theunfamiliarname

Homily for Ordinary Sunday 14B

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2009 at 11:26 pm

If you’ve ever been close to a story reported in the media,
you may have found it a disconcerting experience.
Often, because when we know what’s actually going on,
we can see the way it’s often misrepresented on the page or in the soundbyte.

Yet all too often we feel compelled
to sacrifice our better judgement for the nicely packaged take on things
afforded us by that most ubiquitous of modern media manifestations,
the visiting or video-linked “expert”.

It has been said that “the expert” is a species
consisting of anyone in a suit more than twenty miles from home,
however bewildered or ill-informed.
…Because we trust such people, and by implication
we do not have so much confidence in our experience, expertise or observation.

We live in a culture that, with the notable exception of rugby,
struggles to have faith in our own commentary, our own voice.
Don’t get me wrong, in the arts, in popular music and on the telly,
we’ve made huge advances over the last twenty years,
but the legacy of cultural cringe is that more often than not
we look outside for the people who will tell us the way the world really is.

The prophets.  The truth-tellers.  The people who shape our view of the world.

Jesus, in this morning’s gospel challenges this.  Challenges us.

“Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown”.
Outside our own is where we look for what is true and transformative.
Unable or unwilling to see the gift of God that walks among us, or within us.

But one of the messages of Christ and of the Incarnation
is that the truth, the encounter with the living God,
the vision of what God hopes for us
is not something external and far off, expert-driven.

It is in our midst and with us,
grown in our soil and speaking with our accent.
Prompting us, calling us, sending us in service to the world which we inhabit.
Yet we paralyse the saving work of God by being unable to accept this.
By being unable to accept that we are part of that work,
that ours are to be the healing hands, the journeying feet,
the truth-telling voice of Christ.

The frightening part of this story, and the most unpalatable,
is the prospect that we might, like Ezekiel,
be called upon to speak what even we do not want to hear
and say “Thus says the Lord”.

It is not a popular message,
and one not well designed to win friends or easily influence people.
There’s also the uncomfortable feeling
that should we feel such certainty about what God is telling us
we’re probably a few snowflakes short of a snowman.

But God has always spoken to people and called them to speak to others.
Think of the prophets of recent history:
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Te Whiti o Rongomai, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa,
Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, …
none of them perfect.  A number not even Christian,
but strident voices for truth and peace and human dignity.
For justice.

Prophets.

Prophets are ideally people a long way off and preferably dead.
The idea that prophets walk the earth is disturbing.
The notion that they might be in our midst is alarming.
That they might be just like us is inconceivable.

We are not cut out to be prophets. We know that.
No-one as ordinary as us could be such a messenger.
We’re all too aware of our weaknesses, our limitations,
and all the very good reasons
why we could not possibly find the challenging words of God upon our lips.

The Prayerbook of 1928 has something we might pray:
Remember, O Lord, what thou hast wrought in us
and not what we deserve;
and as thou hast called us to thy service,
make us worthy of our calling…

Jesus sends out the disciples this morning without any provisions.
“No bread, no bag, no money, only the clothes you’re wearing…”
They will learn about trust.
They will learn about vulnerability.
They will perhaps understand as Paul did,
“My grace is sufficient for you”.
In God’s grace, you are enough.

No true prophet, no disciple, no apostle
every felt supremely confident merely in and of themselves.
But if we have trust in the message, the good news we carry
and the God who has given it to us,
we are a more powerful force
than we could ever imagine.

We may feel we are without honour at home,
but we are in good company.

We may feel unworthy to bear or share the gospel,
but God transfigures our poverty.

We may feel that the prophetic, compassionate, transformative
missionary task of the Church is something that happens overseas
and out of sight,
but here is where our gospel message is most needed.

We should not be too timid in naming what we see
and in speaking the words God will give us.

I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them,
“Thus says the Lord GOD.”
Whether they hear or refuse to hear …
they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

They shall know
that there has been a prophet among them.

Let us in the silence, listen for the voice of God.

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