Lamentations: Trauma and Recovery

Study 1 Lam 1:1-7; 12-16; 20-22; Lam 3:1-9; 5:1-4, 11-16; 19-22

Dr Liz Boase

Uniting College for Leadership and Theology

The Book of Lamentations

This is God’s Land.

Many have gone before who have honoured God by caring for the Land, in the ways they have lived and in the stories they have shared.

I acknowledge and give thanks for the Wadawurrung people, who have held as sacred the duty of protecting the Land and living in harmony with it. May God honour and bless them – now and to eternity.

Thank you for having me here at the conference and for the invitation to share in these studies with you.

I live on the land of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. I have only been there for 9 years. Before that I lived for many years on the land of the Noongar people. Before that on the land of Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation.

I’d like to thank Denise for the generous time and challenging conversation we shared back in December. Without her insights, these studies would be quite different. I hope and pray that I do justice to that conversation Denise.

The song from Archie Roach that was just performed is a powerful lament. It tells his story. It tells the story of his people. It tells the story of fear. It tells a story of stolen children. It tells a story of return. It tells a story of hope.

Every story of suffering and trauma is different, but often there are common threads in people’s and nation’s stories.

Today and tomorrow I am going to share a biblical story with you. It is told in the book of Lamentations. Like Archie Roach’s song, it is a story about suffering. About a people who lost their home, who lost their land, who were invaded and occupied by another nation.

It is also a story of hope. The people of Judah had always had a story which helped them know themselves and to know their identity. But when their land was invaded that story was interrupted. They didn’t understand their identity anymore, and they didn’t understand their God. But this people did not give up. They talked about their lives. They talked about their experiences. They talked about their God. They talked to their God. All this talking was important. By telling their story the people of Jerusalem stayed connected with each other. By telling their story the people stayed connected with God.

The people of Judah had lived in their land for about 600 years or more. God had promised this land to the people many centuries earlier. God promised Abraham that he would be a father, and that his family would live in the promised land of Judah.

This land was important to the people of Judah. They understood it as a gift from God, and they knew that they had a responsibility to look after this sacred space. The city of Jerusalem was particularly important. The temple was there. The temple was the place where God’s presence was most alive to the people, and the temple mountain and the city were seen as sacred places, filled with God’s wonder and mystery. Thin place. Many people believed that Jerusalem could not be destroyed because God lived there and was so present in that place.

But this land was important for other nations as well. The lands of Israel and Judah stood alongside the Mediterranean Sea. Although much of the land was dry and arid, there were fertile strips as well. Whenever bigger powerful nations wanted to take control of the middle eastern area, they needed to have this area in their control. They needed this land for their troops to pass through and to provide food and access to the sea.

So Judah was often invaded by other, more powerful nations. They were often under the control of the invaders. They were often persecuted and oppressed.
The book of Lamentations tells the story of a time of invasion. About 600 years before the time of Jesus, a nation called Babylon was trying to become the most powerful country in the region. It took control of Israel/Judah, and signed a very uneven treaty with them. Judah had to be obedient to Babylon and not oppose them in anyway. Babylon tried to control the king and the people through fear. But the King of Judah—Zedekiah—wanted to try and get rid of Babylon and rebelled against the treaty. Babylon invaded the land. They laid siege to Jerusalem for two years, blockading the city so that no food could get in. They eventually broke down the walls of the ancient city. They burned the city to the ground. They destroyed the temple, they killed and raped and murdered. They took the king and the community leaders away to Babylon. They left the poorest people of the land behind in the ruins.

The book of Lamentations tells the story of the people in this time of loss. It is a story told in poetry—the language of the heart. It tells the story and it stores the memories. The poetry helps the people to tell what had happened to them and makes sure that the story isn’t forgotten. The poetry calls for people and for God to witness the suffering of the people. It is poetry that calls out to memory and for a response.

The story is told by different voices—different people if you like. There are at least four different speakers. The voice of the story-teller-the narrator. He describes the things he sees. He started off detached, but gets more involved as he goes along.

There is the voice of a woman. She is called Daughter Zion. She is the voice of the physical city, but at the same time the voice of the people themselves. She tells the story from a very personal perspective, full of the suffering of the women in the city.

There is the voice of the man, who appears at the beginning of chapter 3. He tells the story of invasion and exile from the voice of a soldier—one who has seen combat.

And there is the voice of the community as a whole. They don’t appear fully until the end of the book, a little bit it chapters 3 and 4 but taking up all of chapter 5. This communal voice is a sign of healing, of the community reuniting and joining together in their suffering.

