ as the flourishing of all life, rather than the accumulation of wealth by a few at the expense of the many. Progress needs to be seen in terms of the bringing about of the reign of God so we see a world that is more just, equitable, respectful, compassionate and loving. If members of God’s family continue to suffer because some of us are taking too much or many of God’s wild creatures continue to experience the threat of mass extinctions, we are not growing a more holistic household of God on our planet.

Jesus gave us a Gospel that should be good news for all the Earth. He called on everyone to bring good news to the poor, free the oppressed, and announce the year of the Lord’s favour, which means release from debt. If we continue to destroy the environment that many of our most poor and oppressed peoples depend on to live for the sake of a few Western companies gaining tremendous wealth, or for the sake of our own comfortable lifestyles, then we cannot say we are following these commands of Jesus with any integrity.

And in the light of the covenant God made with Noah, we need to understand that ‘salvation’ should be seen as extending beyond human beings to include the creation itself. The development of a green economy needs to be understood in the context of the understanding that creation, all creatures great and small and their habitats, as well as all people, are equally important and should be cherished by God’s faithful servants – us. It is essential for us to revise and broaden our definition of economy to include the natural world and defy any attempt to put a dollar-only value on it. We should value it because it is God’s good creation, not because of its monetary worth.

As church we have a responsibility to re-imagine the world that God created in a more holistic sense, and contribute to designing systems and structures that help us live together in ways that take the whole into account. We are at a critical point in history, facing some con¬siderable challenges including the damaging effects of human-induced climate change, the depletion of cheap abundant energy and a global food shortage. These challenges are global and they are connected to each other as both cause and consequence. They are the results of social, political and economic systems that have come to do more harm than good; systems built on values of greed, power and materi¬alism. We have developed a global economic system that is now diminishing, rather than improving our capacity to live sustainably on our planet.

I am going to leave the last word today with Paul in the letter to the Romans. Paul speaks of creation groaning, waiting to be delivered; and as we wait, he encourages us to overcome fear. This raises a good question for us: do we, as a nation, make our decisions about resources and resource sharing, based on fear of doing without, or do we make them according to the gospel of the one who called us to love our neighbours and to give without expecting any reward in return?

The Christian life is not judged by comfort and prosperity and reward by God - especially not financially - but by suffering with Christ. It is a challenging message. Our initial question asked whether we saw ourselves as part of a Green Economy. I hope that we, as the Uniting Church, can re-image a world where creation is treated with respect and all peoples are seen as equal, and that "green" will be seen as meaning also fair and sustainable and just. And I hope that by doing so, we can ensure the future of our planet and its fragile ecosystems for the grandchildren and great grand children of all the peoples of the earth.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

When the sacred and secular collide: contemplating ANZAC

Tomorrow, on 25 April, much of Australia will stop what it is doing, and in religious ceremonies all over the country, will observe Anzac Day - a day which is increasing described as the most sacred day in our national calendar.

It has also been described as the day that best describes the nature of our national character. Even for those who don’t normally participate in the worship life of the Church, Anzac Day is the day where many of the public gather in reverent public rituals or liturgies. At shrines, memorials and monuments in every town and municipality across the country, people gather to remember and honour the fallen, and to honour and express gratitude to those who survived and can participate in marches.

I remember as a small child going to the Anzac march in Newcastle with my grandfather, who has served in the 12th Light Horse in Palestine in WW1. This would be followed with beer and two up (though not by me I hasten to add!) in the Merewether RSL. I also remember ceremonies at my school, where at a certain time we would all stop, go out into the playground, and recite the ode and sing the recessional hymn. While I was struck with the hushed solemnity of both march and service, I am not sure I really understood exactly what it was all about. While feeling sorry for soldiers who had died, the ceremony was little more than a solemn religious occasion which I was required to take part in once a year.

What is it about this day that makes it ‘sacred’? What do the public mean when they speak of some of the larger memorials as ‘shrines’? Why is that we find bible verses inscribed at these monuments and shrines? In an increasingly secular and atheistic society, why do more and more people – particularly young people – gather each year at religious services?

The war memorial in Hyde Park is a great example of a place where the sacred and secular collide in an outstanding way. For those of you who have not seen it, the shrine itself is in the style of classical architecture and its only inscription, “Let silent contemplation be your own only offering” is from the Greek leader Pericles. The first thing to note is that it is called a ‘cenotaph’, which is NT Greek for ‘empty tomb’. Already in the name, we find the Christian idea of resurrection subtly woven into the structure. At the centre of this ‘empty tomb’ is a sculpture called ‘The Sacrifice’. It comprises a bronze group of sculptures depicting the recumbent figure of a young warrior who has made the supreme sacrifice; his naked body lies upon a shield which is supported by three womenfolk, representing his mother, wife or lover and sister. In the arms of one is a child, representing the future generations for whom the sacrifice has been made. You can see it at

The group rises phoenix-like from symbolic flames of sacrifice, which radiate from the base. The women represent the living — the soldier the dead. He signifies the past — they hold the future in the child one of them carries. Together the figures are meant to embody the abstract concept of sacrifice. The description tells us that the figures are welded together structurally into one form, so they also represent a complex unity signifying national sacrifice. The figure of the young man is clearly cruciform, and evokes the cross of Jesus.

