Day 8 Sacred Season 2015
DAY 8: 16th June A Consuming fire âJumping through the Fiery Doona
Exodus 24:15-17; Deut 5:22-29; Is 33:13
Rev Dean Whittaker Adelaide Congress
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Exodus 24:15-17 New International Version (NIV)
Basis of Union: Paragraph 4: The Uniting Church acknowledges that the Church is able to live and endure through the changes of history only because its Lord comes, addresses, and deals with people in
and through the news of his completed work
Jumping through the Fiery Doona
painting by Amber Whittaker
A story about glory of God revealed in cloud and a consuming fire… We sometimes struggle with the way God chooses to come to us. Not in the manner we expect but in Godâs own way.
Hereâs a story….. My daughter Amber went for a visit to a community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands (APY Lands – Northern South Australia) a few years ago with a church group who were helping run a childrenâs program during the school holidays.
One evening away from the rest of the group, there was a campfire burning and the Anangu kids were full of fun and energy. Amber wandered over. It was a dark but star-filled night. The campfire was burning. The kids were also burning with energy and ideas. Next thing Amber knew some of the boys had lit a doona and a couple of them held it up. While the fire burnt a roundish hole in the doona with feathers flying up and snowing down against a starlit sky a number of the athletic teenagers proceeded to jump through the burning hole until the last boy jumped through as the whole doona totally went up in flames. An impressive spectacle (…and none got hurt). Amber ended up painting this painting in memory of the event.
For me there is some other symbolism. The whole activity is on one hand, crazy and risky. I see the white doona as representing the Church. I see the fire and burning as the Holy Spirit. I see these kids as being like Congress or Aboriginal people – bringing new life and new possibilities that are dangerous and almost unthinkable – like in the Exodus story. Suddenly through the revival that has happened in the Aboriginal church … through the Holy Spiritâs activity enlivening Aboriginal agency the Aboriginal experience of the Holy Spirit burns a hole in the church – the church cannot stay as it was… despite maybe wanting to… despite maybe believing it is being destroyed… I see Congress as bringing a consuming fire to the Uniting Church.
The revival had a number of effects.
- It gave new hope to Aboriginal people about ownership of their own identity and place, their purpose in Godâs future and left them no longer having to rely on the dominant culture church leadership.
- In doing this it made them free from having to be bound to the Uniting Church because God was doing amazing things in and through them themselves for His kingdom without White people having to be in control. Yet so many stayed with the Uniting Church.
- It also shone a bright light on the racism and a wrong religious spirit in the Uniting Church. Much of the Uniting Church would not take seriously the remarkable new thing God was doing in the church, or would try and say it was an Aboriginal âoddity, an interesting phenomenon, rather than a movement touching the soul of the church. 1
- Even those who did accept some aspects of the revival often were either excited about, or frightened by, the cultural, social and political impacts but refused to really give adequate attention and listen to the significance of prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit in what was happening.
So I see the revival as being a bit like the boys setting the doona alight and then jumping through it. Many Aboriginal leaders have been willing to take on wider leadership as the church has realized they are willing to jump. But it is a difficult and dangerous activity – so many have been burnt, busted or broken – because while they have been alive to the workings of the Spirit – the Fire – in their cultures, in their communities and in their lives – they have so often found the church wants to bring them into line, teach them how to do things the âright wayâ – worked towards making them return to being Egyptian slaves of the Uniting Church, rather than Godâs First people showing the way.
Some of the key Congress leaders have continually and faithfully been Spirit people and have sought to have the broader Uniting Church hear what they are saying about repentance, about being hungry for a touch from God, about letting Jesus really be Lord, and about receiving the Holy Spirit… and after decades of faithfully trying to be heard still feel most of the church is deaf, blind and racist.
Please pray for 2 things
- That we ourselves are repentant and open to what God is saying, doing and calling us to do – even if it doesnât look like we expect it to be.
- Congress leaders and members will be open to the consuming fire of God and not bribed or cowed into being a slave of the Uniting Church or the dominant culture.
- That the Uniting Church will respect the Holy Spirit and listen to what God is saying and doing through Congress and its leaders as they listen to God and dare to jump though the fire of the Spirit into Godâs will.
- BA Clarke, Aboriginal and Islander Congress, Doc 83-2-C, NTRS781 General Correspondence and Administration Records 1956-1986, Item #19.13, NTA
- Much of what I say here is derived from Jione Haveaâs (Ed) book: Indigenous Australia and the Unfinished Business of Theology: Cross Cultural Engagement, Palgrave Macmillan 2014 Ch 10 National Black Congress: Ambivalence and Ambiguity William W Emilsen William W Emilson
Pray for: a) Unitingworld partner – Congregational Christian Church of Samoa
b) The Work of Congress. Use Deanâs prayer points above.