‘I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance’. (John 10.10)
‘What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.’ (John 1.1)
What is it about what we know of Jesus’ life that some of the closest people around him made these sorts of claims? That he ‘gave life’; that his ways among people were ‘lifegiving’? And of course within this, remembering that some of the more powerful and influential people around him experienced him as death-dealing. One of the most poignant and paradoxical stories of Jesus’ life as a life-giver is the story of his time in the wilderness – a place symbolically devoid of life – and the spiritual and physical challenges he faced there. The stories depict Jesus emerging from there ready for ‘life’. These truths or wisdoms now forged deeply within his soul, undergirded a way of life by which he ‘gave life’. These were not easily come by.
Is it possible that in the place of death-dealing wilderness, Jesus learned the secrets of ‘life-giving’? Contemplating the profound questions of sustenance, the nature of relationship and spirit? Are these the questions we must contemplate when considering what might be life-giving for our souls, and where and how we search for that? And what might come from ways of being in our spirits, being in our relationships and being in the world that are life-giving?
Port Hedland is a place where the desert meets the ocean. Beauty here lies deep, silent, and fleeting. It takes skill and gifted eyes to capture it. To discover ‘life’ here is an art. It is a challenge to find places of life-giving essence. There are pockets of promise, but in my experience, they are often fleeting – one moment they are there and then they’re gone. There is an old phrase that sums up this place: ‘godforsaken’, God-abandoned – where life in all its fullness is a faintest hope.
The mystery and spirit of it is that God is there, moving among the masses, the hidden source of life-giving moments and encounters. God’s presence and movement is not as easily discerned, or present in ways commonly known, or as easily recognisable, the overwhelming evidence usually provided, can’t be found. But cleanse our eyes of all that is already known and recognisable of God, come with a ‘beginner’s mind’ and spirit, and it is possible to find.
There is a sense in which we work and live as if God – the life giver – is only present in life-giving ways in places that are designated as sacred. And yet Jesus’ life, as life-giver, was largely spent in places where God was seen as absent (or worse, considered to be wrongly known or believed).
Where I have found life-giving conversation and interaction, soul-enlivening encounters and experiences – experiences that have ‘saved my soul’ – have been deep within the places where Jesus’ lifework is emulated, but not named and claimed as God’s work; working alongside people who are ‘life-giving’ within the depths of human disconnectedness, on the discarded edges of community. Places and people who not deemed as righteous, as Christian, or as sacred, unconcerned about visibility and mission status, but who are in the stream of life-giving movements. This is where I found the very hope of life in a godforsaken place.
I am curiously amused that as I write this, the lectionary throws Matthew 13 out for grabs. Stories of the Kingdom of God; where seed is scattered onto all sorts of terrain in the hope that it will take root and flourish and bring forth life. We often so easily discard the possibility of seed flourishing as it lands on rocky, sandy soil and on stone paths, these conditions not fit for ‘life giving’. These conditions of the ‘heart’ not fit or prepared for the life-giving word of God.
And yet it can be found that the word of God can be carried in the hardest of hearts and flourish in ways unrecognised by holy ones.
Life giving or the seeding of the fullness of life can be found in the hardest of soils, carried by the tiniest of seeds and seeded by the impossible possibility.
Rev Bronwyn Elvery, minister at Port Hedland Uniting Church