The Coming of the Light
The first of July is a day of great celebration for the church of the Torres Strait. It’s the date of the arrival of Christian missionaries at Darnley Island on 1 July 1871, bringing the light of Christ to the Torres Strait. Greater realism surrounds this event today, knowing that the missionaries who brought this Gospel of light also held an overlay of cultural and racial bias, misunderstanding and superior attitude. Anyone who saw the three-part ABC documentary on the history of the Torres Strait will now realise the devastation of that ‘civilising gospel’. There are mixed opinions about the introduction of the Christian religion to the Straits. While we might blame the wider culture and economy for this exploitation of these indigenous Australians – exploitation of fishing, pearling and beche-de-mer (sea slug), inequitable wages even when in the armed forces! – Christians were also complicit. But we ought to stand with the Torres Strait Islander community and their very real cause for celebration. We need to celebrate with them and to listen to them. That light of Christ is now shining more deeply and bringing awareness of a very real need for metanoia by the white Church and white Australia more generally. The work of Eddie Mabo is a case in point that has affected the very foundations of the nation’s story. The now well-known Mabo decision of High Court exposed the legal fiction of terra nullius. The great insights of the Light are the truths of God among these people including their spiritual insights about the land and the sea. Our church has now gained a fuller, richer, deeper revelation of God. There are lessons here also for our conscious daily walk with God. The mystery of who we are, and who God is are intertwined. And without our willingness to be attentive to those around us we miss those intimate signals from God that are given in daily life. We hone this spiritual openness and awareness by simple daily practices of prayer and meditation, and by our reading and exploring the history and lives of those who are our neighbours. All this is about taking time to be with God. Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life. (John 8.12) Prayers:
Eternal God, the light of the minds that know you, the joy of the hearts that love you, and the strength of the wills that serve you: grant us so to know you that we may truly love you, so to love you that we may truly serve you, whose service is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. (after Augustine of Hippo CE43)