On Monday, bright and early at 7:30am, St Paul’s Manuka hosted the Ecumenical Service marking the commencement of the Parliamentary Year.
Ciru Nganga, from Canberra Baptist Church, was one of the young people who prayed for our nation and politicians, and she did a brilliant job! The text of her prayer is at the bottom of this email.
Rev Dr Sarah Bachelard, Spiritual Director of Benedictus Contemplative Church, spoke, and she was also brilliant.
These last two weeks, we have reflected on the Beatitudes and examined that hard-to-define expression, found only in Matthew’s gospel; “the poor in spirit” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
In her sermon on Monday, Sarah defined the “poor in spirit” as those who had arrived at wisdom, at an “integrated, attentive, compassionate responsiveness”, strangely enough, by way of their heart’s breaking.
“Maybe you know this for yourself,” she said. “A time, perhaps, when a disappointment, failure, betrayal or profound grief threw you out of the life you’d known and had tried to fashion for yourself. A time when your ways of making sense faltered, and you found yourself unable to go on as before. Almost none of us undergoes heart-break willingly. Yet the great paradox is that if we can abide in this broken space without closing ourselves off by becoming bitter or repressed, we wake up at a different level. As the grip of our egoic illusions and fantasies of control loosens, we discover ourselves rooted in deeper ground. And gradually, we come to know ourselves more fully part of an interconnected, interdependent whole, capable of being responsible to the whole. Which is the beginning of wisdom.
…This is what Jesus means by poverty of spirit. And as he says in the text we heard read, it’s the poor in spirit … those who have touched the tears of things … those who walk humbly on the earth … who are blessed. For they are connected to the fullness of life and so are capable of truthful vision, of mercy and of making peace.”
And if you caught the news of the service, you would know Dr Bachelard then connected this definition of wisdom, wisdom arrived at by the “poor in spirit”, to the Statement from the Heart.
“Our nation has received the great gift of a Statement from the Heart of the first peoples of this land. This is a wisdom text. Born of heartbreak – of long and continuing suffering, yet marked by an extraordinary generosity of spirit open to the possibility that the wounds of our history might be reconciled for the good of all – the Statement from the Heart can only truly be heard and enacted when those to whom it is addressed make contact with and listen from their own heart. This is its gift and challenge to us all. The call for a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Constitution is thus not just another policy proposal, to be debated at the level of strategy and argument. As well as a condition of lasting justice for Australia’s first peoples, it’s an invitation to our nation as a whole to grow in wisdom’s way.
At a time when petty factionalism is tearing at the fabric of national and international communities, and the crises of our age escalate, the necessity for wisdom in the government and among the peoples of the world is urgent. May this Parliament, this nation – all of us – grow in wisdom that we may share with justice the resources of the earth, and work together in trust.”
It was a wonderful service and a wonderful message. I pray that we, by engaging our hearts, and listening with our hearts, respond to that invitation to grow in wisdom’s way! Below are the words of Ciru’s prayer.
Grace and peace,
As we gather here today, we thank you for your protection and endless love. We thank you for your guidance in the past year and ask for your continuous guidance in this new year.
Lord, help us be a vessel of your goodness, compassion, and love. Give us the courage to take action and help communities and families who are recovering from recent floods, rebuilding from past fires, and those who continue to be impacted by natural disasters. Give us the wisdom to restore and maintain the environment, the Earth, which you created and gave to us.
Lord, we ask for your healing and protection over the health of our Nation. Help us to care for the most vulnerable, those with disabilities and older generations, our grandparents. Give us the courage to stand up for equality and equity and provide healing to our Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities.
Lord our God, we thank you for helping us get through the most difficult times in the Covid-19 pandemic. We remember all those whose lives were severely impacted by illness, loss of jobs, grief, and trauma, and we remember those who passed away.
As we have entered a time of increased cost of living, help us find ways around these pressures. We surrender to you, Lord, and ask you to pour your grace and comfort on us all.