Rayner Hoff, the sculptor, intended two other figures to be placed in the memorial. One, called The Crucifixion of Civilisation, was denounced by the church. It depicts a naked female figure on a cross representing peace, with a pyramid of broken soldiers, corpses, weapons, helmets, and the debris of battle at the foot. Hoff described the symbolism of his central figure: "Adolescent Peace is depicted crucified on the armaments of the ravisher, the war god, Mars."

This monument, had it ever been built, would have undoubtedly contradicted the glorification of war. Interestingly, it was opposed primarily by the Catholic church of the day, who denounced it as “only fit for Protestants”. You can make of that what you will! The National War Memorial in Adelaide is similar. On the front, the figure within the arch represents the spirit of Duty, bearing in its hands a sword shaped as a cross. This figure is the vision seen by the group standing on the stage in front. Also like the Hyde Park memorial, we have a depiction of the aftermath of war on the reverse wall. Another winged spirit is depicted in the arch, but this time it symbolises the attributes of womanhood, and reminiscent of the Pieta, the spirit carries on its left arm the limp figure of a dead hero, while in its right hand it holds a cross-like sword.


In other less dramatic memorials around the country we find quotations from the bible, the most popular being John “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Such memorials are frequently described as sacred places, and often have a small daily service, invoking ritual and religion for those who are present.

The feeling of sacrifice that permeates Anzac Day surely can only be explained by its conscious and unconscious references to the sacrifice of Jesus. Hence on Anzac day, we find the non-church going public willing to speak of fallen soldiers as making the ultimate sacrifice. Canon David John Garland, the man credited with the instigation of the modern Anzac day in the early 1920s, described it thus: The memorial in its noble dignity proclaims, as befits a Christian people, the great sacrifice of Calvary; and unites therefore the sacrifice of those who also laid down their lives for their friends. Its inscription is no less dignified than the memorial itself: Their Name Liveth for Evermore…On Anzac Day we gather collectively, and plead for them the Sacrifice of Calvary, to which they united themselves by offering their souls and bodies as a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice, after the example of Him who by word and from the pulpit of the Cross taught that “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Clearly, Jesus’ death and resurrection was related to the meaning of the sacrifice of young lives in war. It was, after all, the death and resurrection of Jesus that made it possible to see any hope at all in the mass slaughter of young men. In Jesus’ sacrificial act on Calvary, and his subsequent resurrection, we see the groundwork for the belief that those who had died defending others would still live on, and their memories would continue to be honoured.

So Anzac day has a theology that is capable of bringing thousands of people in touch with the divine, and it offers them a fleeting experience or encounter with the Godhead, though perhaps not too many who attend would articulate their feelings quite in these terms.

Despite these heavily religious overtones, or even perhaps because of them, Anzac Day commemorations do not always sit comfortably with many Christians. While we recognize the meaning in Jesus’ sacrificial death, we also hear his words when he calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When his enemies came against him with military force, Jesus did not resort to reciprocal violence to defend himself or his cause. He allowed the machinery of might and power to add him to its seemingly endless blood-stained list of sacrificial victims. Jesus gave us no endorsement and no precedent for taking up arms in military conflict.

So where does that leave us on the day when our nation commemorates those who have fought and fallen in war? How do we meet our communities as they attend religious ceremonies to mourn the sacrificial dead? Can we participate in honouring the fallen without betraying the gospel of the Prince of Peace? Does Anzac Day provide us with a bridge into the secular community?

I think it possible, as long as we can resist aspects of the commemoration that have been manipulated to support the system that produced all the killing in the first place. In the verses we have heard from the book of the Revelation (Rev. 7:9-17), we find an enormous crowd, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and languages, gathered before the Lamb who was slain, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches as they worship God with loud voices. And Revelation tells us that this enormous crowd are “they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb?

This is interesting in light of our question, because here we have a great crowd of the fallen, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice of being martyred in the great ordeal. This passage invites us to think about how the vision it presents might connect with the Anzac commemorations. We could go in at least two very different directions with it.

