Well so much for my daily blogging commitment. I have been as diligent as possible, but in the meantime I accepted a research assistant position which requires travel from Sydney to Melbourne and back. This SOUNDS like I have a lot of time to read books and sit in elegant airport lounges, but it actually means 5am starts, dehydration, logistics in finding places I never knew existed until I’m required at an appointment, and the emotional turmoil that comes with constantly meeting new families caring for a loved one with a disability. But ok, if you’d like to think that’s glamorous, then that’s fine, I’ll let you – and there are definitely positives that include driving through the Dandenongs in the misty early morning, and Melbourne coffee.
But the biggest positive with my new, temporary, work located between two cities is that I’ve been able to catch up with my Godmother, (who happens to be the Bishop Barbara Darling and is currently overseeing the area of Dandenong in Melbourne). She was the woman first ordained as Bishop in Melbourne. She has prayed for me every Monday of my entire life. My mother and Bishop Barbara (who I cannot get out of the habit of calling ‘Auntie’ but I have been asked to stop that now that I’m an adult) spent their action packed youth in Brownies, Guides and then Rovers (If that’s what you call what you do after guides?) …basically, the four girls learnt how to survive by themselves in the wilderness. And maybe that was the start of it all 😉
What I love is that Barb is committed to her position and church authority as equally as she is committed to the people under her in the parish. She really listens to them and wrestles with questions like “how do Gen Y really interpret the robe and stole when I wear it as a visiting Bishop, if their own senior pastors are wearing more contemporary casual outfits weekly in the services?”
And I also love that her answers always come back to the Liturgical. This is because Liturgy (or very very simply, the things we do in the church service) means something – not because it is “what we do” but because it is “what we have chosen to do to best represent our beliefs”. It is action that comes from belief. And this action does not become less meaningful over time, but MORE meaningful as it stands the test of time.
When I was in her kitchen, she showed me her calendar which is a special Liturgical calendar that, rather than being in months, is organised into the various seasons of the church. The calendar is illustrated with art that represents those seasons. She showed me how the page of Easter was one week long, but that many of the following seasons were six to eight weeks long. I mentioned that Hillsong Church had begun to honour Pentecost Sunday, and she nodded, and showed me the significance of Pentecost Sunday in the calendar, marking a new season. She informed me that this season used to be called ‘Ordinary Season’ but is now called ‘After Pentecost’.
I was so intrigued. For hundreds of years, people all over the world have celebrated ‘Ordinary Season’. How great is that!?! I love the idea of actually celebrating the ordinary things of life. The mother who feels so ordinary going about her daily business. The banker whose time sheet shows hours that he can’t even remember. The child who is waiting to grow up and the teenager who is looking back on their childhood wishing they no longer had exams and the agony of dating… Ordinary season. And yet God is in the ordinary. He was well acquainted with ordinary, and suffering. And I really need to know that right now, working with people with a disability. This scripture keeps running through my head while I’m driving around:
Isaiah 53: 2 – 5
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
You know, the people I met last week who are struggling through Muscular Dystrophy, and the parents of children with an Intellectual Disability, they don’t need to know right now that Jesus has triumphed on the cross. They need to hear that he suffered. And those verses 2 – 3 have given me a lot of comfort in the past weeks.