With headlines dominated by devastating bushfires and the threat of a global pandemic there’s a real sense of brokenness in this world, but as UnitingWorld’s Cath Taylor points out, Christ has always worked through the cracks.
“Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack, a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in.”
“Anthem” by Leonard Cohen.
We do not love broken things.
Who can blame us? The jagged edges, the waste, the ugliness! Yet look around this big wide world and too much of what we see is shattered: people and land and animals and hearts.
Brokenness is real. Our hands are lacerated from holding things together. And yet, the cracks! The cracks are how the light comes in.
Last year I was in Ambon, Indonesia, about 1000km from Darwin. It’s seen its fair share of dark days and nights—most of us are old enough to remember the conflict on the island in 1999. These were days that stretched into weeks that stretched into months—images of hand-to-hand violence on the streets between Muslims and Christians shocked the world. Five thousand innocent people died: men, women and children. Seventy thousand lost their homes.
Worldwide, the visceral tension generated by religious extremists has never felt more real. In a month, we’ll commemorate the Christchurch massacre. And still we look for hope … surely peace is possible!
If Ambon is anything to go by, the answer is yes. I was in the province with UnitingWorld, who fund projects in partnership with the local church. And in this most broken of communities, I saw that light had indeed found its way to the heart.
Nyoman, who at the time was just a young Muslim kid in love with soccer, went out to play with friends and picked up a grenade, mistaking it for a ball. It blew his hand off. The day I visited him he sat side by side with Petrus, a Christian dad with a family and a leg that twists awkwardly, hampering his gait. The pair are the tailors for their little community, sharing a shop and customers.
“I never thought I would have a friend like Petrus, but here we are, like brothers,” Nyoman tells me as he shoots beaming glances at his partner.
“I was given the chance to learn tailoring through a group set up by Sagu Salempeng Foundation (part of the Protestant Church of Maluku). The group helped us become friends with each other and gave us the skills to make a life. And I feel I can do anything now, especially with my friend Petrus.”
In another village, Christians are helping Muslims rebuild their mosque, hauling cement and stone side by side. Together they plan to restore a burnt and bombed-out church, too. Mary, a young Christian woman, tells me her children have become best friends with Attika’s family, with whom they’ll all celebrate the end of Ramadan.
These are the flames of peace and hope being kindled by our Uniting Church partners, the Protestant Church of Maluku, under the leadership of Rev Jeny Elna Mahupale. Meet her just once and you feel her radiance. She has the skills to put her faith into action, too—the United Nations bestowed on her a UN Peacemaker’s Award in recognition of her work.
“The future of our world depends on us being able to live side by side with respect and understanding—Muslims, Christians, people of all religion and none,” Jeny says. “We’re called to be peacemakers. We’re called to love, especially where there has been pain.”
And again, I’m reminded of Cohen’s words: “There is a crack in everything that you can put together: physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return is, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.”
I’m filled with hope (and yes, I’m proud too) to be part of an Australian community of faith that stands with broken people and lives, urged on by our belief in resurrection, repentance and restoration.
“Ring the bells that still can ring—forget your imperfect offering,” Cohen implores.
We don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to have all the answers. We need to find the bells and ring them, long and loud and joyful. That’s why this Lent, UnitingWorld is featuring hopeful stories of people building peace and beating poverty in Ambon, Indonesia. These are the places where God’s grace is real and transforming, a light to be shone from the rooftops. We need you to be part of it. Bible studies, prayers, video stories—find them all at lentevent.com.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” declares the one who is light and life and love itself. Through the cracks, light prevails.
Shine your light: Lent Event 2020
Take up a 40 Day Challenge (give up one meal a day or go without caffeine?) and raise funds to invest in UnitingWorld projects among our closest neighbours BUILDING PEACE AND BEATING POVERTY.
lentevent.com for stories, videos, prayers, Bible studies and easy ways to start your challenge.