On Australia Day

As I celebrate this Australia Day, I recognise that I live on the lands of the Nyungar people, and I pay respect to their elders past, present and future. When James Cook landed in Botany Bay, there were some 250 nations of first Australians already here. They had been here for tens of thousands of years, and there could have been anywhere to a couple of million in number.

Europeans did not discover this land, but their arrival started to change it forever, as the first Australians had also changed it. The European colony brought many good things, but it also eventually led to removal of the first Australians from many areas, and without due recompense. History is woefully overladen with accounts of their suffering and debasement at the hands of European colonists. Indigenous peoples still carry much of this pain. Many European Australians deny it in equal measure.

My prayer for Australia now is that we own this history, or it will continue to own us. We need to acknowledge our first Australians in our constitution. We need to listen to their voice, we need to hear their cry, and we need to act in equity and justice. This is what God would want from us. One day we sill stand before him and render account for how we have addressed this situation.

Let our shared love for this country and our awareness of God’s grace gloriously received move us forward into reconciliation, gracious embrace, and a future where all can thrive.

I’m celebrating today because the move toward reconciliation will always outlive the voice of hate and cowering fear. I love my country, and in it everything God has given to me, my children and grandchildren. I doubt there is a better place to live on earth. And I know this great land will only get better as we walk, with our First Australians, into God’s good future.

Stop Being a Control Freak

Read: Genesis 27

You may wonder why you’ve been asked to read a passage like this. I mean, there are hardly any attitudes worth emulating. Rebekah is a conniving mother and Jacob is wimpish and complicit.

Scripture of course does not always give us clear behaviour to emulate. Sometimes it shows us the ugliness of humanity and the deceit of the heart. That’s what we’ve got here. Rebekah knows God’s covenant promises will be kept. Even so, she looks at her oldest son and thinks ‘shivers, is he really to be the hope of the world? He’s more about his toys and achievement than faithfulness to the Lord. I better do something about that …’  The rest is history.

Maybe Rebekah had forgotten how the Lord tends to use the weak and ridiculous to bring his purposes about. She had to know this. Her husband was born to a 100 year old father and a 90 year old mother. Surely she knew the Lord had good form for faithfulness and working well beyond human expectation and circumstances.

But that was not good enough for Rebekah. She wanted the blessing to land on the youngest son. She wanted her own outcome. She wanted control. And what an ugly mess she made of it.

This always happens. When we want to control the future, we’re often doing so to stay in control. We’ll manipulate people. We’ll fudge on the details. We’ll stop listening to God. We simply will not trust his unambiguous promises. We’ll cast him aside believing we can do a better job ourselves.

Ringing any bells?

Have you been closing yourself to God’s will so you can get it done your way?

Listen: this never works. Even if you get an immediate result – like Jacob receiving a blessing – cutting God out of your picture will have serious consequences.

Think of the fear that governed Jacob’s life until his rapprochement with Esau. Think of the ongoing tension and warfare between Israel and the Edomites. Who knows how God would have worked if it wasn’t for Rebekah being a control freak and Jacob withdrawing into passivity. The Lord would have kept his promises however the human characters would have acted.

And this is where God challenges you: you need to trust him to be faithful.

You need to allow him to be your Lord.

You need to believe that he is good, and has the best intentions for your life.

You need to stop being a control freak, and starting following the God entrusting your actions and your plans to him.

Phillip Reinders has a tremendous prayer around this passage:

God of blessing, what a mess I create when I wrestle the future out of your hand and take it upon myself. I pray for patient trust today and good confidence for tomorrow, knowing that nothing can separate me from your love, because my curse fell on Jesus so your blessing can come to me. Amen

[Seeking God’s Face, p.577]