With trust and cooperation, and lots of forgiveness, there is hope

Stephen Baxter, MC.

The Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast is an annual event where leaders from across Tasmania gather to pray for our State and listen to a guest speaker. Each year I have the opportunity to provide a short introduction. In 2019 this is what I said…

Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast  | October 30, 2019

“The future isn’t what it used to be,” wrote French poet Paul Valery 90 years ago. Our world is changing so rapidly it’s difficult to imagine the future. In fact, it can be quite frightening.

That’s nothing new. The ancient Greeks feared it. For them it was obvious ¾ the universe is eternal, complete9 and perfect. The senses are deceived, change was an illusion, and hope was found adjusting to the fate of a closed system.

Edwin Judge, one of Australia’s leading academics, says the early Christians saw it differently. They had a “high doctrine of creation.” In their story, the main actor, God, created order out of chaos, light out of darkness and form out of formlessness. Change, far from an illusion, was real and not to be feared.

This, suggests Judge, is the foundation of “modern science” built upon three assumptions: a universe with “a beginning, that every individual… is unique and that we [collectively] are… answerable for the problems of the whole.”

This year the BBC identified “Seven Reasons Why the World is Improving”

  • Life expectancy continues to rise
  • Child mortality continues to fall
  • Fertility rates are falling
  • GDP growth in developed countries has accelerated
  • Global income inequality has fallen
  • More people are living in democracies, and
  • Conflicts are on the decline

These wonderful improvements, with many others, are the end-product of past innovation. Obviously change can be good. However, undoubtedly modern communication has improved the quality of life of many — time saved, productivity increased, learning accelerated, but not everyone is happier.

Evan Williams, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter reflected, “I thought, once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place, I was wrong about that.”

Clearly, not all change is good. Despite our electronic connectedness, many feel inadequate, incomplete, and jealous, giving rise to social fragmentation, anxiety and isolation. Across the world there is deepening distrust and fear, not just of institutions, but of each other — tribalism and intolerance increase. “Us-vs-them” polarises across racial, religious, and ideological boundaries.

Whatever you think of the thousands of Tasmanians who took to the streets a few weeks ago calling for more action on climate change, this is the world they live in. There is no doubting their hopes and fears.

Their hope is that action today will create a better tomorrow. Their fears lie in this question, “Does humanity have the corporate wisdom and ability to do what is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of life on planet earth?” It’s a profound question.

In the biblical Creation story, humanity is made in the image of God. We are imbued with the authority and ability to act. We are called to mirror the love, compassion and justice of God in the world. It’s both a wonderful gift and a profound responsibility.

Humanity peers into the future like no other creature. Crouched before us¾dormant, formless, unprecedented¾it arrives uninvited demanding a response¾our response matters!

Author and poet, David Whyte, observes how humans are “the only part of creation that can refuse to be ourselves…The cloud is the cloud; the mountain is the mountain; the tree is the tree… The kingfisher doesn’t wake up one day and say, “You know, God, I’m absolutely fed up… [with] this whole kingfisher trip. Can I have a day as a crow?”

Being human carries weight. Creation awaits our response. Do we withdraw or engage? Do we despair or dream? The future is the invitation. Do we accept it? Will humanity experience who we really are?

This is a “prayer” breakfast. Prayers are more than asking. True prayer stirs deep longings. It’s the longing found in the words… “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It’s the longing Jesus died and lives for.
It’s the candle of hope for a just, peaceful world.
It’s the whisper of things set aright.

Do you know that longing? I do.

  • Could Tasmania be a cooperative democracy¾more than winners and losers, more than compromise¾and co-create a good future together?
  • Can we chance the conversations we need to have without rancour and with respect?
  • Can we graciously and realistically attend to the wrongs of the past whilst giving life to the future?
  • Can we hold this delicate tension¾caring well for all we’ve inherited while allowing progress¾ensuring future generations live with enough food, and clean air, water and dirt?
  • Could Tasmania become a model sustainable community for the rest of the world?

Do we dare dream? Do we have what it takes?

It is so easy to blame others. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.”

I think he’s right. Human history is mixed; and our future, no doubt the same… yet individually and corporately we are responsible for it.

The future may not be what it used to be, but with trust and cooperation, humility and wisdom, patience and grace, and lots of forgiveness, there is hope… that’s why we pray.

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