Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Even the dogs

I've just returned from five days in the Amata community in the APY Lands - a township about 100kms south of Uluru. A couple of nights before this photo was taken (communion on the Sunday morning) we had done a bible study on the story of Jesus encounter with the Syrophonecian (gentile) woman (Mark 7). She asked Jesus to heal her daughter and he responded tersely 'let the children be fed first, it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs'. She responds to the racist-sounding comment with: 'yes, Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs'. And here we were gathering around the Lord's Table waiting to be fed the children's bread and the camp dogs were everywhere, hovering under and around the table, poised to pounce on any crumbs that fell. I hardly needed to preach that morning!

It was an amazing week. We gathered each evening in or around the church for bible study. I'd prepared maybe 20 minutes of input but after translation it probably took 45 minutes. Paul Eckert is a brilliant translator. We've worked together a few times now and he has taught me so much about using 'translatable language'. I've realised how much abstract language I use and he has helped me be more concrete - story and image-based. It's actually changing the way I speak and preach generally but that's another story.

After the 'input' time it was opened up for response and sharing. The depth of sharing was extraordinary and often we didn't finish til around midnight. I felt more aware than ever of the vast cultural, social and economic gap between our worlds but the language of faith, aided by excellent translation, at times spanned the distance and afforded glimpses of another world.