Each of these voices, these people, tells the story from a different perspective. Each one views the suffering differently. There are voices of observers, of a woman and a man. All these voices are part of the community. Each person contributes a different perspective, but all are as important as the other.

Let’s start with the voice of the storyteller/narrator. This voice is a bit detached. He’s telling the story from a distance, as if he’s a watcher, but hasn’t taken part himself. But I think he has suffered too, but it’s safer for him to tell the story from afar. That way he can pretend it’s someone else’s story not his own.

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. 2She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. 3Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.4The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. 5Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. 6From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer. 7Jerusalem remembers, in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was no one to help her, the foe looked on mocking over her downfall (Lamentations 1:1-7)

Even though this man is part of the community, he talks about the suffering of his city and his people from a distance. It’s like he’s reporting the news as if he’s an onlooker. He describes the fall from grace of Jerusalem. The loss, the destruction, the isolation of the community. There are some facts here—the destruction, the pictures of young people and old people, women and men all suffering. But he uses emotional language. He portrays his people, his city, like a widowed woman who has lost everything. His people and his city are now like the most vulnerable people in society.

The storyteller also introduces the idea of memory. He tells of the suffering, and he describes the city-woman as someone who “remembers”, in her suffering, all the precious things that she used to have. For in her time of suffering, this woman remembers how things used to be. It’s part of the suffering— the loss of culture, the loss of family, the loss of a place to call home, the loss of people.

The man is telling this story to draw attention to the city woman’s suffering. Telling the story of the community might help others to notice, to take action. Importantly, by naming the suffering the woman might be able to move out of her place of weeping on the ground, able to talk for herself and name her experience.

Studies on loss and trauma repeatedly show how important it is for someone who has suffered to name their pain and suffering and for other people to notice, to witness to, that suffering. In telling the story the possibility for healing is begun.

There is a note of blame here as well. Although the city, the community, has been destroyed by others, the story-telling also says that it was the woman’s sin that led to her downfall. This speaker is part of the community, and he talks about self-blame. The people must have done something wrong to make this happen. Quite often people who suffer great trauma look for someone to blame and often it becomes self-blame. He says that they were not good enough and so God punished them. Self-blame is sometimes a way of coping with loss and leads to hope for the future. By believing that the community did something to deserve the suffering it’s possible that they might be able to avoid future suffering by changing their behaviour. Self-blame is a way of self-protection. If we behave differently to before then we can stop the suffering. If we please God the bad things won’t happen again. It might seem like a harmful response, but it does give a sense of hope for the future. A sense of control over their own fate.

When the man finishes talking the city-woman herself starts to talk. Now we hear a much more individual and personal story. Told from the perspective of a woman’s suffering. The speech of the woman is full of personal references. Full of language of the loss of children, of rape and death and abandonment. The woman’s story is much more intimate and personal. More domestic. She talks about the pain of her body and the loss and tragedy of dying people and lost children.

12 Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.

13 From on high he sent fire;
it went deep into my bones;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all day long.

14 My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
by his hand they were fastened together;
they weigh on my neck,
sapping my strength;
the Lord handed me over
to those whom I cannot withstand.

15 The Lord has rejected
all my warriors in the midst of me;
he proclaimed a time against me
to crush my young men;
the Lord has trodden as in a wine press
the virgin daughter Judah.

16 For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my courage;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed (Lamentations 1:12-16).

The woman’s story is different to the man’s story. She is concerned with loss of children, loss of community. She grieves the deaths. She worries about lack of food and starvation. She talks about the pain in her body, the ache in her heart. She worries about the children who have been taken away. This woman doesn’t care much about political position or national shame, but about the very personal losses and griefs of women. Women and men tell different stories about suffering. Her story is about her broken family and her shattered tribe. Her story is about her own tears, her own pain. Her story echoes the pain of other women, and of the men, and of the children. This woman has the language and the courage to talk about the personal impact of loss and trauma. It is a woman’s story.

In chapter 3 we return to a man’s story. Unlike the story-telling man in chapter 1, this is the story of a man who has been fighting and maybe even taken away into exile.His memories are different. His story is of fighting, weapons, the humiliation of a defeated warrior. He describes his broken body and his broken spirit. He tells the story, but tells the men’s story—a different but just as important story as that of the woman. Listen to the language of physical abuse and imprisonment in this reading

3I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath;
2 he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
3 against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
and broken my bones;
5 he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
6 he has made me sit in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has put heavy chains on me;
8 though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
he has made my paths crooked (Lamentations 3:1-9).

