This week in both Junior Years and Middle and Senior Years we celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the church and the sending of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples. It is certainly strange to be delivering my reflections to an empty Chapel and to camera rather than to a full assembly hall of lively girls.
Pentecost is a time for great celebration in the church. We reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and think about ways to use these gifts to improve our own and others lives. These gifts are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. If only each person could enact these all of the time - I think our world would be a very different place.
I was deeply moved by the events that are happening across our world this week, particularly the reactions in the United States to the death of George Floyd. I was horrified at the actions of the police, moved by the peaceful protests and then concerned when those protests developed into violent outbursts, looting and destruction of property. I wondered whether this will produce any change in their society, in their attitudes towards racism. In Middle and Senior Years Chapel I challenged our girls with two quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. We began with “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. So, what are the things that matter that we have been silent about for too long? What can we do as individuals and collectively to improve the lives of all Australians and all people in every country. We are often limited in our knowledge and understanding by what we see on our tv screens and read in our newspapers. This impacts our ability to see what is happening and often comes to us with particular biases depending on who is producing the story. I challenged our girls to be well informed, to look for the full story, to open their eyes to the reality that is before us. As we are focussed on the pandemic, violence and war continues in many parts of the world. People are being persecuted and killed for their faith (all faiths), because of their race, because of where they live. Numbers of refugees continue to soar - people displaced from their homes not for anything they have done, but because it is no longer safe to live where they had called home.
So, what do we do? Firstly we can look to God through scripture to give us a strong stance on the value of human life, all life. God says that life is sacred, that each and every person is equal in God’s sight. Ashton Kutcher responded so simply to people who could not see the importance of the Black Lives Matter campaign. He said, of course all lives matter, but for some people black lives don’t matter at all. Every person has the right to be treated equally no matter what they look like.
The next step is to work out our response. I couldn’t think of a better starting point than this second quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So, we shine light and respond with love. This is deeply centred in our Christian faith and can only be achieved by harnessing the power of the Holy Spirit. The spirit comes to set us on fire, deep in our bellies, to stand up against injustice, to insist on equality and to shine light and love on every situation.
I invited each class to respond with prayers written on Holy Spirit flames.
Click here for a photo gallery of different classes completing this task and participating in our first e-Chapel services this week.
My prayer is that this is just the beginning and that the Holy Spirit will empower and encourage us all to bring about lasting change in our world where everyone feels safe, valued and loved for who they are.
Blessings for your weekend
Rev’d Sharon Mitchell