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The parable of the spear-maker

As told by the late Pastor Tommy David, a Pitjantjatjara minister at Mutitjulu (a community at the base of Uluru), to linguist Paul Eckert.

The spear was the primary weapon of the traditional Pitjantjatjara man. Without it he felt naked, not only unable to provide for himself and his family, but also defenceless in the face of those who might harm him. The spear gave him the means to confidently provide for his family and boldly face any dangers that came his way.

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The spear maker begins straightening the shafts while they are still green.

The tree from which a Pitjantjatjara man would cut a spear shaft is not one that we would choose.  It’s much more of a bush than a tree – there is not a straight branch on it. However, the man cuts several of it’s long curved bendy branches. He brings them to his home and lays them on the ground, already calling them his ‘kuḻaṯa’ (spear shafts), even though they appear totally unsuitable for the purpose.

As a man makes a spear, so God makes us his disciples.

The spear maker begins straightening the shafts while they are still green. To do this, he first holds the curved parts in the hot flame of a fire until pliable. He strips off the burnt bark and then straightens the shafts with his hands. He straightens the hardest parts over his knee. He bends them hard in the opposite direction to ensure that they come up straight. When they are straight he sets them aside to allow time for the sap to dry out.

Men check their spears near Uluru

Men check their spears near Uluru Paul Eckert

Later, using sharp stones, he scrapes off the knots and roughness on the surface to make the shaft smooth.

Taking another piece of wood from a different hardwood tree, he fashions a spearhead and sharpens the point. He carefully fixes a sharp barb to it with spinifex glue and kangaroo sinew so that when it pierces its prey, it doesn’t fall out and the animal escapes. He fixes the spearhead to the shaft with more of the glue and sinew. Finally, the spear is ready. Now, it is a useful instrument in his hands.

Just as the barb keeps the spear from being ineffective by falling out of any prey, so the Holy Spirit ensures that the Word of God takes root and is effective.

So it is with God and his people.

As a man makes a spear, so God makes us his disciples. He chooses us even though we are crooked, and uses the fires of trial and suffering to straighten us and make us fit for his purposes.

Just as the main shaft of a spear has to be supple and flexible to be effective, so we need to yield and be pliable and malleable in God’s hands.

A spear bush.

A spear bush. Paul Eckert

Just as the barb keeps the spear from being ineffective by falling out of any prey, so the Holy Spirit ensures that the Word of God takes root and is effective.

The hunter always uses a woomera (a spear-thrower that serves as an extension to the human arm to enable a spear to travel at a greater speed). He may have the straightest spear, the most supple and it may have the best tip, but without a woomera it’s not going to do its job well when thrown. In the same way, even though we may be fully prepared as a people, we will be ineffective without the Holy Spirit.

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