theunfamiliarname

Homily for Easter 7B

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I have to confess I have an odd mind.
It seems to set off on tangents even I think are tenuous.
For much of the week I’ve been sitting with this morning’s Gospel
– all the language of being “sent into the world” and yet being not “of the world” –
and have had a strange returning metaphor:
the life of discipleship as somehow a dance.

“The dance of discipleship” has rather a nice ring to it.
Poetic. Evocative.
Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead.
Because I have in mind a very specific dance.

You’re in the world, and yet not of the world.
Sent into the world, but not belonging to the world.
Jesus is speaking somehow inside the world, but no longer within the world,
coming as he is, and as he has, to the Father.

There seems a lot of standing outside the world, doing things to and in it.
Rather like, to my warped mind, …the Hokey Tokey.
“You put your left leg in, you take your left leg out,
“You put your left leg in, and you shake it all about…”
That was my great theological insight of the week.

Nobody was more surprised, and disturbed, than me to discover
that there are strong arguments for that dance and that form of words
originating with an American Christian intentional religious community,
those radical Protestant near-monastics, the Shakers.

There’s nothing quite so confusing and deflating,
as when reality starts to conform itself to your own personal lunacy.

And yes, in another season of the church’s year,
we might together ponder at length the significance of
“you do the Hokey Tokey, and you turn yourself around”
the classic New Testament language for repentance.

However, we are on rather firmer territory when it comes to the refrain
on this Sunday in Ascensiontide, these last days of Easter,
floundering as we are between rising and falling,
movement in and movement out,
between heavenly Ascension and Pentecostal descent.

In the immortal words of the cockney dancehall on discipleship:
“That’s what it’s all about”.

Movement in, movement out.
One foot in the world, the other rooted elsewhere.
Not in a tentative way.
Fully committed we should be to “shake it all about”, to look stupid, to lose our balance.
But equally aware we stand on solid, immoveable ground.
Enlivened in and by the dance.
Not alone.  But anchored elsewhere.

“That’s what it’s all about”.

The Ascension shouldn’t distract –
that’s not the right word –
shouldn’t “abstract” us from the call to put our hands and feet to work
in “the world”.

I am greatly drawn to St Teresa’s prayer printed in my Trumpet letter.

But we need to know where and why we stand as Christ’s disciples.
Understanding that the truth we possess is liberating and joyous,
but not without challenge – and great challenge often –
to the life of the the world,
its presuppositions and prejudices,
not all of which are washed entirely out of our systems at baptism.

We are, though, anchored in the eternal.
Archimedes, great mathematician of Ancient Greece,
postulated that if he had an immovable place and a lever of sufficient length,
he could move the world.

“The world” is, not surprisingly, shorthand in John’s Gospel,
that most allegorical, richly symbolic of the gospel narratives.
It is a dark, brooding, shadowy expanse,
epitimising the forces and figures who oppose or are blind to the light of the gospel.

God’s love for the world, seemingly so far off and forlorn,
was shown in this way:  that the only begotten Son was given,
that whoever belives in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.
The true light that enlightens everyone
was coming into … where? … into the world.

John tells a story of hope and salvation for the world,
but he writes as a realist,
keenly aware of pain and persecution,
of the realities of life in that world.

The world that is beyond these walls,
not so much injuring as ignoring us to death.
Our Lord, praying for his disciples – then and now –
asks not that they and we might be taken out of the world,
protected from all the beauty and ugliness of humanity,
and from the reality of experience and evil.

But truth, the truth that Jesus names this morning, will not be silenced,
and next Sunday the power and passion of Pentecost
will throw the closed doors of this building open
when we discover afresh the power of God at work in us.
The dance of discipleship then will not want us as wallflowers.

For, as St Teresa’s prayer reminds us,
we are in a way that Jesus of Nazareth is no longer, “in the world”.
The world may hate those who do not “belong” to it,
yet into that very world we are sent,
by and as the One who was sent by the Father.
…for our joy, made complete in ourselves.

Archimedes thought that with an immovable place and a lever he could move the world.
Jesus’ ascension, and us with him, reminds us that we have one.
We are grounded in the secure, immoveable rock that is God.

We are charged with moving the world, you and I.
Transforming and challenging all that is not of God.
Claiming the compassion and light of truth,
a rock on which to stand rather than to beat people over the head with.
The lever we have is comprised of our own hands and feet,
shaken all about, or surgically precise and still.
The dance of discipleship.

“That’s what it’s all about”.

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