The man is physically beaten and emotionally wrecked. His suffering is made worse because he feels like God isn’t listening to him.

The man, and all the speakers, are angry at God. They believe that God is behind what has happened to them. They don’t understand why they are suffering so much, but believe that God could have, perhaps should have, done more to protect them. God should not have let this happen. They were God’s people. The speakers do not hold back from telling God about their anger. They accuse God, yell at God, question God. They know that God can handle it.

But the people also don’t give up on God. Even if God doesn’t make sense anymore, the man, Daughter Zion, and the story-teller also hold on to God in their anger. Even when God doesn’t make sense, God is the answer.

The lament poems we hear are all addressed to God. The people want God to notice and to act. They hold on to the belief that God will act.

In the final passage fro today, we hear the whole community speaking together to name their suffering.

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!
2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to aliens.
3 We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.
4 We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought (Lamentations 5:1-4).
11 Women are raped in Zion,
virgins in the towns of Judah.
12 Princes are hung up by their hands;
no respect is shown to the elders.
13 Young men are compelled to grind,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.
14 The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.
15 The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned! (Lamentations 5:11-16)

19 But you, O Lord, reign for ever;
your throne endures to all generations.
20 Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure (Lamentations 5:19-22).

A number of threads come together in this final chapter. The opening verses speak of the physical suffering. The effort to get food, the oppression of the invaders, the loss of homes, the effort to get even everyday necessities such as water. The invaders control all aspects of life, and life is difficult, even unbearable.

On top of this there is the shame. The shame of women who are raped. The humiliation of the nobles, and disrespect for elders, men doing women’s work. There is no more joy—the Babylonian invaders have taken everything away, leaving the people lost, with all the markers of identity and community shattered.

In the final words of the book the people turn to God and what they remember about God from the past. That God reigns, that God rules. But the book finishes with a question—has God turned God’s back on us completely? The people ask God to restore them, to return them to days of old. But they are not confident about an answer from God. The book finishes with the words “unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry beyond measure.”

That’s how it is sometimes in the midst of trauma and suffering. The people of Judah reach out to God hoping that they can trust on the God they have all ways known. But in the middle of the pain the certainty of old has gone, and the people of Jerusalem were left wondering if this was how life would be forever. If this was the new way of life that would not change.

But I see there is more hope than this in Lamentations 5. At the beginning of the book we heard the voices of individual speakers. A detached man who described life in the city from a distance. Daughter Zion who spoke of women’s pain. The man who speaks of a soldier’s pain. Isolated voices who start to tell their story. But by the end of the book the whole community has come together to tell the story. The community has begun to reunite. To be a community rather than a collection of isolated individuals. Instead of being members of a community who suffer alone, the community is remembered, rejoined into a community that is able to name its shared sorrows, its shared loss, and its shared hope.

The telling of stories—stories of pain and suffering—have begun their work of healing. Begun to help the people to move out of their isolated suffering to linking with community again. The telling of stories is important in healing. Finding voice, naming pain, finding listeners. For this community, telling the story was the beginning of healing and helped to ensure that their community, their nation, would survive into the future.

I’m going to ask Denise to read to you her own rewording of Lamentations 1. She has made connections between her story, the story of the Adnyamathanha people, and Lamentations.

I wonder if there are connections for you in this story of the people of Judah? I wonder if there are times that you know of where telling the story has helped? You might like to share that with others at your table.

Study 2 Lam 3:19-36; 5:19-22

Yesterday I talked about the book of Lamentations. The story behind the book is a story of loss and suffering. The people of Judah had been invaded by the Babylonians, their land had been taken over, their homes destroyed, many people were killed, others raped, others taken off to a foreign land.

We looked at some passages from Lamentations, and the way that the poetry tells the story of the suffering of the people of Jerusalem. Different people speak. Each person tells part of the story from a different perspective. Each speaker has something important to say, and no one speaker is more important than another. At the end of the book, the whole community speaks in one voice. This is important as it shows that by telling their stories, the people are able to come back together as a community. Suffering and trauma often split communities apart, but by speaking out, the people managed to rebuild their community.