The biblical vision could be used quite uncritically to support the standard Anzac agenda. Here are the great crowd of the glorious fallen gathered before the throne of the God in whose service they laid down their lives in the great ordeal. We could easily connect that with the Anzac Day services and blithely go along with using the honouring of the fallen to reinforce the implied message that the idea of ‘fighting to defend God, King and country’ is indeed a sacred purpose for which one should be prepared to make such a sacrifice.

But honouring the fallen does not require us to swallow the propaganda of war. We can honour the fallen and acknowledge their sacrifice without having to support the system that sacrificed them. We can even hope and pray that those who were killed in war might find their place among the great multitude of white-robed martyrs who worship God before the Lamb who was slain without suggesting that there is some sort of moral equivalence between them and the Lamb. They do have this in common: they are both the sacrificial victims of a system that relied on the notion that some must be sacrificed in order to preserve the security of established interests.

We can honour the memory of those who have been sacrificed in war without having to endorse either the ideologies that they were sacrificed to defend, or the actions by which they defended them. For at the same time as Jesus accepts the worship of the white-robed multitude, he honours them as fellow victims with him and wipes away every tear from their eyes. Far from neglecting their memory, it is in remembering and honouring this multitude of victims that Jesus turns the spotlight of truth on the violent system that demanded their lives.

Perhaps, on Anzac Day, we too can bring these things together. Just as Jesus exposed the systemic oppression of the people and called all to the kingdom of God, so too we can honour the fallen while allowing their memory to raise pertinent questions about the powers that were prepared to sacrifice them. The Great War has often been described as the war to end all wars, and the Christian notion of sacrifice to improve the lot of others seems to have been adopted in this explanation. It is quite likely that those that survived the war across the various nations felt that they owed the fallen a debt of blood, and it was necessary to ensure that the millions had not suffered and died in vain.

The soldiers of the Great War in particular believed that they had laid the groundwork for building a renewed society under God, one that guaranteed justice and equity to all citizens at home and an international order that made the recurrence of such destructive conflict impossible in the future – an ideal that closely parallels the Christian ideal of the Kingdom of God. But anyone who studies history knows that any war appears to only sow the seeds of the next war.

Without resorting to violence, Jesus confronted, challenged and resisted the victim-makers to such an extent that they had to sacrifice him to protect their various interests. He proclaimed love for enemy. When God raised him from the dead and he returned, he appeared to speak powerful words of reconciliation, love, peace and forgiveness.

Perhaps on Anzac Day especially, at the rising of the sun, and at its going down, we should remember the victims of war sacrificed to earthly empires, and remember all those who have become victims of the corruption, madness and greed that characterises our world. As we gather here as the people of God, we should stand with all of the victims, and with all those who have been sacrificed down through the ages. And we should bear witness along with them that the powers of corruption and death can be defeated by the power of love and life, through words of reconciliation, love, peace and forgiveness, spoken not just to our friends, but to our enemies as well. Perhaps then can peace be a real possibility in our world.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The culture of good deeds and morality: why the church has missed the boat – and the point.

There was a very interesting article this week on the Guardian’s Facebook page ( Apparently in the latest instalment of the annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey ( it is clear that most people raised in non-religious households stay non-religious.

The author of the article, Nick Spencer, points out that in the BSA “everyone – 94% to be precise – brought up without religious affiliation in Britain today stays without religious affiliation. Basically, if your parents bring you up outside a faith, you stay outside a faith.” In a nutshell, younger generations by and large are not attending church. Further, the research suggests that since 1983, the number of people self-affiliating to the Church of England has halved, and most of those no longer doing so are not becoming Buddhists or Pentecostals. They are going off and joining the no-religion camp, which has apparently increased from 31% to 50%.
Nick Spencer says that this must read like a nightmare for anyone concerned about the future of the Church of England. I would expand this to say it reads like a nightmare for anyone concerned about the moderate Christian Protestant church in the Western world generally.

There has been a great deal of talk about changing the church, and various new types of church – such as ‘fresh expressions’, ‘mission-shaped’ thingummy bobs, ‘e-merging church’, and other such things – keep popping up as the saviours of the institutionalised Christian faith. The theory behind such things seems to be that if you make church more accessible and interesting then people will be more likely to come along and join in.

This survey would seem to put paid to this idea, in that those surveyed are not interested in religion, be it organised, institutionalised, messy, mission-shaped or in a pub. It isn’t just a case of rejecting old-fashioned church services or values. The younger generation presumably see the church as either a waste of their time, irrelevant or both.

I have to say that watching the American primaries to elect a Republican candidate is enough to turn anyone (including me) off Christianity. The Christian right appear to be advocating for an era somewhere back in the 1950s, with one candidate opposed even to the use of birth control. This group are conservative also in their policies, with no sympathy for the poor or the welfare recipient. They actively discriminate against people on the basis of race, creed and sexual orientation. No wonder younger, thinking, folk look at this group and decide that the church is not for them.

