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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Lent 5, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 7, 2019

Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8


Huge reserves of coal formed a quarter of a billion years ago in a country now called the Galilee. One-hundred-and-fifty years of coal mining. I’m reading about severe loss of habitat for the southern black-throated finch. The anguish of the Wangan and Jagalingou people of central-western Queensland.

The fragile Carmichael River, and precious groundwater. Corruption and tax evasion. I’m reading about institutional inertia, the “game of mates”, the fossil fuel and climate denial industries. Bleaching events depleting biodiversity along the Great Barrier Reef (James Bradley, The Monthly, April 2019).

But also divestment campaigns and dissent, faith before faith, hope after hope, and love for the last and the least. God be with you …

In January 2019, the NSW Land and Environment Court rejected an application to build a coalmine at Rocky Hill, north of Newcastle, on the grounds it would contribute to climate change.

I read: “Children and young people of all ages gathered with their supporters for the School Strike 4 Climate on Friday March 15 in every capital city and some 55 other centres around Australia. Strikes took place in more than 100 countries across the world.

“Bold and creative, they came in their masses (150,000 Australia-wide, ten times the size of the November strikes) to advocate for a stop to Adani’s coal mine, no new fossil fuel projects and 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030” (Miriam Pepper, SSH, April 2019).

By 2020, I read, renewables will be cheaper than fossil fuels in every major region of the world. A low-carbon economy, a more sustainable way of life – new life ­– beckons …

I read about Mary’s love for the One in pain and peril – the sacred Stranger, the God embodied. Mary’s prayerful action – devotion, protest, risk. Her genuine commitment in the context of scorn, greed and abstract ideas (economics).

It’s something akin to love for the Galilee Basin, the southern black-throated finch, the tuskfish and potato cods of the Reef, the manta rays and tiger sharks. It’s something like refuting the simplistic notion of productivity or jobs over ecological sustainability and wellbeing.

“You have poor people with you always. But you won’t always have me,” says Jesus. “There will be vulnerable and endangered beings long after I’m gone” – a comic retort that can be heard either as lamenting inequity or as an indictment of injustice, but certainly not as license for neglect of those in need.

Jesus’ words, in fact, echo those of Deuteronomy 15: “There will always be those among us in the world who are in need, so I require of you that you be always generous with the poor and needy in your land.”

Jesus will be killed precisely because he is a friend to the last and the least – precisely because his parables and demonstrations upset the status quo, precisely because his radical hospitality offends the wealthy and the powerful. Mary understands, and yet she does more than she knows. Her love precedes her understanding …

I read about Lazarus, the resuscitation. Lazarus bound hand and foot with linen strips. Speechless. I read – John surely intends it in contrast – about the empty tomb, the resurrection. Linen wrappings on the ground. The risen Christ speaking words of intimacy … peace … inspiration … blessing … commissioning.

In this last regular week of Lent, then, we experience something of what Paul calls “the power of the resurrection” – a sharing in Christ’s suffering love, a being formed into a Christ-like pattern of death and new life.

The “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” has to do with love … for the Galilean and the Galilee … bold and creative protest, prayerful action, genuine commitment in the context of scorn, greed and abstract ideas, generosity toward the least and the last, radical hospitality … not mere resuscitation (of the same old corruptible existence) but new life with others in the world … more just, more free, more sustainable … renewable … as in a New Jerusalem with a river and a tree of life … Amen.