theunfamiliarname

Homily for Ordinary Sunday 14C

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire
… The angel Lucifer’s expulsion from Heaven in Milton’s Paradise Lost

Words that echo the imagery Jesus uses in this morning’s gospel:
“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”

Dramatic stuff, if a little hard to get our heads around in the modern world,
but from time to time we are confronted in the biblical writings
with these elements of a belief system and cosmic hierarchy
which sounds a little incredulous to our sophisticated ears.

But it seems that part of the mission disciples are called to,
out in the harvest field of the world,
is to confront some unattractive, inhospitable, not-of-God stuff.
There’re told to enter optimistically the villages they come to,
but to shake off the dust of communities who will not receive them.

More than that, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” says Jesus.

Yet armed with nothing more than Jesus’ instruction, their faith
and their openness to recognising and preaching and enacting
that God’s Kingdom is near,
little, vulnerable, timid lambs are amazed at what they can stand up to:
The seventy returned with joy, saying,
“Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

Which brings us back to that opening, jarring chord,
about Satan falling from heaven.

I don’t know what you make of Satan, or the demonic.
Quite probably you think the world we inhabit
is not highly stocked in the demons department.

But, as I suggested to you a couple of weeks ago, you’d be wrong.
Let’s stand back from our cartoon images of little figures with pitchforks.
Let’s look at this biblical language acknowledging evil
as mythic: meaningful, powerful, and ultimately true.
Maybe not literally true, like a science textbook,
but true like a poem or evocative image.

And so I’m telling you that we, like the first disciples,
live in a world full of demons.
Powers and non-human entities
over which we seem to have no authority, no control.
Frightening, amorphous, seemingly untouchable.

Some are governments, some companies, huge impersonal corporations,
sometimes acting in inhuman, immoral, indefensible ways.

Some are addictions, from substance to sleaze,
to our throw-away world, addicted to oil and exploiting beyond all sustenance.
To pollution, to the idols of the shopping mall.

Some are irrational hatreds and wars and abuses
that cannot be easily reasoned away,
as if human beings act with a mass-mind in ways individuals would never dare.
Think of Nuremberg in the late 1930s.

Demons are those forces we feel we cannot control, cannot understand.
Things impersonal, non-human, oppressive and dark.

These are “supernatural” in the literal meaning of the word:  “beyond nature”,
“things that cannot be explained according to the natural laws”.
At some level they are against all sense and logic and learning.

Yet the unarmed, unshod, unfinanced disciple
is pitted, empowered to take Jesus’ good news
from the safety of the Teacher’s feet into the midst of such demons.
To challenge them, and to cast them out.

To journey through the rich harvest-field of what can and will be
when the world truly has a sense that the “Kingdom of God has come near”.

As lambs among wolves we are sent,
to confront also those more subtle demons,
the voices that whisper that we are not enough.
Not smart enough, not pretty enough,
not rich enough, not able enough…

Look, you are sent, with more power than you know,
and in the name of the one who transcends all power,
… and disciples are sent out in each other’s company.
We do not do this alone.

And perhaps that helps us keep grounded.

Lambs in the midst of wolves know they need to stick together.
And that they need a shepherd.  A good shepherd.

Jesus sends disciples out in every age to preach the good news that God is near,
and God’s intention for humanity, God’s Kingdom,
demands justice and our fearless willingness to become workers,
labourers, doers, hands-on and active,
out in the real world, the harvest field,
where people are longing – both literally and figuratively – to be fed.

The TAB’s odds on the lambs vs. wolves
may seem pretty long.
But God, you may have noticed,
has a habit of surprising the pundits.

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