It’s January 26th today which is a significant day in our national history; a day that has become increasingly difficult to navigate the more complex our nation’s story has become.
I don’t know how you feel about navigating the tensions around Australia Day, but I’ve felt like it’s a challenge that requires more than what’s on offer from the Lamb Council with its vision of an Australia that comes together over a barbecue.
It’s a challenge that requires real wisdom, and it’s interesting that Biblically there’s good reason to think that wisdom starts not with thinking but with listening. When Solomon asks for wisdom in that famous story in 1 Kings chapter 3 he literally asks for a listening heart… a discerning heart…
As we come together on this day that has become polarized and politicized I think we Christians are called to wisdom and called to listen… not just to the voices of those who say what we already think, but to those who have a different perspective to offer. The challenge in understanding Australia Day is a challenge that we face when it comes to understanding Australia; what it means to be Australian. What our story or stories are as a nation.
The 26th of January is a day lots of those stories come together. For some, it’s the start of a new nation — a story worth celebrating because we love our country and our life together. For an increasing number of Aussies it’s a day that marks their being accepted as citizens of this nation — another story worth celebrating; but we also need to listen to the voices of our first nations brothers and sisters and neighbours, for whom the 26th of January marks an invasion and the start of significant atrocities and dispossession where the ongoing impact of those actions are still felt by our nation today not just as scars but as wounds.
It’s a challenge to listen to those stories and not feel convicted that the 26th of January is a conflicted date; a date that causes pain for some Australians. I’ve committed myself to listening to aboriginal Christian leaders in the last few years, and what they are asking us to do to mark this Australia Day is to pray for a change of heart; not a change of date in our nation’s calendar, but that our hearts might be changed in ways that bring real reconciliation.
So let’s recognise that reconciliation doesn’t happen over a lamb barbecue, but through the lamb who was slain and raised from the dead to reconcile all things in him.
We confess that we do not always seek to listen well to others. We pray that you might grant us listening hearts. Wisdom that comes from seeking understanding. We pray that we might not be ignorant of history; or live as though ignorance is bliss, but that we might seek the truth, that we might do that by listening to others.
We thank you for the richness of this land; for your gift of life here to us. We thank you for much of what we love about our life together. We thank you for the way some of us have been brought in to citizenship; welcomed in our community. We confess that our nation does not always do this well, and there are some in our church community for whom there is a particular grief on this day that while this land might be their home, our government will not extend the welcome of citizenship or belonging to them; we pray that they might continue to know belonging and welcome with us, and citizenship in your kingdom as their ultimate home.
We thank you for the peace and prosperity we enjoy; but we recognise that this peace and prosperity has come at the expense of others and so we pray for wisdom to know how to generously seek reconciliation and justice for those who have been dispossessed and disadvantaged by our nation’s violent history.
We pray that we might listen to the voices of our first nation’s people and seek wise and loving reconciliation — we know that justice alone is not enough, but rather we pray that you would enable us to wisely seek loving solutions to our nation’s multiple stories that bring genuine reconciliation between people. We know that you placed our first nations neighbours in this land to steward it, and that it was taken from them and that this injustice has been compounded by violence, by the stolen generation, by stolen wages, and by ongoing inequalities that flow from the possession and dispossession of wealth in our nation. We pray for reconciliation and for justice. We would love to see real change not just for the sake of our indigenous sisters, brothers, and neighbours — but for our nation whose national story and identity has not yet come to terms with this history. We see that conflict play out year by year and we confess that at times our sinful and hard hearts perpetuate this brokenness and that we need changed hearts and reconciled relationships.
We know that ultimately this reconciliation happens through the blood of the lamb, and so we pray that our community of redeemed people who have been reconciled to you might be a model of what a reconciled nation might look like. That we might come together as people with different stories; different ideas; different ethnic backgrounds; different politics; who have the same mind, the mind of Christ, and the same citizenship — citizenship in heaven secured in Jesus, and model a community; a kingdom; built on the reconciling work of Jesus; the lamb who was slain.
We pray that we might forgive one another well; that we might bear with one another in love; but also that we might be prepared to sacrifice the abundant gifts you have given us for the sake of those who have less than we do. We pray that you might change the hearts of many in our nation to bring restoration, healing and peace where there is injustice, hurt, and conflict, and that you might do this as we walk together in wisdom, with listening hearts.
We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.