God in the Darkness!

No Spare People in the World!
December 6, 2023
A Feast of God’s Love
December 8, 2023
No Spare People in the World!
December 6, 2023
A Feast of God’s Love
December 8, 2023

A sermon given in a Service of Lament, Anger and Hope during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender-Based Violence.

I attended a service in St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane earlier this year with the Anglican Mothers Union, a worldwide movement and the sermon was given by Bishop Jeremy Greaves.  He began with a reminder of the petition which was started by Kambala student Chanel Contos because she “was sick of constantly hearing my friends’ experience of sexual abuse”.  The petition, which was started in early 2021 called for a bigger focus on consent in sexual education and a focus on single-sex private schools.   When this particular story was run by the ABC in February and March 2021 the petition had thousands of signatures from teenagers and ex students and the governments around the country started to take note and realise there was a problem about consent.  Two years on we have legislation about consent and a national conversation which is ongoing about this issue.  Today, the government announced a new SMS service for women needing help but who are unable to speak, which is wonderful.

Just over a month ago, there was a murder of a young woman teacher in a NSW private school and the young man who was also a member of staff, who murdered her then killed himself.   For both young people, the inability to recognise their vulnerability, the need to have safeguards in place from the institutions, culturally and individually, and a willingness by each and every one of us to learn and relearn how to accept failure and rejection, continues to make us feel helpless and overwhelmed, when it goes wrong. 

This week, there was a story on SBS about a man gloating over the way he was getting revenge on women by setting up fake dates and then not turning up, luring women on with his own false identities and then making sure they were shamed and ridiculed after the fact.  Its called catfishing.   He identified himself as an ‘incel’, blaming women for his ‘involuntary celibacy’ and his perception of past rejections.    

So often I hear stories about how fast the world is changing in its attitudes and opinions.  There is growing pressure to blame someone, anyone, for our own sense of vulnerability about this deeply personal aspect of our lives, our relationships, as we are told that past practices are no longer acceptable, our worldview is no longer appropriate, our relationships might not be as we imagined them, and the grief is palpable and fearful.  The grief and mourning become a lament.  We know this year alone, 58 women have been killed, with the numbers of children and men also to be added to these figures.

The purpose of telling these stories is to remind ourselves of the complexity and sadness overwhelming us as we think about those who are harmed by domestic, family and intimate partner violence.  Men and women, old and young, all genders, abilities and sexualities are affected.  There is no one particular cohort of people, cultures or races who is more vulnerable or liable to resort to violence, except the acknowledgement that the driver of this epidemic, is the overwhelming predominance of gender-based violence evident in all societies.  The reality is we are all vulnerable in one way or another.  The impact of such violence in all its many forms are becoming clearer and visible.  It has become an intergenerational burden as we see the scars and memories left with the children to bear in suffering, alongside families and friends, no-one escapes unscathed in this familiar story.

When we turn to the bible for help, we find it also contains stories of abuse and violence.  We shouldn’t be surprised as it is the story of humanity trying work out of God’s love and the stories show how frequently humanity fails, while God waits patiently for us to acknowledge God and God’s love as the only way forward. 

We remember God never coerces an answer from us, or demands through an abusive exercise of power the response we imagine God wants.  God never demands or manipulates love, we remember God is love, shining in the darkness and the darkness can never put out the light of God. 

Sadly, the institution of the Church has not paid attention either to its understanding of God’s love; the Church’s own humanity overwhelming and drowning out God’s message far too often.  Our human preference for power, domination and control has meant the church community has also experienced and inflicted gender-based violence on one another, and our teaching about God has been misused and misrepresented in order to affirm headship and patriarchy, and so people in our congregations have not only suffered violence but have had the church’s own story of God twisted into their suffering, which is unacceptable and dreadful.

This week marks the first week of Advent. Advent invites us to journey with God in Christ Jesus, made human in hope, love, joy and peace.  The Holy Spirit expresses God’s love in the promise of Christ among us, healing us in the memories we carry, hearing the lament we cry out loud, fiercely accepting the anger at the memories we cannot put down, and faithfully, courageously, creatively daring us to give light to the hope we share with one another and God among all the tears, knowing only love is God’s will for all of us, not hatred, fear, shame, guilt and death.

This is a service about lamentation, anger and hope.  It is about many things in this perpetual and unceasing insistence on gender-inequality that has lasted over millennia, with its continuing demonstrations of violence, brokenness, the tyranny of power and death.  But I hope, we will one day be celebrating an end to the pandemic of gendered violence and experiencing instead God’s love made real for all humanity, as we give into hope and look forward to seeing God’s Son born among us, living, dying and rising again into new life for all people. 


The Lord be with you.

References:

ABC Online News:  Sydney private school students’ allegations of sexual assault in online petition ‘extremely concerning’ By Danuta Kozaki and Alison Xiao  Posted Sat 20 Feb 2021 at 6:17pm Saturday 20 Feb 2021 at 6:17pm, updated Thu 18 Mar 2021 at 10:15am.

‘Rob has stood up 350 women on dates. He says incels are taking revenge’ _ SBS The Feed Published 5 December 2023 7:18am  By Jennifer Luu   Source: SBS

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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