What a tumultuous summer so far. The Victorians aren’t out of the woods with their bushfire season still having time to run, but there is hope that the worst is over. As the focus shifts towards cleaning up and reconstruction, a view to the future can now be addressed.
We know that the trauma of these events has a long half-life. Grief over what’s been lost, the huge challenge to rebuild lives and communities, and the brutal reality that for some, life will never be the same.
This is what we face. It seems like we need a new Marshall Plan. One that provides a clear picture of a future, one we all can contribute to.
Can we do it, as a nation?
Scott Peck, in his book A Different Drum, talks about the formation of human community in four stages—and it’s really a four-stage cycle. Humans move from pseudo-community, through chaos, then emptiness, and this is the precursor for a quality human community.
Pseudo-community is where everyone thinks, this project is about what I want it to be about, and I’ll get what I want out of it. It’s dream time, the time of rose-coloured glasses. Chaos is the time of realisation that others have different views, and that they are not the same as mine. It’s an anxiety-provoking time. Who will win? Who will get what they want? Who will lose? This is a conflicted time, and how the conflict is dealt with is critical.
We could just let someone win and sublimate our hopes, we could force what we want on the others. We could say, “Let’s not fight” and revert to something profoundly less than what could be—a shell, a facade of being in community.
Or we could take the journey through emptiness, go into the vulnerable space, say what we’d like, listen to others about their hopes and collaborate together—because we’re called to be together, because we can see opportunity, because what we’re working for is worth it.
Pseudo-community, chaos, emptiness, community. Does this sound familiar? It does to me. It reminds me of how a healthy Christian community works, how a healthy marriage works, how a healthy business works.
If we are on a journey of growth and development, of seeking to be fruitful in our relationships and our communal life, we’re on this path.
That goes for us as a church, and that goes for us as a nation.
I have to say that during the bushfire crisis, I’ve never seen us so divided. It was a grief for me. The scapegoating of people, the accusations; in the midst of a crisis. I took the step of snoozing the posts of a lot of people on Facebook.
As we turn to Australia Day this weekend, can we commit to being agents of truth and grace? To being people who eschew point-scoring for a commitment to honour one another. Can we commit to being people who are ready to let go of our own personal priorities for the common good? For the common wealth?
Brendan McKeague at the 32nd Synod reminded us that “Jesus was crucified between two opposites”. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”; they need blessing because peacemaking is the way of the cross.
Our journey this year is about getting on our heart what’s on God’s heart. That will involve some chaos, some emptiness, but it will also—with the Spirit’s guiding–see us empowered to be the people God is calling us to be, and I’m excited about that.