NAIDOC Week is a great chance for us to delight in the truth that there is One God who made many nations. Genesis 10 gives an account of ‘what arises from’ the flood. Without getting bogged in the detail, we’re meant to see the clans, nations & languages are the result of God’s creative purpose. A purpose written in creation & affirmed in salvation. Galatians 3v28 makes clear the markers of humanity don’t create a hierarchy in God’s Kingdom – all are one in Christ & co-heirs. This doesn’t mean the markers of culture & gender don’t exist. It’s just that they aren’t the markers by which God defines us. Every culture has value because of creation – the church continues to honour culture in our redemption. And just as Christ transforms the individual to be more like Him, without crushing your distinctive identity & personality – so he transforms culture. The vision we’re given of eternity is not the destruction of tribes, tongues & language – but their perfection. In Revelation 7 the diversity of God’s creation & the markers of who we are remain – united in joyful praise & submission to Christ.
The one God who made & redeems the nations, shapes NAIDOC week. In fact, NAIDOC week is a Christian invention. In the 1930s, William Cooper (an Indigenous believer) drafted a petition to go to King George V, asking for special Aboriginal electorates in the Australian Parliament. Cooper presented then Prime Minister Lyons with a proposed national policy for Aboriginal people. This was rejected. In response, Cooper co-ordinated Aboriginal marches through the streets of Sydney and Melbourne on Australia Day 1936 – called ‘The day of Mourning.’ Cooper then sought help from his friends in the church to establish ‘Aboriginal Sunday,’ to pray for the success of missions and ‘the uplift of the dark people.’ It quickly caught on. The first ‘Aborigines Sunday’ was 28 January 1940. Over time it changed name, shifted to July & grew to a whole week. Sadly in that same time, churches lost their connection (at least, the non-Indigenous ones did).
We need to recapture Cooper’s vision. Take a moment to pray:
Creator God, you made from one man all nations
And determined where each should live.
We bring before you the Indigenous people of Australia.
We acknowledge the history that has damaged the relationship between them and later arrivals to this land.
Thank you for the steps that have been taken
On the journey towards reconciliation.
Deepen this process among us.
Guide national and community leaders to speak the truth in love,
To seek justice with mercy and to care for those who are disadvantaged.
Strengthen Indigenous church leaders to shepherd your flock faithfully,
And strengthen all Indigenous Christians to be salt and light in their communities and in the whole nation.
Give Indigenous and non-Indigenous believers
Grace to demonstrate the new family you are making in Christ
Out of people from every nation, tribe, language and people,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.