Fig tree with aerial roots, Redfern Park.
Photo: Andrew Collis

‘The fountain and the fig tree’

Andrew Collis
Ordinary Sunday 16, Year B
Mark 6:30-44, 53-56

On Monday morning I met with Dorothy for a walk in Redfern Park. We talked about the gospel, about the apostles with Jesus in a boat (boundary crossings), about the tassels (tzit-tzit), the Torah, touch and healing.

As we talked, a dog with a ball jumped into the fountain and we saw (assuming the excited vision of the dog) the splashing water as a wave washing over the bow of a boat. Falling water, we saw, also looks like tassels, like fringes on a cloak.

Jesus wore a cloak with tassels, symbolising the goodness of Torah – an invitation to walk in the ways of Wisdom, to encounter Wisdom in the world.

In lockdown we appreciate keenly many signs of goodness in the world around us. The dog leaps north and south, east and west, as if delighting in the ways of Wisdom. The water within becomes a dazzling without – a surplus of meaning, a dazzling array of possibilities.

Jesus carries/embodies a living tradition – a way of true humanity and divine love. Perhaps we see the tassels where the mainstream encounters new questions – at society’s fringes … on the fringes of the park where neighbours practise meditation (resting in good work, in ritual); people fumble with face masks and cigarettes, give thanks for coffee and hot chocolate, guide their children safely across the street …

… on the fringes of the park in apartments where people feel isolated and lonely, older people feel frail and vulnerable, parents and carers watch over children attending to schoolwork …

The glory/beauty of Christ, we ponder, is akin to the fig tree with its long aerial roots – ancient tassels – the Word of God making spiritual connection here in the park where all people have access to green space, birdlife, exercise, recreation. Here in the park where we engage, repeat, reshape a Wisdom tradition. Wisdom traditions, plural.

Chris Lodge is right. Without the trees there is no world for us. We pray for the Amazon and people of Brazil, for the wilderness and for the gardens and farms … for sustainable practice and renewable technologies.

I recall a word from process theologian Catherine Keller: “It will take a rigorous poiesis [creativity] if we are to salvage our collective life … If we do, it will be by opening new localities of communication for more planetary alliance. But novelties will crash like a computer without the reopening of old – even ancient – lines, folds, and forces of vibrant relation. So theopoetics may be crucial to this coalescence …”

The dog is in the fountain again, the ball bobs this way and that. He figures it out, how to nudge it with his nose, how to hold it in his mouth, firmly, carefully.

A final word (for now) regarding touch, perhaps our primary sense. Touch means double sensation – touching and being touched. We are touched by the beauty/glory of Christ, in whose Spirit we pray for musical, pastoral touch, and more. Making contact (maintaining contact during a lockdown) means learning to be tactful, sensitive to need and alive to possibilities for healing. May it be so. Amen.