theunfamiliarname

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

Trinity Sunday

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2010 at 11:00 am

While not supposedly preaching today, renewed flooding may mean my preacher is cut-off.. so may need to share something.  It will probably be along the lines of  this

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Homily for Pentecost C 2010

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

They have at their centre a feeling of absence.
Jesus is no longer with them in that tangible, real, liberating form
they’d known and recognised.

And then, suddenly something like the rush of a strong wind,
like tongues of fire, something like a divine solar wind,
the very breath of God,
something like,… but ultimately indescribable.

And then that moment when every language,
neighbours, friends, enemies, empires and emirates, all are addressed.
The faith of one people is exhaled to the four winds
and the story, the good news of God is poured out upon all flesh.

The foolish, self-proud Tower of Babel,
is recreated not to assault the very heavens,
but to end division with the news that heaven comes near to us.

This is the Day of Pentecost.

Tongues of fire.
Prophetic words,
words breathed into them by the Spirit, ruach, Hebrew word for breath and wind.
Pneuma, Greek word for breath and wind.
The same word that brooded over the waters of Creation,
now creates once more.
Creates men and women aflame with passion and purpose.

Then and now.

They and we are active participants
in the tangible, real and liberating work of God.

In this time and this place,
what words and symbols and signs and circumstances
will allow us to speak in the Holy Spirit
as comprehensively as those disciples in Jerusalem?
Some may find ecstatic speech,
but it is not that kind of “speaking in tongues”
speaking to the gathered cosmopolitan crowds this morning.
It is something comprehendible that speaks to those
gathered for the Jewish festival of Pentecost.

The Spirit is not just some sort of personal feel-good factor.
The Spirit is not something that nourishes us alone.
The Spirit, that wind, that breath, that fire, is something that drives us out
from the rooms where we lock ourselves away,
out into the streets where we run the risk
that people think we’re crazy or we’re drunk with new wine.

There’s a well-known phrase: “where there’s life, there’s hope”.
This started life in Latin as dum spiro spero: while I breathe, I hope.
Where the breath of God is, there’s hope. There’s life, there’s power.
Our task as Church is to live in that hope, that life and that power.

The Spirit is the gift that stops us looking only back and within as Church,
where we are aware only of our smallness,
our fragility, our sense of being orphaned.
The Spirit breathes upon that and we are, we know we are alive.

Let us not be too concerned for ourselves,
our congregation, our church, our building
that we miss “what the Spirit is saying to the Church”.
Let us listen carefully to where the Spirit is calling us
and what we are to be saying in and among the many tongues
of our busy, self-important age.

Some words from James K. Baxter:
Lord, Holy Spirit, You blow like the wind in a thousand paddocks,
Inside and outside the fences, You blow where you wish to blow.

Lord, Holy Spirit, You are the sun who shines on the little plant,
You warm him gently, you give him life,
You raise him up to become a tree with many leaves.

Lord, Holy Spirit, You are as the mother eagle with her young,
Holding them in peace under your feathers.
On the highest mountain you have built your nest,
Above the valley, above the storms of the world,
Where no hunter ever comes.

Lord, Holy Spirit, You are the bright cloud in whom we hide,
In whom we know already that the battle has been won.
You bring us to our Brother Jesus
To rest our heads upon his shoulder.

Lord, Holy Spirit, You are the kind fire who does not cease to burn,
Consuming us with flames of love and peace,
Driving us out like sparks to set the world on fire.

Lord, Holy Spirit,
In the love of friends you are building a new house,
Heaven is with us when you are with us.
You are singing your song in the hearts of the poor.
Guide us, wound us, heal us.  Bring us to the Father.

Homily for Sunday after Ascension C

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 at 4:23 pm

[ A balloon rises to the rafters]
That is rather what the Gospels seem to have in mind.
In the up-down view of the ancient world,
this is a perfectly adequate explanation of the Ascension.

Jesus carried beyond human sight into heaven,
which was – as everybody knew back then – up there somewhere.

An unexamined interpretation of the Ascension stories are, though,
not really adequate to those of us
who don’t think of heaven as a location,
able to be found in the same way as Alpha Centauri or Outer Mongolia.

As I wrote in May’s magazine,
when cosmonaut Yuri Gegarin returned to earth,
Soviet journalists asked him if he had seen Heaven or any evidence of God.

And of course, they used this as some sort of continued ridicule of religion.

An overly literal reading of the Ascension risks missing the point.
And has us looking in the wrong place as we seek to make sense of the story.

“Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” ask the angelic figures.
As if to keep us reminded that that’s the metaphor, the symbol,
not the meaning.

We have our feet firmly on the ground.

The Ascension is not about a balloon, it’s actually about a bookend.
It’s the ending to one book, and the beginning of another.
Quite literally, Luke’s Gospel concludes with the reading we’ve just heard,
and his sequel, “The Acts of the Apostles” begins by retelling that same story.

Why?

Because, clearly, he sees it as pivotal.
In the Gospel account, we bask in the glory of Jesus returning to heaven.
In Acts, white-robed messengers move the disciples on.
Direct them back to the world of men and women,
where there is work to be done, good news and forgiveness to be proclaimed,
where “witnesses of these things” must make the world different.

