Wembley Downs Uniting Church
Current Sermons
Song of Hope (Revd Marion Millin) 15.7.2018
Readings: Amos 7:7-15; Song of Hope by Oodgeroo (Kath Walker)

In recognition of Naidoc Week and acknowledgement of the prior inhabitants of this land, this poem The Song of Hope by Oodgeroo (Kath Walker) written in the 1960s has been chosen for today.

Amos 7 was an alternative reading set for today - I chose it because it was the only one which resonated for me. Perhaps this was because I had just that day spent time hauling limestone slabs into place to form some steps as part of a rockery in my garden. And I`d used this little dumpy gadget with two air bubbles in to make sure I`d got it tolerably flat. Actually I discovered I have a pretty good eye for this. In the past to mark verticals I`ve just tied a lead fishing weight on a piece of string as a plumbline. I expect many of you have done something similar too. I confess I`m also one of those people who can`t stand to see a picture `skew whiff`- I just have to straighten it up!

And then I started thinking metaphorically about measuring what is upright, what is on the level in our everyday world with its many conflicting pulls and opinions? What does our plumbline consist of? As Christians I`m suspecting you would see the word LOVE etched on the weight. For we would of course say that it is the life and teachings of Jesus which keep us truly centred on being the best loving people we can be in God`s domain. I guess a key question is to what extent can we hold true to that, especially in struggling and darkening times?

Amos could have fled from the persecution to come. He was a free herdsman and tender of fig trees, but he refused, standing fast to his call by God to challenge the injustice perpetrated by the leaders of Israel. It probably meant he would lose his life. The people of Israel did get conquered. Many were led into exile from their homeland, the rest were left behind to endure poverty and oppression.

Closer to home, indigenous people here in Australia for the past 200 years have known exactly what it means to endure exile from their land, and great oppression and poverty. Far too many are in literal exile in our jails with Australia carrying the shame of its aboriginal people forming the highest imprisoned race in the world. Some of you may have read the article in The West yesterday on the retirement of Chief Justice Wayne Martin, and his challenge that aboriginal imprisonment is the expensive endpoint of an under-resourced child welfare system. I would add of inadequate community resourcing and support for indigenous disadvantage too. Indeed Justice Martin has said that he wants to devote energy to that latter issue in his retirement. It`s just a pity we don`t get to hear of prophets like him more clearly, and more often.

However, it is songs by indigenous musicians like Archie Roach and Yotha Yindi and words like `The Song of Hope` by Oodgeroo (Kath Walker) which have provided another sort of reality plumbline. Her poem was written 60 years ago at a period of time when Indigenous Australians were being marginalised and discriminated against quite freely, not even citizens of their own country. It gives us insight into what it was like living as an Indigenous Australian in that time period, as well as showing what was strived for. Despite the pain and suffering, Oodgeroo appeals to her people to keep their heads up high and to maintain hope for future freedom and equality in Western society. As such it reflects a great faith in humanity. Thanks to a lot of persistent effort from people of both indigenous and white backgrounds, much progress has been made over the past three decades in addressing the gross injustices Indigenous Australians have suffered and are still suffering from, but a long way still remains including us non-aboriginals needing to realise that we have so much to learn from indigenous peoples.

So I finish with a big plug for you to watch or record this evening at 8.30 on Channel 34 a program called `The Songkeepers` on NITV Channel 34. I saw this film at the Luna Cinema a month or so ago and was entranced by this story of a group of mainly older aboriginal women from Central Australia being formed into a choir. Many of them or their grandparents had been raised at the Hermannsburg Mission where they had learnt to sing old German hymns translated into the Pitjantjara and Arrarnta languages and sung in beautiful harmony. Some of you may have seen how these were passed on in an ABC Compass program two months ago. Without giving too much away, the group eventually end up in Europe. At the end of the film, I think it quite shocked many of us in the cinema to hear one of the women, reflecting on her experience there, saying that for the first time in her life she could wander through town streets just as a person without being categorised or even recognised as `aboriginal`. Then another choir member stated `It doesn`t matter where we are from, music brings us together.`

I think this week after watching the miracle of the cave rescue unfold in Thailand I would also add the word HOPE as essential to the weight on the bottom of our plumblines too. Long may we too sing our songs of love and hope. Amen

The Song of Hope
Look up, my people,
The dawn is breaking
The world is waking
To a bright new day
When none defame us
No restriction tame us
Nor colour shame us
Nor sneer dismay.

Now brood no more
On the years behind you
The hope assigned you
Shall the past replace
When a juster justice
Grown wise and stronger
Points the bone no longer
At a darker race.

So long we waited
Bound and frustrated
Till hate be hated
And caste deposed
Now light shall guide us
No goal denied us
And all doors open
That long were closed.

See plain the promise
Dark freedom-lover!
Night`s nearly over
And though long the climb
New rights will greet us
New mateship meet us
And joy complete us
In our new Dream Time.

To our fathers` fathers
The paid, the sorrow;
To our children`s children
the glad tomorrow.

130 Calais Road, (crnr of Minibah Street)
Wembley Downs, Western Australia.
Phone 08 9245 2882

Ten kilometres northwest of Perth city centre,
set amongst the suburbs of City Beach, Churchlands,
Scarborough, Wembley Downs and Woodlands