Today I want to talk about hope in the book of Lamentations. Although most of the poems are about suffering and loss, there is also hope in the book. Some of that hope is named directly, especially in the words of the man in chapter 3. But there are other signs of hope too, so I will talk about those as well.
The bigger story of the people of Judah is one of hope. In the ancient world, it was common for nations to fight against other nations. In many ways, Babylon’s war against Judah was a very common event. It wasn’t the only time Judah had gone into battle. It wasn’t the only war ever fought. Fighting wars was common and often devastating.

Often, when one nation defeated another nation, the losers stopped being a nation altogether. Many nations mentioned in the Bible no longer exist today. What is extraordinary is that Judah was so badly defeated and that they are still remembered today. The Jewish people still exist today. They continued to worship the same God that they worshipped before their defeat. That is an extraordinary thing.

How is it that Judah managed to survive and to eventually return to their land, and to continue their rituals and their life?

I think that the book of Lamentations is an important clue to the survival of the people who are today known as Jews. That survival is a story of hope in itself.
First of all, the people told their story. Yesterday I talked about the importance of talking about the pain and suffering. I talked about finding people to listen and witness to that story. The storytelling was very powerful and effective. Jewish people still read all of the book of Lamentations on the date known as the 9th of Ab in the Jewish calendar. It is the day of remembering the destroyed city and temple. The Jewish people still read Lamentations as a way of remembering their past and as a way of looking with hope to the future.

And we are still reading their words. When I was in my early 30s I read Lamentations for the first time. The words resonated with my soul, with my story. Not because I had been in war, or invaded by others. As one of the Second Peoples of Australia I don’t know what it is like to have lost my home, and had my culture forever changed by an invading people. But the words still spoke a language I understood through its expression of pain, sorrow, anger and hope. Perhaps you might also resonate with these poems.

The poems talk about extreme suffering, suffering beyond anything the people of Judah had known in previous wars. This was total defeat. So the words spoke to a new reality. Although the situation was new, the people of Judah turned to their older ways of telling their story to tell this new story.

In the book of Psalms the most common type of psalm is the psalm of lament. Lament psalms are songs and prayers of suffering, of questioning, of protest and of anger. The people of Judah also sang dirges at funerals, songs which mourned the dead. The poems in Lamentations are a combination of lament poetry and dirge-like rhythms. The people turned to the old and familiar language as a way of holding on to their ritual and their culture.

So the poems held the memories of the suffering in the cultural language familiar to the people. The poems of Lamentations are an important connection to tradition.

We also know that the people of Judah treasured their stories and during this time of change and disruption wrote down many of the stories so they wouldn’t be lost. A lot of people think that Judah moved from an oral to a more written culture because of the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of so many people. In that move from oral to written word, something is lost, but something is also gained as the stories are preserved for future generations who did not know the old ways.
So hope is found in the words themselves—in telling and writing down the words that are still read today. The words that helped the people of Judah to keep some connection with their traditional rituals and practices.

The people of Judah also continued to talk to God. God didn’t make much sense to them, but still they continued to address God, and yell at God, and pray to God, and ask for God’s help. Even if God felt like the problem, the people of Judah also saw God as the answer.

Judahite culture and practice wasn’t “pure” before the exile. The writings of the prophets show us that the people worshipped other gods and did not keep to the Law. During and after this time of loss and exile, the people of Judah stopped messing around with other religions and other gods, worshipping only Yahweh, their one-god. And they looked to the Law much more than they had in the past. Both Law and Ritual reflected the changed circumstances, (many Jewish people continued to live outside the promised land), the culture adapted. But at the heart of that culture lay the familiar acts of worship and a reliance on the Law.
Law and ritual helped the people to re-form a new sense of identity. An identity that was different to that of the past, but still true to their story.

So—that’s some of the larger story. Let’s look at another passage from the book now to see how hope is expressed in the poems themselves.

The biggest section of hope in Lamentations comes in the middle of the book, in the speech of the warrior-man we looked at yesterday. We sang some of Lamentations 3 in worship—“the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.”

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
20 My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for one to bear
the yoke in youth,
28 to sit alone in silence
when the Lord has imposed it,
29 to put one’s mouth to the dust
(there may yet be hope),
30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter,
and be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not
reject for ever.
32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve anyone.

34 When all the prisoners of the land
are crushed under foot,
35 when human rights are perverted
in the presence of the Most High,
36 when one’s case is subverted
—does the Lord not see it?

37 Who can command and have it done,
if the Lord has not ordained it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
39 Why should any who draw breath complain
about the punishment of their sins? (Lamentations 3:19-39)

The speaker—the man, has just finished 18 verses which explain his suffering. He names God as the one who has caused his suffering. He is angry, and hurting, and in the midst of physical and mental anguish.

