Psalm 114 for Noongar country

When Israel came into the Great South Land:
and the People of God among a people of an alien tongue.

Torndirrup became his sanctuary:
and Walyunga his domain.

The sea saw that, and fled:
Derbal Yiragan was driven back.

Pualaar Miial skipped like a ram:
and the foothills like young sheep.

What ailed you, O sea, that you fled:
O Yiragan, that you were driven back?

O Bluff Knoll, that you skipped like a ram?:
O little hills like young sheep?

Tremble, O Noongar country, at the Lord’s presence:
at the presence of the God of gods.

Who turned the rock into a billabong:
and threw sand into the waterhole to make it safe.


(Acknowledging Professor David Frost’s version of Psalm 114 in A Prayer Book for Australia)

 Torndirrup – the National Park on the south coast at Albany with the Gap and Natural Bridge.

Walyunga – National Park on the Darling Range near Perth with many sacred places associated with the Waagyl.

Derbal Yiragan – Swan River

Pualar Miial – Bluff Knoll (tallest peak in the Stirling Ranges)

Throwing sand – When Noongars arrive at a water-hole or river, they throw sand into the water so as not to disturb the Waagyl and make the water safe for drinking and swimming.

The Gap, Torndirrup National Park, courtesy

Psalm 108 for Noongar country

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed:
I will sing and make melody.

Awake, my soul, and awake, sticks and didj:
for I will awake the morning.

I will play the didj, O Lord, among the peoples:
its circle buzzing breathes our gratitude.

I will chip your clapping sticks among the nations:
its clicking claims your eternal praise.

For the dawn in the east rises in gold and scarlet:
robes of Easter and Pentecost overwhelm the sky.

Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds:
and the land is a body painted with white and ochre dreamings.

Be exalted, O God, above the southern skies:
and let your glory shine over Noongar country;

That all whom you love may be delivered:
Noongars and wedulahs, O save us by your right hand, and answer us.


(Acknowledging Professor David Frost’s version of Psalm 108 in A Prayer Book for Australia)

 The ‘didj’ (didgeridoo) was technically not a part of Noongar culture before the arrival of Europeans, but they have adopted it since contact with ‘wedulahs’ (white fellas) has brought them into contact with other Indigenous groups.  

My country of origin is Koreng country. I now live in Wardandi country.

Noongar country (Western Australia)




Psalm 148 for Western Australia

Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from heaven:
praise him from the heights of Toolbrunup.

Praise him, all his angels:
O praise him all his hosts.

Praise him, sun and moon, rippling staircase across the sea:
praise him, all you stars of light.

Praise him you highest heaven:
and you Cross bright against the dark of night.

Let them praise the name of the Lord:
for he commanded and they were made.

He established them for ever and ever:
he made an ordinance which shall not pass away.

O praise the Lord from the earth:
praise him you golden super-pit and caves of glistening stalactites.

Bush-fire and hail, cyclone and heat:
and willy-willies fulfilling his command.

Mountains of iron and giant ant-hills:
gum-trees, and grass-trees, and grey-green plains of spinifex.

Dingoes and kangaroos:
creeping things and long loping emus.

Elders of tribes, and many nations:
refugees and boat-people, and all who’ve crossed the seas.

Young folk and children:
Seniors and toddlers together,

Let them praise the name of the Lord:
for his name alone is exalted.

His glory is above earth and heaven:
and he has lifted high the stocks of his people.

Therefore he is the praise of all his servants:
of the children of the West, a people that is near him. Praise the Lord.

(Acknowledging Professor David Frost’s version of Psalm 148 in A Prayer Book for Australia)

* Toolbrunup – second highest peak (1,052 metres above sea level) in the Stirling Range in the Great Southern region of WA

* Staircase of the Moon – in Broome and Meelup in February and March the rising full moon shines over the east-facing beach to create a spectacular light effect like a staircase.

* super-pit – open-cut gold mine near Kalgoorlie 3.5 x 1.5 km and 600 metres deep.

* willy-willy – local word for dust-storm or mini-tornado.

