ngiyanggarang – the voice
jesus is god spoken
honoring the country of
his father and his mother
speaking truth into each
from the other
jesus the christ
is god’s voice
into the realm of humanity
into the realm of god
jesus the christ
is the sovereignty of God
with the sovereign people
of god’s creation
the incarnated christ
becomes the voice of
at the throne of god
interceding on our behalf.
honored In both places
in both realms
each speaking truth to the other
to bring wholeness
Cleansing to all.
Salt, Light & Voice
Matthew 5:13-20,Isaiah 58:1-9a
Last week we explored the place of Voice in our liturgy and the relationship between the Statement from the Heart, which we read, and the Beatitudes, the seminal section of the Sermon on the plain.
This week we have Jesus drawing out for us the challenge that sits within the Beatitudes. He uses a simple analogy – salt and light. If salt loses its flavour, it cannot season food in the way it should.
William Loader suggests:
“God is light. Jesus is light. And, says Matthew’s Jesus, so are you! But not as an elite, as a group of privileged people, be it Israel or Christians, who once, perhaps, were good salt, but as people living the kind of life called for in the challenge of the beatitudes.”
The salt and light analogy does not stand alone, it is connected directly to the challenge of the Beatitudes, the challenge for us to bless those who are not blessed as we are in our society, those we have left behind.
The salt and light analogy is often used to encourage a virtuous life. Over the years our communal world has shrunk to now be what is behind our garden gate and those directly connected to it. We look at others with a certain sense of well they could have what we have if they worked for it, behaved better, weren’t wasteful etc.
Yet that is not the attitude of Jesus. He calls for us to include, right in the centre of life those we do not see as equals and bless them with the possibility of their Voice being heard. In Jesus’ time there were many who did charity work and helped the poor and the sick as there are today, but instead of life getting better Jesus is quoted elsewhere as saying that you will have the poor with you always. Why? Because you are not changing the system sustaining the powerlessness of others you seek to help.
Isaiah states you do all these religious things but nothing changes. The oppression continues despite all your religious fervour. He then suggests an alternative.
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
In the Statement from the Heart, the Voice is how we change what has remained the same from the beginning for First peoples- their destitution and their remaining in that deficit state. While there have been advisory and reference groups who have spoken to governments none of them have had the capacity to hold governments to account. Repeatedly governments have played politics with the situation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people find themselves in. Our representative bodies are disbanded when they become troublesome.
We are people not issues.
We are the first people of this place who have not ceded sovereignty or given up our rights to what was and is ours.
How does the Voice address these issues – it does so through the inclusion of sovereignty via recognition and Voice in the Constitution, our foundational document.:
- Sovereignty is a Gospel imperative. Our second reading reminds us that Jesus is the sovereignty of God interacting with the sovereignty of his mother’s country. Within Jesus, there are found two sovereignties existing in harmony. God’s sovereignty is external and has jurisdiction over the whole of creation and his mother’s sovereignty which pertains only to his own country, the space, and the tradition in which he is born and lives. He is both God and man, divine and human.
In the gospel reading Jesus affirms this relationship:
“‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
- Sovereignty is a spiritual notion. This is the case for First Peoples as laid out in the Statement From the Heart and as lived in the incarnated Christ. While shared sovereignty may seem to raise legal issues it is not a legal matter. It is the spiritual interaction of the deep and powerful meanings of both sovereignties as shared for the wellbeing of all in our nation. It is a recognition that both are needed for a mature and whole nation. The legalities are for parliament to decide. The referendum question is a moral, ethical, and spiritual question.
- Sovereignty retained. Voice allows both parties to retain sovereignty. The Commonwealth does not give up sovereignty, nor does the First Peoples. The right to be heard on matters pertaining to First Peoples is the maintenance of our traditional sovereignty which has always been internal – the regulation of things directly connected to the source of our sovereignty – country. The Commonwealth retains the sovereignty that allows it to govern the whole. This process strengthens both and enhances our democracy.
- Sovereignty embedded. Recognition in the constitution locks this co-sovereignty relationship away as a permanent reminder of the diversity of our land and the accommodation made to include it. It recognises our history and begins the process of real reconciliation because it cannot be changed according to a political whim. Governments will have to engage in meaningful ways and not just because it is politically expedient.
- Permanent right to speak on matters that affect us. Western sovereignty is an external act – it pertains not just to what we need to address within borders but what is outside our borders. It is both a moving out and a moving in. Indigenous sovereignty is internal – what is necessary to retain the relationship with the spiritual centre of our existence- our country. It is not about what others outside do. Voice is about speaking on behalf of and for country.
- Power of the people to ensure parliament listens. This is where we as the people who bless come in. Our affirmation of the proposition to embed our people in the Constitution and give a Voice to Parliament means that Governments will have to listen. If they do not, we who have blessed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a yes vote can demonstrate our disappointment at governments if they do not listen at the ballot box. Together we hold the power. Together we can be blessed.
Jesus applies the analogy of salt and light to the act of blessing others and allowing them to be blessed as we are. The Voice is an opportunity to embrace our calling to be salt and light and as Isaiah says:
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear-guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.