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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Lent 1, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
February 21, 2010

Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13

Learning to be brave’

We receive the sign of ashes [today if not Ash Wednesday] not to make us feel bad about ourselves, but to be honest about our need of Help, our errors and deep-seated prejudices and neuroses – in faith that we can, by the grace of God, begin again. I can’t live on bread, and I can’t live alone. I am called to discipline, to discipleship, that I might better appreciate my life as gift with others in the world. We don’t live on bread alone but we are called, as a church, to deeper learning, that we might better appreciate our life together with others (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, secularists, pagans, foreigners, non-humans) in the world.

In a desert place of prayer we rethink what we do, on what we expend energy and time, what we buy and eat and wear, what we desire most, what we labour at, what we expect of others and ourselves, what we think it means to be human, to be Christian, to be loved and to love, to be saved and to be safe.

Lent is about learning to be brave. It is about learning the courage to say No to temptations to popularity, power and populism – and we can learn that in and through fasting, by various withdrawals and abstinences (taking time for Christian prayer and ritual in place of participation in consumerist rites and blind obedience to civil authorities and cultural norms).

Perhaps a deeper self-examination, however, would entail wariness with respect to doctrinal comforts. I’m thinking, on this first Sunday in Lent, about our attachments to various theories of Atonement – our beliefs as to the Crucifixion and the salvation promise of Easter. It can be helpful to make space for thinking on, and stepping back from, what we believe we believe. The altar-table can be a site of resistance to violence. All-too often, however, it is a site for mystification of abuse if not outright glorification of violence.

The crucifixion is first and foremost a disaster – a violent and lamentable and all-too common reality. We ought to recoil from the violence, appalled by it. We ought to resist it. We ought to celebrate the bravery of the Christ, but with great care lest we romanticise. Women have, historically, suffered most in the shadow of Atonement theories that promote submission of one kind or another to violent powers.

The discipline we are invited to undertake, then, is that of suspending commitment to explanations of suffering, to journey with disciples confused and hurt, that we might be appalled, and that our beliefs might not shield us from what is real so much as encourage resistance to what is harmful.