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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 19, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
August 11, 2019

Psalm 50; Hebrews 11:1-3;8-16; Luke 12:32-40

‘For what and for whom do we keep our lamps lit?’

Jesus says: “Sell what you own and give the money to poorer people. Make purses for yourselves that don’t wear out – treasures that won’t fail you, in heaven, that thieves can’t steal and moths can’t destroy. For wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be …” God be with you

About one-sixth of all the New Testament records Jesus having said concerns our relationship to money and material possessions. Jesus speaks more about this than he does about prayer or about forgiveness. And much of it, as we discovered at Thursday night’s Bible study, is found in Luke’s gospel.

There’s the plain-talking Jesus of Luke 6, “Woe to you rich”, which recalls Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1) as well as many prophetic lamentations (in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Micah) concerning the idolatry of wealth/money. There’s the rich fool/farmer of the parable in Luke 12, the rich person who neglects poor Lazarus (Luke 16), the rich religious types whose self-righteousness is juxtaposed with the generosity of the poor widow (Luke 21). A camel passing/not passing through a needle’s eye (Luke 18). The call to invest in people, in communities, ecologies …

Wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be. Perhaps there is nothing that can seduce us away from what really matters – the kindom of all peoples, the kindom of all creatures in God – so well as possessions; so well as possessive attitudes and compulsions.

We could wrestle today with how we might go about being more careful with our money (wary of political/cultural obsessions with economic growth at all costs), or how to learn to live more simply and give more generously, and that would be perfectly in keeping with our gospel for today, but there is another question that underlies our fear of Jesus talking about possessions …

Underlying our anxiety about money-talk is a question about the place that faith occupies in our lives. Indeed, the formulation of the question is telling. Does faith merely occupy a place in my life (and if so, what role does it play in respect of other places in my life? What role does faith play in respect of money, for instance?), or does my life occupy a place in the kindom – in the city/commonwealth of no possessions where Christ reigns?

“Faith is the reality of all that is hoped for; faith is the proof of all that is unseen.” So we read in the Homily to the Hebrews. Faith is a No to anxiety and fear, we might say, and a Yes to liberty and love. Does faith merely occupy a place in my life, or does my life occupy a place in the kindom – in the city/commonwealth of no possessions where Christ reigns? Where is my treasure? Where is my heart/life?

I also read this, from Jill Friebel at South Yarra Community Baptist Church in Melbourne: “Transcending ourselves, going beyond ourselves, reaching out to another, is what happens when we fall in love … Whenever we fall in love [with a partner, a child, a creature, a cause, a country, a community] we forget ourselves for a while … As you put your faith in God and act in ways that respond in love and endurance you will be transformed in the process. You won’t notice at first, but others will.”

Our resident artist Hayley has shown us love – as a co-founder of our Orchard Gallery and arts ministry, as a teacher. Hayley’s iconic images are slow, careful engagements with land and landscape traditions; in respectful dialogue with creation, with Indigenous communities and artists. “If faith has the power to silence [fear/anxiety/foolishness/possessiveness], even for a few moments,” writes one commentator, “then painting … stands as a portal” (Anna Johnson). In other words, painting is a means of discerning goodness and holiness in the world.

I chose the painting by Doug Reed for today because it shows the kindom of God as/in the (very next) opportunity to love. Perhaps that’s why God is, as we say, everywhere present. The Good Samaritan was not without resources, a certain wealth. He was, however, free of a possessive attitude that would close his heart to love for a neighbour. He was free of a possessive attitude that would close his heart to loving a neighbour, which means, of course, being a neighbour. The kindom is always and already an invitation to love.

When we come in a while to the altar-table we will be offered a gift – a piece of broken bread in wine. Nothing much, you might think. But if you allow yourself to hear the words, “Take, eat, this too is my body”, and recognise the real presence of goodness and holiness you will be at a moment of decision.

You can eat the bread with the wine and just walk away. Give thanks and close the spiritual compartment of your life for another week and go on living your life unaffected by it all.

Or you can take and eat, accept the God of love, the love of God, and say: “I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will …” (John Wesley).

I can file a few Christian values and experiences in a little spiritual compartment of my life, or I can open up everything – my very heart – to receive the gift.

“Fear not,” Jesus says, “for it has pleased your Abba to give you the kindom.”

Now because our lives occupy a place in the kindom, we are free to ask: For what and for whom do we keep our lamps lit today? For what and for whom shall we light candles? … Amen.