Monthly Archives: May 2016

Migrant Memories

It was more than 60 years ago that I arrived in Australia as a three and a half year old with my parents. My family were escaping from the shortage of jobs and accommodation and were looking for new opportunities. They said goodbye to a cramped attic but also to family – many of whom we would never see again.

It is now 2016 and I am meeting a new set of migrants through a course that I am doing in ESL teaching. The nationalities may be different but many of the stories are the same.  War, a lack of work and a desire for a future  are pushing people to explore new opportunities.

One man, we will call him Ahmed, had to wait for many years until his wife and children could join him. His excitement was uncontainable when they arrived. His eyes glistening with tears of joy and his undimmable smile said it all and more. There is a lady who never had an opportunity for schooling in her own country who is now, as a middle aged woman, exploring education for the first time. The going is tough but she is strong.

For the teacher the going is also tough too. The increments in learning are not big steps but usually small victories. There are the ‘aha’ moments. “Ah! That is what ‘opposite’ means!” There are the struggles with English words  that have multiple meanings. When given instructions “to go past,” verb tenses (yesterday) and assessments (passed) came to mind before the idea of moving from one place to another past the one in the middle.

Language is a means by which we can understand and love our neighbour. What a wonderful gift this is which we can give those fleeing danger and come here and must grapple with a new culture.

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Fish Selling and the Glory of God

A thought from a few years ago that I rediscovered while doing a search on the internet

Travels from Ur

This morning I was listening to excerpts from St Matthew’s Passion by Bach. “Kommt ihr Tochter” (Come ye Daughters). It is a glorious piece of music reflecting on the punishment that the innocent Christ received on our behalf. As with all his music, Bach wrote this for the glory of God. But to do something to the glory of God doesn’t mean it has to be spectacular.

Calvin Seerveld, in his little pamphlet “Christian Workers Unite” speaks of his father as a “seller of fish”. Seerveld describes the haggling over price, the dressing, gutting and cleaning of fish, taking the fish scraps to the dump – he describes, what for most of us, would seem a dirty and unsavoury job. He concludes this anecdote:

Scandinavia (44)My brothers and I at work in the dumps, laughing and struggling, happy to be bodily alive there too: it is like a little hallelujah chorus…

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The Prophetic Imagination 

I have just finished reading Walter Brueggemann’s book “The Prophetic Imagination” (1978, revised 2001). From the outset I want to make it clear that I don’t understand all of it.  His descriptions, allusions and theological ideas left me floundering on more than one occasion.  I found his writing style difficult.  Yet, it is one of the most exciting books I had read in recent times.

Breuggemann’s main thesis is that the prophet’s task is to lead the people in the groans and complaints (grieving) over the current order (which he calls the “royal consciousness”) with its lack of compassion, justice and with its propensity for self-justification and  self-preservation. Positively, the prophetic is called to lead the vision and praise for a new kingdom – a new future led by Jesus himself.

Brueggemann takes us on a journey through the Old Testament, from Moses to Solomon and then onto Jeremiah. He explores the idea that the God in the midst of His people in Moses time had been subsumed to the King’s wishes from Solomon onward.  The “Royal consciousness” of Solomon’s kingdom (much like the arrogance of pharaoh’s royal consciousness) had overrun the alternative community inaugurated by Moses when he led the people out of Egypt.  The prophets’ task then was to grieve for that which had been lost and the kingdom’s deathly future and to herald a new possibility.

Brueggemann says much about the grieving of the prophet for the addiction to the culture of death. This resonated with me.  Because we live in a culture of death at present and we,  like many of our fellow citizens, are blinded to its decay and futility.  The powers of our age with their spin, bread and circuses camouflage the fact that our present social order is toxic and deadly.  Even our churches have taken on many of the attributes of royal consciousness in the way they operate.

This book also made me think about so many issues our society faces – refugees, minorities, aborted children, in fact all those dis-empowered and on the fringe.  His solution however is Christ centred. The answer he discovers from Scripture is a real king and a real kingdom that has been inaugurated and that calls its citizens to both grieve for the present but also energize the new.

Brueggemann also reminded me of the “prophetic” element of the Christian’s “prophet, priest and king” calling. There is the challenge for the body of Christ to be far more grief stricken for that is which is unjust, deadly and flawed in our culture and to proclaim and embrace a more Christ-like vision.

Even though this book has been around for a while I believe it has a particular relevance for our present time. And moreover,  you are probably smarter than I am and can even get more out of it.

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