Healing Australia’s Wound
A few days ago I was with Christians of many nationalities gathered with elders/members of the Noongar tribe by the banks of the Swan River. The site overlooks a fresh water spring and is close by a resting place of the mythological Wagyl, the giant serpent who created the rivers and lakes between the desert and the Indian Ocean. This supernatural being is believed to be the custodian of traditional Law and the power who appointed the Noongars as guardians of the land. A few days before the State government of Western Australia had forcefully demolished a campsite of the local Indigenous people by the Swan; so the spiritual atmosphere in our meeting was intense. One outstanding aspect of the gathering was the humility of the Church leadership, visibly expressed by kneeling in intercession before God. This led me to Paul’s great prayer in Ephesians: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named….that you may have strength…to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (3:14ff.). As the people groups of our land kneel on level ground at the foot of the cross the healing power of the Father’s equal love for all will flow across Australia. Yet this posture is the direct opposite to the beginnings of our modern nation.
Paul testifies to pagan idolaters, “Yet he (God) is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28 ESV). If Paul had preached to the natives of Australia he would have used material from their Dreamtime stories to communicate that God was the Creator-Father of all. Beyond politics, the greatest sin of the territorial invaders of this continent was their failure to recognise the image of God in the Indigenous folk of the land (Gen 9:6). This foundational transgression is so dreadful because it is a denial of the universal Fatherhood of God. It is an act of spiritual lawlessness which has led to countless abuses of Aboriginal peoples which haunt the national consciousness up until today. With time the colonists developed their own mythologies, especially that of terra nullius, that Australia was an “empty land” before European settlement. The origin of this legend was however the spiritual conviction that Europeans found the continent as a Fatherless land. The policies of successive governments thoroughly delegitimized the aboriginal people, effectively treating them as spiritual bastards (cf. Heb 12:8).
Such intense spiritual confusion should not surprise us, after all what sort of a heartless motherland would forcefully deport its children to the harsh, remote and unexplored wilderness on the other side of the world! With the denial of the sovereign presence of the Father as protector and provider of Australia’s people and land all sorts of abuses inevitably followed. It is totally understandable that the Indigenous population remains ravaged by unemployment, alcoholism, suicide, delinquency, sexual abuse and many other ills. If the root of Australia’s wound is the denial of the Father, the only way forward to spiritual and relational healing is the cross of the Son.
“Jesus…said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit….one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.” (John 19:30, 34-35 ESV). The emphatic witness John bears to the piercing of Christ bears a symbolic significance of the deepest kind. Out of the pierced heart of Jesus flows blood and water, this physical emptying of the contents of Christ’s heart is a sign that the heart of the Father was emptied for us in the death of the Son. On the cross Jesus must atone for the worst of all human sins, the conviction that God is a heartless ‘Father’, by being exposed to this experience of God as heartless; “why have you abandoned me?” Misery however does not triumph, for the pierced corpse of Christ is not a dead weight but a sign of victory. The blood flowing from the cross is potent to forgive sin (Eph 1:7) and the water from his side is a spring of cleansing that wells up to eternal life (John 4:14).
As water flowed from the pierced inner being of the Son the Spirit will likewise flow out of our inner beings (John 7:37-39). In Ezekiel, the river of God flows from the temple altar out to the sea bringing freshness, healing and multiplication of life wherever it goes (Ezekiel 47:8-9). It is the will of the Father that his Spirit flows through the temple of his Church bringing wellness to the spiritual and relational aridity of our land. But how will this be? The answer is as simple as it is difficult.
Three grief’s need to be connected in us: first, the grief of the Father concerning the suffering of the Son, which moved him to raise him Jesus from the dead and exalt him to a place of power; second, the grief of the Godhead concerning the terrible moral and spiritual condition of Australia, and particularly the treatment and state of Indigenous peoples; third, the grief of the Church over the tragedy that our nation has from its foundations un-fathered the Father and reckoned him to be heartless. This third grief is the missing link.
I sensed the Lord leading me in prayer the other day to ask, “Deepen my wound”. I can only imagine this to mean that we as the priests of God in our land must groan as with pierced and emptied hearts for the miseries of Australia, and that when we do the blood and water, forgiveness and cleansing, shall flow once more into our land bringing life and healing wherever they go (1 Pet 2:9).
The prayer, “Deepen my wound” must not however be prayed simply alone. Such a dangerous prayer depends for its power upon the people groups of Australia bowing the knee together before our one Father (Eph 3:14). It is only as we adopt this posture that the Father’s promise to the Son will prove true, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11 ESV). Upon this visible humility the future of our nation depends.