The fourth chapter of Genesis gives us the powerfully important story of Cain and Abel. It’s the story in which we first hear the word ‘sin’. Cain is angry, and is warned that sin is lurking at the door. He may let it in. Sadly he does, and kills his brother.
In due course, Cain tells God that he is not his brother’s keeper, but God tells Cain that the blood of Abel is “crying out to me from the ground”. Unfortunately this is the first of many stories of crying for justice to God following violence and exploitation between human beings.
God hears the cries from the blood spilt on the land, from the exploited and from the bereaved. Perhaps we, too, hear the cries from this land now called Australia; perhaps we add our own.
To me there is a deep significance to the naming of the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. ‘Voice’ is a word used often in the Scripture – hundreds of times. The proposal for a Voice to Parliament, if successful, will help to ensure that First Nations voices are heard on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and I strongly commend its support.
I am glad that the Uniting Church, nationally, having heard from the United Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, is supporting the ‘yes’ campaign. This is in keeping with our covenant with the UAICC, in keeping with our recognition of the part of the churches in the colonisation of this land, and in keeping with our commitment to giving voice to matters of justice, dignity and opportunity in this nation.
The gospel stories begin with a voice crying out in the wilderness, calling for our attention and our repentance from our violence and exploitation, calling us to generosity and grace in the light of the nearness of God’s kin(g)dom.
Jesus came proclaiming a way of grace, compassion and justice. He did not seek to overthrow the Romans with violence. He called all people to respond to God and neighbour with love.
On Good Friday he became a victim of the violence of this world. As he offered his vision of love and faith, he accepted the violence that was meted out to him. He did not use his voice to add to the violence, though he joined our cry to God. Dying on the cross, he was silenced.
I imagine the sound of his blood, crying out from the ground.
On the Saturday, there is much shed blood to remember, and many silenced voices. It is a time to mourn, to reflect, to cry.
And then a voice of hope. At dawn services in various places around the Synod, we hear proclaimed that Christ is not abandoned in death, but is risen. He goes ahead of us, and calls upon our voices to proclaim his new life, that all may know the embrace of God’s love.
As this story is proclaimed in churches throughout the Synod, may we recognise our own place in the story. We are loved by God and met with grace, and invited into the way of Christ with a vision of community, compassion and justice for all creation.
Rev David Fotheringham
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