Many denominations still discriminate against women, who form half of the population. This is not exactly attractive to a younger group either.
So where does this leave the institutionalised Christian church? On one level, this research suggests that it will have to change profoundly to tempt non-religious people back into its fold. This may well be a good thing for the Christian church overall. Perhaps it will again become largely a small group movement, meeting in homes or public places.

And where will this leave the paid people of the church? Most of those I know who are ordained or who work as Pastors, etc, like working for the church. Trouble is, without the faithful folk who contribute each week to the workings of the traditional, institutionalised church, there is no income flow, and so presumably no paid workers for the gospel. Surely this would put the continued existence of the church at grave risk in Western countries such as Australia.

So if we want people to be paid and to be set apart to spread the good news, then this research is not good news. What then are we to do?

Nick Spencer poses two questions about the demise of the church.

In the first question he raises, he basically asks where those who claim no religious affiliation will get their morals, ethics and values from. He seems to fear that there may be no "common human values" anymore and that there will be no external moral standards to which people can be called to account.
His second question relates to retention levels in religions, and the likelihood that you will remain affiliated to a certain group if you were brought up in it. He says
For Anglicans and those of other Protestant traditions the figure is a mere 49%. The Catholic church fares a little better, with 62% of those brought up a Roman Catholic staying a Roman Catholic (although how seriously Roman Catholic is, of course, another matter). Better still are those brought up in non-Christian religions (unhelpfully not distinguished in the BSA chapter: it would be good to know how it differed from one minority religious group to another), 87% of whom remain in the faith.

This last would suggest that religion is an important part of culture, something lacking particularly in Anglo society in Western countries.

But I want to return to Spencer’s first question, and tie it to his second. There are plenty of moral people out there in our society who are not religious. Yet they believe in basic justice and human rights. They work through various secular and religious organisations such as Amnesty International and World Vision and Oxfam for refugee justice, to eliminate poverty, to free political prisoners and so on. They support GetUp! and other groups committed to challenging political and social injustice. They marched for peace, and supported reconciliation with our indigenous peoples. They try and protect what is left of our old growth forests and endangered species. They are, in fact, with their time and money, supporting organisations that are doing the work of the church, and carrying out the teaching of Jesus.

And so to Spencer’s second question: many Australians actively foster a culture of being generous, fair minded and prepared to make the effort to right many of the wrongs they observe. In Spencer’s own words, they see “no need of religious mumbo-jumbo”, and that “there is simply no reason why those brought up outside a religion should want to enter it”, particularly if their moral compass leads them to actively espouse and work for values of justice and fairness.

So why are these people, culturally inclined to such good works, not filling our churches, the places where such a culture of good works based on the ministry and teaching of Jesus should be found? Partly it is to do with the religious Christian right, as mentioned above. There is plenty of research showing they are not attractive to thinking young people; and because they get the headlines, all Christians become tarred with their brush.

I am also inclined to believe that we in the churches have become more concerned about form than substance; more interested in rhetoric than action; and so in terms of the larger issues of society, we have become more inwardly concerned than outwardly focussed. As a result, thinking, moral people have found other groups to join and other places to be. Like the Pharisees in Matthew, we have “neglected the greater matters of mercy and justice” in favour of worrying about tithing – or its equivalent modern counterpart.

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you can guess what is coming next. When our church starts acting like Jesus, and carrying out his teaching, we will become more attractive to those who seek righteousness in our society. If you are a church person, ask yourself the following questions. When was the last time that your congregation actively stood up for an oppressed group by donating money, writing letters, lobbying the government or gave up using stuff that caused the oppression in the first place? How many of your congregation actively fight for legislation to limit climate change? How many congregation members are concerned about the fate of island nations such as Tuvalu? Is your coffee and tea fair trade? Who made your clothes and what action are you taking against companies who enslave children and pay some of the most vulnerable people in our world tuppence to work in awful conditions? Does the suicide of Indian cotton farmers ensnared in a web of deceit and debt promoted by Monsanto concern you? Have you actively worked for peace in the Middle East? Does the plight of our indigenous peoples concern you? Have you joined a campaign for third world debt to be cancelled?

I could go on and on, as the troubles of our planet are many. My point is that if our churches did even some of these things, passionately, committedly and in accordance with the gospel, then people wouldn’t have to look elsewhere for a group that worked to free the oppressed, bring good news to the poor, and proclaim liberty to the captives. If we recovered this good news and put it into practice, we may even begin to see the year of the Lord’s favour emerging in our own time.