But in verse 19 we see a shift in the man. He remembers. He remembers who God is, and he remembers what he knows about the character of God. And he finds hope in God because of who God is.

He says, as we sang earlier “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.”

The man remembers what he has known about God. These words are not new—we hear them for the first time in the bible in Exodus 34:6-7

6The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed,
‘The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7 keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.’

The man finds his hope in the character of a God who is merciful, gracious, and full of steadfast love. Like the other people who speak, he does believe that there is a sense of punishment in what has happened to him and his people. Like I said yesterday, self-blame is common amongst survivors of trauma. But even if this is punishment (and I personally don’t think that’s a great interpretation of suffering), it is not in God’s nature to stay angry for long. In the end God’s mercy and compassion will always be known.

Even when God seemed to be the man’s enemy, he remembered the love and compassion of God and that gave him hope.

God is also described as a God of justice. God sees suffering, sees injustice and oppression, and acts to right wrongs. There are two ways of reading verses 34-39. It is usually read as a sign of judgement against the people of Judah. God has seen the injustice they have done, and that’s why they are being punished.

But, it can also be more hopeful—that God sees the injustice being done to the people of Judah and that God act to change their situation.

Either way, God is a God of justice and a God of compassion and steadfast love.

And that is where the hope lies for the man.

Often these words are the only ones we hear from Lamentations, and I think that is such a pity. The hope of the man—and the hope of the whole community—is not an easy hope. It is not hope that is permanent. The man says these words of hope in chapter 3, but then straight away we are back into the language of lament again. More poetry about loss and suffering and trauma.

In Lamentations hope doesn’t come easily. Sometimes there is hope, but it passes and despair returns. Hope is like that. It needs to be worked at, to be grasped when it arrives, and looked for when it disappears again.

Working at hope can be about prayer—about turning to God and talking to God, even if we’re no longer sure that God is listening.

Working at hope can be about remembering—remembering what God has done in the past as a way of seeing the possibility of something new in the future.

Working at hope can be about staying connected with people, with community, even if we feel alone and isolated.

Hope can be fleeting. It was for this community.

But hope was there, and hope lay with God and with the nature of who God is.

This fleeting hope connects with the words of the community we looked at yesterday. We read
19 But you, O Lord, reign for ever;
your throne endures to all generations.
20 Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure (Lamentations 5:19-22).

When the community all speak together they remember who God is, and that God is the one who reigns forever. But even in this memory, the hope is fleeting. In the midst of suffering it is sometimes hard to see the hope, but it is welcome when it does come.

The bigger salvation story reminds us that this hope in God is the true hope for the people of Judah. They did survive their loss and the exile. They continued to be a worshipping community. They continued to be God’s people. They continued to redefine their rituals and their identity. They hung on to what was important from their past ways, the Law and the rituals, but did so in new ways that reflected their changing situation.

In the midst of their suffering the people of Judah believed that God wouldn’t let them go. And God didn’t let them go. The people of Judah came to a new understanding about Yahweh God that helped them to move into a new future.

The bigger salvation story also reminds us that the story of God continues in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Finding hope in the midst of suffering is one of our greatest challenges, especially when we feel that God is absent and we are alone. But the story of God in Jesus reminds us that our suffering is known to God, was experienced by God on the cross. Christ’s cry of anguish was God’s cry of anguish. God, in Christ, has fully entered into human suffering.
Christian hope is the attitude of trusting that we are part of God’s story, a story of loving mercy and redemption won through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Hope is directed towards the future, which then shapes our present.

The Basis of Union of the UCA reminds us

The Uniting Church affirms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to the promised end. The Uniting Church prays that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will constantly correct that which is erroneous in its life, will bring it into deeper unity with other Churches, and will use its worship, witness and service to God’s eternal glory through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

As Second Peoples, I read the Preamble to the Constitution as an expression of God’s enduring love and compassion, as an expression of God’s steadfast love that has helped the Second Peoples of Australia to name the wrongs that we have done, and to recognise God’s ongoing work in the lives of the people of God. For me personally, it is a sign of God correcting what has long been erroneous in the lives of the white Australian church.

But as a white woman of the Second Peoples of this land, I can’t and won’t presume to talk about what hope might look like for you, the First Peoples. Instead, I would like to invite ….. to the microphone to talk about hope.