November 17, 2020

View From the Faith Office

A Reflections on the Readings from All Saints, All Souls Day and Melbourne Cup week

I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language (Rev. 7:9)
These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again (Rev. 7:14)
We are already the Children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:2)

There is a poignant tradition that takes place at the end of the running each Melbourne Cup. While the winning jockey is celebrating the victory with the horse’s connections, the 23 remaining jockeys are asked about their horse, the race as it was run, and how it came to be that they finished where they did. The reality in their respective stories being that only one horse wins. For the other twenty-three, the experience is one of imperfection and incompletion. For whatever reason, they didn’t win, and they are left to rue what might have been, if only the race had panned out differently.

It’s a wonderful metaphor for life. While we dream of health, success and happiness as an endpoint, the experience is all too often marred by memories of dreams unfulfilled, paths not taken, times of sickness and moments of sadness. The human experience is like a horse race – for most of us, we finish somewhere back in the field, obscured by the other runners around us.

The Feast of All Saints Day is a timely reminder that ‘victory’ comes in different guises, and Christianity holds up a different set of goals as the end point for life. Simply taking part in the race marks everyone as special – we are all Melbourne Cup runners – or as John’s Letter affirms this weekend, “we are already Children of God”, wherever we may finish. Meaning and purpose is to be discovered in the story of our participation in the race, not the result. Each of us have a special place in the race, with the more marginalised and persecuted more likely to receive an eternal ‘victory’.

So as the ‘race that stops a nation’ is run again this year, and all eyes are on the winning post and the horse that passes it first, take time to look beyond the winner, back in the field, where sacred stories of effort and courage, disappointment and lost opportunity, are being played out in all of life’s glorious imperfection:

How happy are the poor in spirit:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called children of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.
(Matthew 5:3-12)

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