As I write, it’s the Week of Aboriginal Reconciliation and the Sunday in the middle of that week is Pentecost Sunday. This connection is powerful.
Pentecost is when we focus on the gift of God’s Spirit to the disciples, which births the Church. A crowd gathered because of the sound that was being made. This crowd was made up of “devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.” It was a multicultural, multi-language and multi-ethnic gathering.
What happens? The disciples have the Spirit’s gift to speak in other languages. The real mystery in this event is something else. People ask, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” (who normally speak with an accent) and “How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” A native language is the language of the heart.
Peter goes on to help the listeners understand the meaning of this moment and the Church is birthed – multi-cultural, multi-language and multi-ethnic, united in God’s Spirit across all differences. A community of reconciled differences.
The tabling of the Bringing them Home report in the Australian Parliament on 26 May 1997 started a national journey. Twenty years ago, on the same date, 250,000 people walked across Sydney Harbour in a commitment to Aboriginal Reconciliation. In 2008, the Australian Parliament apologised to Indigenous Australians. This date, May 26, is both National Sorry Day and the National Day of Healing.
Can we imagine something new, a work of God, that crosses the deep divides and pain in our nation? Something that speaks so deeply in all of our hearts with languages that begin to create a new reality – a healed nation with reconciled peoples, an end to racism and grace-filled justice made real.
We celebrate the birth of the Church in the moment of Pentecost. The church was made real as those who experienced God’s Spirit shared it with others. We can be reconciled, and it can happen in Australia with our First Peoples and you and me. It won’t happen overnight. There are signs of hope. We must keep listening and sitting with the reality of the pain of so many. As we do, God’s Spirit of unity and healing will be at work in us all and reconciliation can be real.
John Gilmore, Executive Officer