* spinifex – properly called Triodia, these arid grasses are endemic to outback Australia.




Psalm 89 for Western Australia

Lord, I will sing for ever of your loving kindnesses:
my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness throughout all generations.

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord:
and let your faithfulness be sung by your holy ones in cathedrals and karri forests.

O Lord God of hosts, who is like you?:
your power and your faithfulness are all about you.

You rule the raging of the sea:
when its waves surge at Yallingup, you still them,
when its tides rush in at Hedland, you level them.

You created the Kimberley and the Great Southern:
Kununurra and Esperance shall sing of your name.

The endless array of the stars is yours:
and so are the far-dreamt deserts of the interior.

You founded the fertile valleys of the West:
and filled the rivers with gilgies and fish.

Happy the people who know the cry of the black cockatoo:
who walk, O Lord, in the paths of your creating.

They rejoice all the day because of your name:
because of your righteousness they are exalted.

Our land belongs to our God:
our country to the One who makes us.

(Acknowledging Professor David Frost’s version of Psalm 89 in A Prayer Book for Australia)

* karri – eucalyptus diverticolor trees which grow extremely straight up to 80 metres.

* gilgie – a freshwater crustacean found in West Australian waters.

Karri forest (courtesy Wikipedia)

Visible & Invisible

The Creed, as we recite it in the Eucharist week by week, proclaims the Father as the ‘Pantocrator’, the Maker of all things visible and invisible. The original Greek looks like this:

παντοκράτορα: ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων·.


Wonderful words, often translated into wonderful art in Greek churches with Christ as Pantocrator painted in a huge dome dominating the church building as the Trinity is believed to dominate the Universe. The description of God’s creation as everything ‘seen’ (oratōn) and ‘unseen’ (aoratōn) shows that the writers of the Creed had a mighty insight into the nature of the Universe that scientists are only just unravelling.

SBS recently screened a documentary How Big is the Universe? This BBC documentary answered the question in three ways. It is bigger than we can see, one, because we can see only the objects that generate light. Scientists believe that there must be much more matter than can be seen: they call this invisible matter ‘dark matter’. The metaphor used in the program is of flying over the United States at night. You can see an outline of roads and streets lit up; but there is much more going in the dark than shown by the scaffold of light.

Second, telescopes can only ‘see’ 15 billion light-years into the past. What happened beyond is unseen, but that does not mean for scientists that it does not exist. This universe is in principle infinite in size.

Thirdly, it was initiated rather like a bubble, and the energy required to make one bubble could well have made many bubbles. There could be an incalculable number of unseen universes as well as our own. Proof of collisions between our own Universe and another of these ‘bubbles’ has been detected, giving credence to this theory.

In some ways, these distances are simply unimaginable, although in the past hundred years, most human beings have gone from imagining 20 miles as an impossibly long trip to imagining long-haul plane travel around the planet – 20 thousand miles from Perth to Québec in Canada.

The scientists ask us to stretch our imaginations to the size of the Universe: the writers of the Creed ask us to stretch to the size of God. In simplistic terms, if the Universe is so big, then God is bigger. God is celebrated as the Maker of the all things visible and invisible. Poiētēn is the Greek word for ‘Maker’, and you can see its connection to the English word ‘poet’. To be the Maker of all things visible and invisible requires not just a builder, but a Maker with huge imagination; a poet of the extremes.

Both science and creed move us to wonder. The question ‘How big is the Universe?’ morphs into an exclamation of joy, ‘How big is the Universe! How wonderful the Universe!’ And many of us would proclaim, ‘How amazing the Maker!’

courtesy BBC (“How Big is the Universe”)



Graham Tomlin, Looking Through the Cross: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2014,
Bloomsbury Academic (2014), Paperback, 240 pages.
Also available from Amazon in Kindle format.


Chapter 1: The Cross and Wisdom

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Tomlin says that St Paul criticised the Corinthian church for living according to the wisdom of the surrounding society. Does our contemporary church adapt itself too easily to contemporary society?

