Other Homilies

Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

Home Mission Statement Homilies Liturgies In Memoriam Reports Resources Contacts Links


Lent 2, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
February 28, 2010

Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35


Eric Berne’s text, Games People Play (1964) is something of a classic in transactional analysis. In it, Berne presents a simple model of psychological interaction – suggesting that we often find ourselves trapped in predictable psychological games with one or more others. The author illustrates by way of a triangle, the three sides representing three unhealthy roles: Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor.

We tend to have a favourite game position, from which we begin interaction with others. Often our favourite position is something we have learned as children. All three positions are inauthentic and dismiss some aspects about oneself or someone else (eg., as a Rescuer I dismiss another’s capacity to think and act on her own behalf).

It seems to me that Jesus is often challenging people to greater awareness with respect to unhealthy interactions, and that he models in his own attitudes and actions a resistance to “games” and a determination to participate in another kind of “triangle” – the divine (Trinitarian) life.

In our Gospel today, Jesus is no victim. He can stand up for himself – he “stands firm” as Paul sees and models and commends. We see a confident Saviour (brave), not a patronising Rescuer (arrogant). The portrait we are given is of a prophet – vulnerable (making his way toward confrontation with religious and political powers in Jerusalem), responsive (making his way toward confrontation with religious and political powers in Jerusalem), perceptive (making his way toward confrontation with religious and political powers in Jerusalem). He refuses to stand down or to return threats with threats, asserting: “Today and tomorrow, I’ll be casting out devils and healing people, and on the third day I’ll reach my goal.”

It’s always dangerous to present triangles to preachers or theologians. We are likely to see right away opportunity for proclaiming the Trinity! And yet, there is Trinitarian promise here. Vulnerable, Responsive, Perceptive. Encouraged to adopt such positions we are enabled to live differently – in a different Spirit. And our lives invite others to be more Vulnerable, Responsive and Perceptive rather than stuck in the roles of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor.

Last week I said that all-too often and all-too readily, the altar-table is a site for mystification of abuse if not outright glorification of violence. One reason for that is that God is all-too often imagined in terms of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor. An angry God whose sense of justice is so offended as to require a sacrificial victim in order to rescue the world. Not only does such a model of God tend to trap us in unhealthy interactions, but it maintains violence at the very centre of our world-view.

How might we consider, today, a discipleship that leads us away from victimhood and towards an adult acceptance of vulnerability? A discipleship that leads us away from the need to rescue and control others, and towards an adult responsiveness and respons-ibility? A discipleship that takes us away from persecuting, punishing attitudes and actions, and towards an adult – a more wise – perceptiveness that shares and invites concern for peace with justice?