Something cataclysmic is happening in our country. How do we respond?
The sheer size and devastation occurring across our country due to fire is both unexpected and without precedence. Yes we have always had fires. Yes we have had some big fires before, but this is humongous and devastating and unimaginable and unimagined by each of us no matter what we say with hindsight.
Scientists have been warning us and providing models, some with 2020 as the flashpoint but it seems many did not take them seriously. It appears no-one saw or chose to see this coming. Some saw something but not this. This was not what people, including you and I, expected. How could they? The sheer scale of these fires was unimaginable prior to this moment. One seventh of Victoria is burning or has been burnt; the fires have been burning for 3 months and will possibly burn for another 3 months.
People have lost lives, family members, communities, property, animals and our land has lost its natural habitat and habitants in mind numbing numbers and visuals. It is not just what we have lost in the immediate but what we have lost in the days and years to come.
What are we to do? I suggest:
- We are not play the blame game that is disrespectful to those who have and will lose their lives.
- We are not to play the I told you so game that is simply shifting the responsibility to others.
- We are not to play the if only you had allowed Aboriginal people to do cool burns, that is ignorance of both the practice and the changed ecology of our country.
In the lead up to Jesus baptism, he and John had heard all of those in relation to the situation in Israel. The blame shifting, victim playing antics of people who could not conceive that they were complicit for the situation they found themselves in. John was blunt and said very clearly you all need to recognise your part in this and find a way to change your self and your society so we can begin to build the economy of God in this place. Jesus went and stood amongst those coming for the baptism of repentance and took on a representative role for society.
Just like Jesus baptism, the actions required are not simple or easy. Jesus was required to be self aware and open to the welfare of the other over and above his own conceivable sense of entitlement. It cost him dearly but it did change and offer change to his world and his people.
In some ways these fires could be seen as our collective call to prepare the way for a new epoch of understanding and cooperation with our land and its habitat and with the universe itself. It is perhaps a forewarning of what is yet to come if we do not change how we participate in this place we call Australia.
Can we individually and as a people face the self-assessment we need into how our way of life contributes to the destruction of the natural world? Can we recognise our dependence on fossil fuels, excessive waste, plastics in the air and sea, building in areas prone to natural disasters just because we want to, our obsession with travel and new, ever newer possessions when the old is enough and say enough is enough. Can we honestly make the changes or are we so ingrained with a lifestyle of selfishness that we fear giving it up?
Again this is what John and Jesus was attacking at the river Jordan, what Jesus stood to be a beacon against. Do we as his followers in the 21st century epitomise that or have we moved far away from his ideals we no longer know what to do?
Two things happened recently for me.
- At a funeral recently a pre-teen boy said it was the second funeral he had been to. His parents puzzled asked about the other as they were sure he hadn’t been to another one. He said Jesus funeral. Turns out he had been to a confirmation service in a church with a large cross with Jesus on it and the service appeared to him to celebrate Jesus death. Perhaps we who say we represent Jesus have some work to do, particularly against the background of the crisis facing our country.
- The second was the short prayer service for those affected by the fires we held here on Thursday. There were only three of us although I had had a dream there would be 50 or more. We live streamed the 12-minute service to Facebook. In little over 12 hours it was seen by 250 people and the number is now nearing 600, a lot more than 50. The service itself is been held in churches across the state by others seeking to find meaning in horror.
We do have a role to play. People do want to hear the compassion of an engaged God, an engagement reflecting the participation of Jesus in the baptism in the river Jordan. There has been no funeral for this example of humanity and it is us who are to continue to live him into the world. At this moment there are many committed to compassion and action at work in the midst of this present crisis doing just that, some confess to being a follower of Christ, many others don’t but their selfless actions show they are in tune with his way of being in the world.
The big question is can you, I, and the society we are apart of repent of our past interaction with this land and make the changes necessary for safer habitat for all?