2. ‘A crucified, shamed and humiliated man is in fact the wisdom and the revelation of the God who made the universe.’ (p. 25) If this is so, what does the cross reveal about God?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Find a crucifix or picture of Jesus on the cross that speaks to you in some way of God’s wisdom. The cover picture of Looking Through the Cross may be suitable. Sit before it in silence without analysing it or using words to pray. Simply be conscious of God’s presence with you.


Chapter 2: The Cross and Evil

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Can you name evidence for the ‘deep wound in creation that needs healing’? (p. 42) Where can you see such a wound today?

2. Does it make sense for Jesus to be a representative of all humanity? How can that be?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Find the words of ‘Amazing Grace’ by John Newton (Together in Song 129) or Graham Kendrick’s ‘Servant King’ (Together in Song 256) or Thomas Troeger’s extraordinary ‘A Spendthrift Lover’ (TiS 676). Take the words to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and read them through several times as a way of thanking God for the cross overcoming evil.


Chapter 3: The Cross and Power

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Tomlin describes Albert Schweitzer’s choice to work among the poor of Africa as an exercise of power for the sake of other people. Name other examples of this kind of power. Why is it power to make a choice that the world sees as the way of weakness?

2. ‘When we are loved we are able to change. When we are unloved, we dig in our heels and refuse to budge.’ (p.78) Think of a time when you were empowered because you knew you were loved.

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Learn the ‘Jesus Prayer’ by heart: ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Use is to pray for those whom you love by substituting the name of each of these people for the word me. So, to pray for my wife, I pray, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Name, a sinner.’



Chapter 4: The Cross and Identity

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. In what tangible ways has your Christian faith given you a new identity? Tell the story of the different you that now lives in Christ.

2. How do you feel the pull of your old identity? What keeps pulling you back from full life in Christ?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

When Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope, he chose the name Francis for this next stage of his ministry. What name would you choose for yourself to signify who you are now in Christ? Have fun trying on some different names!


Chapter 5: The Cross and Suffering

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Can you make sense of the idea that God in Jesus undergoes suffering but God the Father does not? How does this idea help us live with ongoing suffering?

2. When we ‘take up our crosses’ and understand the cross of Christ in a ‘deep, personal heartfelt way’, Tomlin says our hearts are softer. Has he made the right connection? Does choosing suffering increase our empathy?


Activity & Prayer Cues:

Pray in silence before the picture of the cross or crucifixion that you used for Chapter 1. Which suffering people in the world today call to you for a response? What is a costly and meaningful response that you can make to alleviate that suffering?


Chapter 6: The Cross and Ambition

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. ‘Imagine for a moment a culture where everyone’s main aim was to seek the good of their neighbour, where the only social competitiveness was to find ways to bless the person next door.’ (p. 142) What is stopping us?

2. What strategies should we adopt to learn from modern servants (‘cleaners, gardeners and dinner ladies’ p. 145)? Be ambitious to use the strategies you identify.

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Make a list of serving activities that you don’t normally do that you could undertake today. For example, I could collect cups and plates and load the dish-washer after morning tea at church. Aim to do them. Tick each one off as you do it. Destroy the list at the end of the day. Repeat the exercise next week.


Chapter 7: The Cross and Failure

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Is there a sense in which the crucifixion was a failure? Is the crucifixion a phenomenon that looked at from one side is a failure and from another side is a triumph – the means of our coming close to God?

2. Reflect on what you have learned from failure. If you are in a group, consider what aspects of these learnings you can share with the group.

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Read John 21:15-19 several times slowly, aloud if you can. Be conscious of your breathing. Put yourself in Peter’s position, remembering that he has returned to Galilee a failure. As Jesus asks the question ‘Do you love me?’ identify what Peter may have felt. Do you feel a transition?


Chapter 8: The Cross and Reconciliation

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. What walls dividing people in the Australian community should the Christian community be working to break down?

2. What programs or processes does your local church have in place to help people grow in moral maturity?


Activity & Prayer Cues:

What three specific actions can we take to make our faith community more of a ‘mother’, a nursery of Christian action and reconciliation (pp. 189-190)?


