As I watched him race the men’s Marathon at the Rio Olympics for a little over 2 hours, I had no idea that Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa’s people are being imprisoned, their lands stolen, and his people dispossessed. I had no idea why Lilesa crossed his wrists over his head as he crossed the finish line in second place.
And I had no idea, until the reports emerged, that this gesture would likely lead to his imprisonment or death should he return home. This action was a public protest against his government’s actions against his people. “I did it for my relatives in prison.” Lilesa, an Olympic silver medalist, may never be able to return home. (http://www.geeskaafrika.com/23909/ethiopia-feyisa-lelisa-athletes-speak/)
That single gesture invited the world to connect with Lilesa’s story, and that of the Oromo people group in Ethiopia. It also invited us to search out further stories of wonder and pain in the lives of all those with whom we interact every day.
“We often speak of creation as if it were separate to us, as if we were ‘other’ in our being created. When we acknowledge that we share the same soil, drink the same water, breathe the same air, and share the same Creator, we will learn to live more care-fully and justly with the whole of creation.” (a note from my journal)
EcoTheology was the subject of Rev Dr Vicky Balabanski’s presentations at the recent Presbytery Ministers conference. She talked about the stories of the Bible and Indigenous people; of spirituality and land; of how being ‘Made in God’s Image’ has an impact on how we live out and interpret the words of God in Genesis 1.28 to ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion’ … How might God the creator do this? Should the words be translated ‘to serve and cultivate’? Vicky’s challenge to us was, “What do we believe about ourselves in relation to the world? Do we leave the world better than we found it?”
We live on a planet with hungry mouths and fragile ecosystems; and in a society where there are no seasons in our supermarkets and too many (extra) chemicals in our food. The challenge of living on our planet in 2016 is the challenge to a Global story and an Intimate one; to BOTH feed and house 6 billion people, AND to pay attention to the flowering gum and flowing stream in our back yard.
Stepping out of the seminar, I felt myself invited to touch the earth differently; to view trees, birds, animals and people from this creation / creator perspective – and found myself noticing things I had not perceived before.
We have seen her twice; outside a shop and in a gallery; meticulous with her painting and generous with her time. Heather Bradbury’s paintings resemble photographs, revealing single moments … when a lone raindrop is about to fall from a leaf, or a wave is frozen in time. But beyond the canvas, for Heather painting is also an excuse to meet people – like the paint is lubricated with conversation and social interaction.
We have one of her calendars in our house. It’s called “Brush with the Creator”. 12 month’s of paintings from Heather, and a story from MarDee Kaylock (both Mt Dandenong locals). “The Brush with the Creator calendar follows the story of Traveler, an individual whose journey is one of awareness and growth. The artwork does not reflect the physical seasons as much as the moments within Travelers year. By seeing the artwork as symbols of Traveler life, we invite you to reflect and perhaps glimpse your own story in her journey.”
As I look at the paintings and read (and re-read) the story, I’m invited to give my attention to the detail that Heather and MarDee see in shape and colour and shade and contrast and reflection and wrinkle – in creation and in people.
All 3 of these stories from the past 2 weeks open an invitation: To listen and look with more detail; with new eyes, to observe and pay attention to the people around me, the world in which I walk/run/play/work, and my own heart. In Heather’s art, it is attention to detail in a single moment; In Vicky’s challenge it is taking time to wonder about my place in the created and changing world; In Feyisa’s story it is listening for the narratives of joy and pain in the life of a stranger or a new friend.
So here’s a Spring invitation for September to November:
Capture images, snapshots, words and phrases that catch your attention each day (one per day?). They might be photos on your phone or camera, screenshots from a computer, phrases in books or newspapers, prayers (your own or someone else’s), or moments in a day captured in a journal. Then create a calendar for next year – either buy a cheap 2017 one and paste your montage over the images; or create one on a computer. You might want to hang it in your kitchen as a reminder to yourself, or create multiple versions and give them as Christmas presents to friends and family.
The invitation is to observe, record … and then tell your own story through this media.