You might remember those words of Teresa of Avila,
also in your monthly magazine (sounds a bit like an advertorial):
“Christ has no hands on earth now but yours”.
In the Ascension, we’re reminded that our calling is to be,
as literally as you like, “the Body of Christ.”

What we do matters.  How we treat people matters.

We are invited in this Ascensiontide,
not to simply look adoring into heaven,
but to work in the cause of the Kingdom,
honouring God by our care for the stranger, the poor, the defenceless.

At the conclusion of this “Fair Trade Fortnight”,
we’re reminded that some of those very people make our clothes.
They grow our coffee and tea.
We have choices to make,
so consumer culture is forever telling us.
So let us choose not to be a cause of suffering to others.
Not to literally buy into a system
that would deny a living wage to those who actually produce the items we trade.
If the Incarnation has any meaning,
if we really do believe that this Jesus shares our humanity,
and that of those faceless far-away people whose work we wear
and from whose labour we benefit,
then in the Ascension … we – and they – are carried with him.

Jesus ascends, whatever image you want to put around that,
and humanity is carried with him to the very heart of God.
We who share flesh and blood with him
are invited into the divinity that Christ has shown us.
In the Ascension, we are grounded in eternity.
We are grounded in God.
That is a hope that sustains us,
a reality that will not be broken by anything, even death.
When we no longer see those we love.

A hope that, grounded in God, raised to God,
we and all humanity are transformed and will be transformed.
We are with the God who is both in time and out of time.

Archimedes, great mathematician of Ancient Greece,
had an idea that if he had an immovable place and a lever of sufficient length,
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.
Jesus’ leaving history and geography
paradoxically liberates all time and space
to the transformative power of his life and his revelation of the Divine.
For while we are grounded in God, in heaven, in eternity,
our eyes are clearly focused on this time and this space.

“Why do you stand looking into heaven?” angels ask the disciples.

The Ascension is not an excuse for other-worldly abdication.
Quite the opposite.
More than ever, we are invited to engage with the real world.

Homily for Easter 6C

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Coming to live in a provincial centre,
a town rather than a city,
I’ve wondered what God actually thinks about the way we organise ourselves.

The Bible is actually not too complementary about cities.
They are from beginning to end, a source of bad behaviour.

So much so, that the vision of the Book of Revelation
has to have God bring about the new perfect city, the new Jerusalem,
holus bolus, direct from heaven.

Revelation presents us with a world remade;
where human relationships are redeemed;
where the Temple is no longer needed,
because humanity has real relationship with God, unimpeded;
where suffering and tears are no more,
but light and life are enjoyed by all in God’s presence.
A city in a dry land that has only dry riverbeds now,
knows in its remaking, bright, lively, wondrous water.

And a city that has not known much peace in its history
will find the meaning of its name:
“Foundation of Salem”, “Foundation of peace.”  Jerusalem.

Salem – peace.
“As-Salamu Alaykum”    “Peace be upon you”
as our Muslim sisters and brothers phrase it.
“Shalom” as our Jewish friends would greet us.

“Peace” seems a scarce commodity in the land that we call “Holy”.

But that name – Jerusalem, “foundation of peace” –
holds before us a vision of the world not as it is, but as it will be.
This is a vision of the Kingdom of God,
the vision central to the prayer Jesus taught, that God’s reign, God’s Kingdom
might come on earth as in heaven.
And quite frankly, Jerusalem – the here and now Jerusalem, the city in Israel –
stands as stark a reminder as any we might find,
that the vision of God’s peace and plenty and the healing of the nations…
this has not yet come.

The Book of Revelation is a vision-story
written during a time of great persecution and anguish in the Church.

Let us be reminded that this great vision of a world
at peace with itself and with God, grew up in a climate of hatred and fear.

The story of the Resurrection takes root
in the dismay and incomprehension of the Crucifixion.

We are invited to hope and to trust
and to work for a world that is more like the God we worship.

Jesus says this day,  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let your hearts be afraid.”

We are called to make that peace our own,
and to make that peace an ever-emerging reality
in our hearts, in our homes, in our world.
The Jerusalem of the Revelation vision is patently not
the way the world is, then or now,  but we are an Easter people.
We are a people of hope,
and, inexplicably, a people of power, even in our smallness.

We are called to be prophets of a future,
of a peace God alone can see and can bring to birth,
with us, in us, and in spite of us.
Through and beyond us, peace will come.
This is God’s work, and we can’t ourselves transform the world overnight.
There was a movement in South America in the 1970s and 80s
called “liberation theology”.
It spoke of hope to an impoverished and often brutalised population.
It dared to utter “God” and “politics”, “Jesus” and “economics” in the same breath.

One unlikely & late-comer to this was Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador.
Martyred as he said Mass in 1980, just over thirty years ago,
on the orders of the Right Wing Government.

He wrote these words that might speak to us today,
as we wonder about the place of the Church in our society,
about a kind of side-lining, perhaps even persecution that’s different now, but real,
about the present and the future of our parish.
He said:  It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,     it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:  We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything  and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,  and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,     ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.