Chapter 9: The Cross and Life

Questions for Individual Reflection & Group Discussion:

1. Thinking of the death of your grandparent or parent or other loved one some years ago, what signs of new life do you discern in their dying?

2. Do you agree with C.S. Lewis that we are outside the real world (p. 213)? What does he mean by this image? What does he mean by saying that we shall get in?

Activity & Prayer Cues:

Using a simple medium (crayons or coloured pencils), draw seeds being buried, germinating, growing and bearing fruit. As you draw, meditate on the power of new life, the continuities and the discontinuities between seed and flowering plant, the imbalance between the old and the new life.


Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book Renews Engagement

Looking through the Cross

Graham Tomlin, Looking Through the Cross: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2014, Bloomsbury Academic (2014), Paperback, 240 pages.

Good stocks at St John’s Books, Fremantle. $19.95
Kindle edition available from Amazon for $10.88

Reviewed by Ted Witham. First published in Anglican Messenger, February 2014

Being a Christian requires personal engagement – with God, with Jesus Christ, with neighbour and stranger, with truth, with good and evil. For most of us, being a Christian can be complex and demanding, but we remain committed because we believe that God is eternally committed to us.

A good Lent book refreshes this sense of personal engagement with Christian living. It should encourage, inspire and inform by taking readers both back to when they fell in love with the faith and forward by challenging readers to grow spiritually. Good Lent books are often about the Cross and Resurrection clueing us into the liturgical movement of Lent and the Paschal mystery at its climax.

Graham Tomlin’s Looking through the Cross is a very good Lent book. It is about the Cross. Tomlin tells us that his early chapters are looking at the cross, trying to understand more deeply its meaning for us, and the later chapters are looking through the cross, using the cross as a lens on the world.

In the chapter headings, ‘The Cross and Wisdom’, ‘The Cross and Evil’, ‘The Cross and Power’, ‘The Cross and Identity’, ‘The Cross and Suffering’, ‘The Cross and Ambition’, ‘The Cross and Failure’, ‘The Cross and Reconciliation’, and ‘The Cross and Life’, it is not entirely clear when we change from looking at to looking through. I am sure that ambiguity is deliberate: the cross always both teaches us about itself and reveals how it has changed God’s world.

Graham Tomlin writes clearly. Reading his book is like sitting with the most patient teacher, sharing with us his understanding of how the cross comes alive for him. His explanation of the connection between the cross of Christ and our personal sin is the clearest I’ve encountered in 40 years of reading books about Christianity. ‘Those who have perpetrated evil must be held to account,’ he writes. ‘The evil that has disrupted the world cannot simply be ignored or glossed over: it must be banished, dealt with, put right. Restoration is possible, but only when sin is somehow atoned for.’

Archbishop Rowan Williams commissioned The Reverend Dr Graham Tomlin to write this year’s Lent book. His successor in Canterbury, Justin Welby, ‘could not be more pleased’ with the choice. Centred in scripture, scholarship and pastoral experience, this book seems to me to bridge some of the divides in contemporary Anglican thinking.

The cross demands that we clearly separate Christian faith from the surrounding culture. In the powerful chapter on identity, Tomlin describes how our experience of family christenings obscures the radical change God makes in us in baptism when God gives us a new identity. Using the image of a protected witness or juvenile criminal with a new identity, he reminds us how hard it is to live out of a new identity, and how the old identity will continue to exert a pull on our lives.

But the cross is ultimately the path to life. We are made not to end in death, but in life. Tomlin reminds us of the leap in imagination we need in order to lay hold of this reality, but also rallies us with the knowledge that the new life of the cross and resurrection is ultimately God’s work and not only ours.

It is helpful if a Lent book has some guidance for its use: questions to provoke reflection or small group discussion, suggestions for art response, even a reading program. Looking through the Cross has none. This is a significant drawback in a book promoted for Lenten reading. Even without this, individual laity, clergy and groups will find Dr Tomlin’s book refreshing, challenging and clear. At the end of Lent, the book will help readers emerge at Eastertide re-engaged with their Christian faith.


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