The Real ‘Harmony Day!’

22 March 2018

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 
Isaiah 53:3-5

Yesterday was ‘Harmony Day’ – a day to celebrate the successful integration of migrants into our country and communities.  A day to recognise that nearly 50% of Australians were born overseas or have a parent who was, to celebrate that in the last 70 years more than seven and a half million migrants have made Australia home.  It’s a day when we proclaim, ‘Everyone belongs’.

How ironic, then, that lurking in the shadows of the ‘Harmony Day’ glow was the news story of the week – the racial taunt by a spectator on NRL and Rabbitoh’s star Greg Inglis.  We may pride ourselves on our high rate of multiculturalism (only behind Switzerland and Luxembourg) and yet disharmony and exclusion are daily realities for many.  Yesterday I sat with an Filipino woman at a Cultural Diversity workshop who has lived in Australia since the age of 8.  Eighty percent of her life has been lived in this country.  Two days ago, a random person walked up to her in a shopping centre on the Central Coast, pulled a face and changed the shape of her eyes and told her to ‘Go home where she belonged.’  In this woman’s own words, “My head tells me to just brush it off as an ignorant comment, but even after 32 years in this country, it breaks you down.  It wounds your spirit.”   

I wonder…we may not overtly spruik racist slurs but what messages do we subtly send to others in our homes, communities and churches that echoes, “You don’t belong here?’  How do we devalue people by assigning them worth simply because of the colour of their skin, what they look like or do?  How do we unintentionally exclude people by our own unwillingness to extend a hand of welcome or open up our home for hospitality?  How often do we remain silent and fail to call out those who make jokes that generalise or denigrate others based on where they come from or what language they speak?

Over 2000 years ago, Jesus experienced what it was like to be on the receiving end of taunts and rejection; to be despised and told that ‘you don’t belong here’.  He was stripped, vilified, beaten and ridiculed.  He was led from the city as an outsider to a cross where he was dehumanised and shamed.  But here’s the thing.  Jesus allowed his spirit to be crushed.  He intentionally bore your shame.  He willingly gave up his life on the cross so that you could experience real harmony and full inclusion.  On the first ‘Harmony Day’ Jesus declared from the cross that there is nothing in all creation that will ever separate you again from his love.  He has done everything, so that you can belong to him forever.  That’s worth celebrating every day. 

To Ponder:   In what ways are my words, actions and behaviours valuing or devaluing the others around me today? 

Lord Jesus, as you have freely opened up your arms on the cross to welcome me into your home forever, help me to open my arms and my home to embrace people with your inclusive love. Amen.