Sunday 4th November 2012
Ordinary 31B, Colour: Green
All Hallows/ Souls & Melbourne Cup Weekend
Welcome. We invite you to this table with the cry and promise of Jesus
“Listen, I stand at the door and knock: if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you and you with me.”
In the gift of Christ and through the presence of his Spirit, we have tasted God’s gracious hospitality to us. And so we extend this grace to each other…
Welcome to the table…
What is it you bring?
Introduction: All Saints/Souls
At Newmarket Baptist we are asking how ‘Slow Food’ can help reframe our understanding of what it means to be “church”
The “Slow Food” Movement arose in Italy as a response to the negative impact of multinational food companies and its influence is spreading around the world – slowly!
Slow Food opposes the standardisation of taste, protects cultural identity tied to food and seeks to safeguard processing techniques inherited from tradition. It involves valuing time to prepare, eat and build community through food.
This All Saint/Souls week we remember the food tradition of the Bretons who, on their “night of the dead” and for forty-eight hours thereafter, believed poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes. The vigil for the souls, as well as the saints, had to be kept on this night because of course the two days were consecutive feasts — and a vigil is never kept on a feast.
Breton families prayed by their beloveds’ graves during the day, attended church for “black vespers” in the evening and in some parishes proceeded thence to the charnel house in the cemetery to pray by the bones of those not yet buried or for whom no room could be found in the cemetery. Here they sang hymns to call on all Christians to pray for the dead and, speaking for the dead, they asked prayers and more prayers.
Late in the evening in the country parishes, after supper was over, the housewives would spread a clean cloth on the table, set out pancakes, curds, and cider. And after the fire was banked and chairs set round the table for the returning loved ones, the family would recite the De Profundis (Psalm 129) again and go to bed. During the night a townsman would go about the streets ringing a bell to warn them that it was unwise to roam abroad at the time of returning souls.
Whilst such traditions may seem culturally foreign and even downright superstitious nonsense to some of us, I am reminded of a quote by Ched Myers;
“I am convinced that beliefs of traditional cultures not only speak truth but they represent an ultimatum to Christians. Will we continue to ignore the song-lines and to excommunicate the spirits of the land in which we dwell? Or can we learn to hear the songlines as essential verses in the earth-song of Gods praise and to see the spirits as part of the great “cloud of witnesses” spoken of in the New Testament book of Hebrews.”
– Ched Myers
And so as we prepare for our meal tonight we invite you, like the Breton’s, to set a place and consider that you are doing such connected to loved ones who have departed, recognising the impact they have had on our lives and faith journey.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of this place, the Wurundjeri and their elders past and present.
It is impossible to do church in Flemington and not be affected by the race that stops our nation. We remembered a young woman horse trainer who had attended our church earlier in the year after having had two potential life threatening experiences with horses and seeking to connect the theme of ‘death’ and ‘horses’ we read the following poem.
Only A Jockey Boy, AB Paterson, 1887
‘Richard Bennison, a jockey, aged 14, while riding William Tell in his training, was thrown and killed. The horse is luckily uninjured.’ – Melbourne Wire.
Out in the grey cheerless chill of the morning light, Out on the track where the night shades still lurk; Ere the first gleam of the sungod’s returning light, Round come the race-horses early at work.
Reefing and pulling and racing so readily, Close sit the jockey-boys holding them hard, ‘Steady the stallion there — canter him steadily, Don’t let him gallop so much as a yard.’
Fiercely he fights while the others run wide of him, Reefs at the bit that would hold him in thrall, Plunges and bucks till the boy that’s astride of him . Goes to the ground with a terrible fall.
‘Stop him there! Block him there! Drive him in carefully, Lead him about till he’s quiet and cool. Sound as a bell! though he’s blown himself fearfully, Now let us pick up this poor little fool.
‘Stunned? Oh, by Jove, I’m afraid it’s a case with him; Ride for the doctor! keep bathing his head! Send for a cart to go down to our place with him’ – No use! One long sigh and the little chap’s dead.
Only a jockey-boy, foul-mouthed and bad you see, Ignorant, heathenish, gone to his rest. Parson or Presbyter, Pharisee, Sadducee, What did you do for him? — bad was the best.
Negroes and foreigners, all have a claim on you; Yearly you send your well-advertised hoard, But the poor jockey-boy — shame on you, shame on you, ‘Feed ye, my little ones’ — what said the Lord?
Him ye held less than the outer barbarian, Left him to die in his ignorant sin; Have you no principles, humanitarian? Have you no precept — ‘go gather them in?’
Knew he God’s name? In his brutal profanity, That name was an oath — out of many but one – What did he get from our famed Christianity? Where has his soul — if he had any — gone?
Fourteen years old, and what was he taught of it? What did he know of God’s infinite grace? Draw the dark curtain of shame o’er the thought of it, Draw the shroud over the jockey-boy’s face.
We acknowledged the scathing critique of the church of the day and the racing industry. With current scandals currently engulfing both institutions with regards to the treatment of children and corruption, we acknowledged the truth that such a poem still contains.
In honouring our communion of saints we gave thanks for the long departed women of Newmarket Baptist Church who in 1909 responded by conducting a mission at the Flemington Racecourse distributing gospels and offering support to young jockeys who were easily exploited within the high stakes industry.
91 year old, local legend Betty Lynch gave us our Benediction for the day reminding us of a time on Cup Week when an old Pastor of the church had sent the congregation out with Psalm 20.
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you… Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.