Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Rev. Peter J. Blackburn, at St Mark's Anglican Church, Buderim, Australia Day 1994

The man was driving out west when his car broke down. Fortunately he was not too far from the next town. But he put up the bonnet – it might be something simple he could fix himself or, at the very least, he should find out where the problem might be before he went for help.

As he leaned over the engine checking the electrics – battery terminals tight, high tension cables properly home… – he heard a voice behind him, "It's the carburettor!"

That gave him a bit of a start. He hadn't seen a soul when the engine died. He looked all around – a horse on the other side of the fence, but nobody in sight. "It's been a long hot drive," he thought. "I must be imagining things."

He put his head down again to continue his search when he heard the voice a second time – "It's the carburettor!"

The voice was coming from the direction of the horse. Absently, he looked over at the horse and said, "Did you say something?" He saw the horse open its mouth and say, "I tell you, it's the carburettor!"

This was just too much for the man. He dropped the bonnet and ran all the way to town, as fast as his legs could take him. When he got to the pub, he rushed into the bar and began telling his story.

"…And there I was, hanging over the engine when I heard this horse speaking! He said, 'It's the carburettor!'"

"Not an old grey stallion?" they asked.

"Yeah, that's the one!"

"Ah," they said to him, "you don't want to take any notice of that horse! He doesn't know a thing about cars!"

Can I have a Light?

As Aussies, we like to think we can do things ourselves. For some, that streak of independence may well have come over with an ancestor who had fallen foul of the law. Others have had forebears who came to pioneer an existence in an incredibly tough land – it would make or break them!

But with that tough independence there developed mateship – that fellow feeling for others battling the harsh conditions – and the typical Aussie humour – because if you didn't laugh, you might cry. And we do value our mates. You never tell on a mate. And a mate can help you if you get in a spot.

"Can I have a light, mate?" he says. And what does he mean? He wants to "light up". The craving for another cigarette has grabbed him, but he has no matches. He needs my help. But non-smokers like me just don't carry matches, so I tell him, "Sorry, I can't help you!" and he goes looking for someone else.

"Can I have a light, mate?" he says. His legs are sticking out from under the car. He's trying to find out what's wrong. He's fairly certain where the problem is, but can't see quite well enough to work on it. He needs me to pass him a torch, or, better still, to climb under with him and shine it on the place where he is working. Then he'll be able to see properly, understand the problem and fix it up.

Of course, some people are complete loners – they absolutely refuse to admit they need help, even if it's staring them in the face! None of us like the interfering types, but it's possible to be quite stupidly stubborn about it. Some fellows would swear black and blue that they're OK when it's as clear as day they're not!

But then, we've all had the experience of taking someone's advice and regretting it. So we end up making our own mistakes. We're rather good at that – though we don't like admitting it! Someone said that, if we kicked our worst enemy in the pants every time he did us a bad turn, we'd be so sore we'd never be able to sit down!

Who Needs God?

Curiously, Australians are among the most religious people on earth. The name of God, or of Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost (or Holy Smokes or some other holy thing) passes the lips of many Australians at a higher rate per sentence than for most English-speaking peoples! And yet the image we try to project is that we are rather irreligious. We don't need any of that religious stuff. We don't need God. If we use his name, we don't mean anything by that! By our blasphemies we are showing our maturity, asserting our independence – perhaps in a strange way daring this God (if he exists) to strike out against us!

Who needs God? In this land we have faced flood and fire and drought by our own courage and ingenuity. It has often hurt, but we've done it. That's the character that has made us rugged individualists. That has marked us out for over two hundred years now. We don't want to live under God or anyone else. Many would happily remove from our Constitution, not only all reference to monarchy, but also to God Almighty. We're grown up now! Who needs God?

Our multicultural policies feed this independence of God. School teachers have been told references to Christmas must be free of Christian content. Supposedly this is to avoid offence to students of other faiths, though it is hard to imagine that class references to Yom Kippur or Ramadan could be made without reference to the religious significance of these Jewish and Islamic celebrations. Somehow our cultural diversity is being used as an excuse for opting out of any faith. Who needs God?

The reality is that we aren't making out so well on our own after all. We are finding it more difficult to make long and stable marriages. Violence within marriage has reached frightening proportions. The level of violence in our society as a whole has increased alarmingly. We show commendable concern for the animals and plants in our environment, but tolerate the eradication of unwanted human embryos and are slow to eliminate the sexual exploitation of the young in our country and overseas. We prefer that doctors assist terminally-ill patients to end it all than to accept the commitment of long-term palliative care. We are all too ready to give in to the pressures from homosexual lobby groups that we accept their orientation as normal and their actions as moral. We are in a moral mess! We are already paying for it in our society and will pay heavily for it in the future! God help us! Where do we think we're going?

There's Light All Right!

It's time to blow the whistle – to say, "Enough!" We just can't keep travelling along this road. It's time to find our way again! It's time to turn this whole show around – this nation that we call Australia!

During the Year of Indigenous Peoples we thought we could solve the native title issue. We satisfied our racial conscience but we gave a narrow solution. It hasn't helped many aborigines and has failed to address the bigger question, "Whose land is this?" Right at the moment we face the divisive issues of justice, of what it means to live as one nation together – of black land rights versus white land rights. But – whose land is this?

Some early cartographers pictured Terra Australis incognita as part of a large antarctic mass arising from the South Pole. It was the unknown continent – there ought to be such a continent, but western explorers hadn't discovered it.

In December 1605 the Portuguese explorer, Fernandez de Quiros, set out to discover, where others had failed, the elusive south land. After weeks of sailing, his boat came to land at what he believed to be the missing continent. He named it "Austrialia del Espiritu Santo" – the South Land of the Holy Spirit. (The spelling "Austrialia" was a gesture to the King of Spain who was also archduke of Austria).

De Quiros got it wrong. He had in fact discovered the largest island (now called simply Espiritu Santo) in the group that Cook later named the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). And yet, he got it right! This land was God's country before ever it became Aboriginal country or Anglo-European country.

The Mabo legislation and the recent Wik decision have the potential to lead to a social and legal nightmare for black and white Australians alike if we fail to turn again and acknowledge our land as Australia del Espiritu Santo. This is God's land first and foremost. How should we use this land? And how are we to recognise with care and fairness the needs of all Australians, whenever they have settled here?

We desperately need the true God, his Light and his help! That Light is not just an idea that people have had – you know, hold up the light, pass on the torch... – and the Light is not just God's truth that is somehow over there when we seem to be over here!

Listen to the incredible claims of Jesus – "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life – no one comes to the Father, except through me!" (Jn.14.6) "I am the Light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn.8.12).

God's Truth has come here to us! God's Light has come into this world! God himself, in the person of his Son, has come here!

The Light has come! And that Light shines on our human life, our values, our life-styles, our institutions... Like so many today, the people of that time didn't like the Light, rejected the Light, tried to get rid of it because it made them uncomfortable... But it's God's Light – you can't do that! The trial was a miserable kangaroo court, but God took that rejection and turned it to redemption! The Light still shines!

We need some light all right! Being irreligious hasn't been so very successful! These days people are seeking spirituality in all sorts of places and by all kinds of means. Do be careful! Don't take it from any old horse! Not all you get "from the horse's mouth" is to be trusted! Many modern gurus parade their lavish claims.

The God who revealed himself to this world in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God is the only true God there is! He is the God of this South Land of the Holy Spirit! He is worthy of our allegiance, and is ready and able to help us! Come to him! Trust him! Worship him! Obey him!

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