The 4th day of the 15th Assembly began with worship led by the Northern Synod. It included the reading of Ezekiel 37:1-14; the vision of the valley of dry bones, a prophecy of outrageous confidence in the LORD, expressing a hope that could liberate a people in exile from their good homeland, the promised gift of God.
The text was read in the Djambarrpuyngu language. It was the first public reading of this new translation. It was read by Djawut Gondarra who, with his wife Yurranydjil, was part of the translation team.
It was a profound experience that I’m still trying to think through. Djambarrpuyngu is a language indigenous to this continent. Its sounds and rhythms are shaped around the plains, escarpments, tides, forests and animals of Arnhem Land. It’s a language that is tens of thousands of years older than the prophetic text that Djawut was reading.
I’ll say that again. Tens of thousands of years before the young prophet Ezekiel stepped into that valley of dry bones, tens of thousands of years before God called Abraham and made the promises that are at the core of my faith as a Christian, Djawut and Yurranydjil’s forebears maintained a culture, a society, an economy, families, and a system of international relations in the language I was hearing.
I’m reminded of the words of the Preamble of the UCA Constitution:
“The First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God before the arrival of the colonisers; the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony. The same love and grace that was finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ sustained the First Peoples and gave them particular insights into God’s ways.”