Those who trust in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles… (Isaiah 40:31)
Kirrae Wirrung country. I took myself up Mt Noorat, one of the many sleeping volcanoes dotted around the landscape. Most of you know this walk: the stroll past eucalyptus trees; the short stiff climb to the first lookout for a quick breather. Then the scramble up the next slope and over the stile, and a longer pause at the top to catch your breath and look to Terang, Mt Leura, the plains stretched out like a vast undulating blanket. Then the rolling walk around the rim, as peeping birds flit around the grassy slopes and the wind whistles and sings.
This particular day was clear and cool. I dragged myself to the top, huffing and puffing. Cows were grazing, dotted up and down the hillside; I avoided great piles of dung. I remembered the descriptions in I Can Jump Puddles: the author’s joy in the landscape; his escapade rolling into the volcanic crater, then the arduous climb out again with polio-withered legs; but also the local Indigenous folk as he saw them. By 1840, very many had died of smallpox or massacre, and those he met in the 1920’s were greatly depleted and dispossessed.
I looked with sadness at the largely cleared landscape, and I prayed. I imagined Mt Noorat reforested, and radial wildlife corridors linking every volcano in southwest Victoria; and I wondered how this might be done. High clouds scudded overhead.
Then I walked along the ridge and down the steep slope into the saddle. As I began the next climb, I noticed a boulder in the distance. That’s funny, I thought, I don’t remember a boulder there. Then I saw that it narrowed at the top. Perhaps it’s a wallaby, I thought. As I walked and peered, the shape turned its head to gaze at me. Then it unfurled vast wings.
The wedgetail flew straight towards me. It circled once, twice, three times, so low I could see the detail on every feather and hear the rush and roar of each wingbeat. I felt scrutinized, welcomed, blessed. Then it soared high into the sky, and was soon no more than a pinprick to my eyes.
I remembered the Holy Spirit hovering like a bird and bringing life into being. I remembered the ancestral spirit Bunjil blowing air through his beak to create the earth, and scratching the soil to make plants and trees. I remembered the Holy Spirit coming down on Jesus like a bird. And I remembered how ‘those who trust in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall soar on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not grow faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31).
I often feel unsure about how to be a white Christian in this land. I often feel tentative, guilt-ridden, trapped by my ignorance, my whiteness, and my complicity in systems which reward people like me. It can be hard to move forward for fear of taking yet another wrong step.
But as awe and wonder coursed through me, and these powerful images gripped me, I felt emboldened and encouraged. And while this encounter didn’t exactly point to clear answers, it renewed my trust in the Spirit of life, of creativity, of newness, regeneration and growth. I kept walking. I did not grow faint. Thanks be to God.
Lent will soon be upon us. This year, just as I have done here for Mt Noorat, you are asked to:
- Tell us about a local place which reminds you of a biblical passage or of the nature of God; OR
- Tell us about a local place where you have felt especially close to God.
- You can write a paragraph, a prayer, a poem, a story; a prayerful Biblical paraphrase; or make a drawing, painting, sculpture, film or song. Submissions due Sunday 12 February.
- Why? To help us all remember that we live in a God-breathed God-filled landscape.
This Sunday, we will hold a face-to-face workshop to draft our Lent book pieces. We will also do our annual back-to-school blessing. Hope to see many locals there!
Emailed to Sanctuary 1 February 2023 © Sanctuary, 2023. Photo by Peterdownunder. Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0. Found here. Sanctuary is based on Peek Wurrung country. Acknowledgement of country here.
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