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A Half-Sunburnt Country

You’ll know the lines from Mackellar’s magnificent poem:Sunburnt

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

And you’ll know which part we’ve been missing. The poem itself goes on to explore the tragedy of drought - “the pitiless blue sky” that witnesses the dying cattle. Or to be more accurate, that witnesses us watching “when, sick at heart, around us, we see the cattle die.”

Mackellar’s wilful Australia is a land of human impotence, a reminder that we are dependent on the gathering grey clouds and “the drumming of an army, the steady soaking rain.” Even the solution to drought overwhelms us with floods, leaving us truly at the mercy of the land.

Well, we’ve seen grey clouds gathering alright, but they have been clouds of smoke. The skies promise rain, but gives us ashes instead. Our soldiers - volunteers in yellow, wielding hoses as their weapons - fight valiantly, sacrificially, but we are still locked in a defensive battle, with no way to turn the tide of the elements that seem ranged against us.

The Bible doesn’t shirk the question of suffering, and this is nowhere more the case than in the book of Job. There we find this piece of advice: “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth...” (Job 5:8-10).

The land might be untrustworthy and full of contrasts, but God is faithful and constant. May he lie at the core of our hearts, and may our hopes fly to him this summer.

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