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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 14, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 4, 2010

2 Kings 5:1-14; Luke 10:1-11,16-20

Eating and drinking what they give you’

This is the way that Jesus prepares students/disciples for ministry – for participation in the mission of God. “Don’t carry a walking stick or knapsack; wear no sandals and greet no one along the way. And whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be upon this house!’ If the people live peaceably there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you ... Don’t keep moving from house to house” (translation: don’t seek social advancement/promotion). The emphasis is on vulnerability, openness to others, hospitality – given and received.

In our Prayer of Confession today we prayed: Jesus Christ, you tell us to go to people very discreetly and to accept what they offer us. The petition sums it up nicely. Jesus invites me to accept what another offers me – what someone is able to offer. A good place to start with regard to any relationship. To accept what another is able to offer, rather than demanding what another is unwilling or unable to give, resenting that I do not receive from another what I want.

I’m reminded of something I read one time about the philosopher-historian, Michel Foucault. It is said that Foucault had many friends, and that he allowed each to love him in her or his own way.

When we begin in such vulnerable openness, the tendency is to affirm the good that is given, rather than to resent what is not given or that which is withheld. This is the lesson, also, in our text from 2 Kings, the encounter of Naaman and Elisha, wherein stubborn arrogance gives way to vulnerable openness. And once there is affirmation, there is every chance that grace will work a transformation. The seventy-two disciples returned with joy, saying, “Rabbi, even the demons obey us in your name!” … Jesus said: “[D]on’t rejoice in the fact that the spirits obey you so much as that your names are inscribed in heaven.”

We are inscribed in holiness, our names within the divine Name, in the very mission of God whose being is love.

An opinion piece in yesterday’s Herald can help us to think more broadly about accepting what others are able to offer us. In the context of an imminent federal election, and the prospect of a campaign focused on the issue of refugees, Adele Horin writes: “Australia is the most cosmopolitan country in the developed world … In Sydney, 58 per cent of people are first or second generation migrants … This is the irony of Australia’s response to the boat people. Many Australians, in their enclaves, never meet a refugee or recent migrant. But traditionally those who do are polite, accepting, or at least benign, and newcomers have, over time, felt welcome and fitted in …”

The writer then shares a story: “My mother, now 82, has been teaching English to refugees in their homes for 10 years, and, being Jewish, was extremely nervous at the start about Muslims, having never met one. Now after having taught several people from Sudan, Syria and Somalia, she realises there are ones she likes and ones she doesn’t, and a couple she has loved, including her current student, a mother of two from Sudan, who spent some of her small budget last week to buy my mother a dressing gown for her birthday. My mother won’t hear a bad word about Muslims, or refugees, knowing you can’t generalise.

“Yet this success story, repeated over and over among ordinary people, is a dirty little secret instead of a proud boast. Political leaders shy away from accentuating the positive … John Howard stoked the fires of anxiety about terrorism, disease and difference …”

Jesus Christ, you tell us to go to people very discreetly and to accept what they offer us.

On Thursday night I was invited to dinner with Moses and his good friend, Sathya. Sathya and his wife are devout Hindus, and their two boys, Navneet Raj and Guru Raj, spirited toddlers. Sathya and family are in the process of packing their bags for a move to Melbourne. In their home, I was offered coffee and biscuits (there were at least six or seven!) and assured that, as we’d all be in Melbourne next week (my niece and nephew are taking me on a school holiday train trip!), a get-together there was desirable. Later, around a table at Moses’ favourite Indian restaurant in Strathfield, we talked Hindu and Christian spirituality – with, for me at least, surprising candour and humour. Sathya said, “We have idols with animal features. Animals may be of higher or lower intellect, but they are no less holy than you or me.” I said, “Jesus is the revelation that full humanity and full divinity are one.” More impressive than these theological exchanges, Moses, who has suffered so much at the hands of Hindu extremists, participated in the conversation happily, joyfully. Genuinely glad, I’d say, to see two of his friends open to new friendship.

Jesus Christ, you tell us to go to people very discreetly and to accept what they offer us.

Adele Horin concludes: “Australia is part of the global community, and, like it or not, a world experiencing turmoil, war, and persecution will send millions across the globe looking for safety. A small number is bound to come our way.

“The xenophobia the Howard government unleashed in 2001 to help it win an election has left its mark. Another race-based election campaign might be Australia’s last straw, inflicting permanent harm on our social cohesion, and unpicking the work of generations.

“The most cosmopolitan country in the world lacks a leader who will defend its honourable record as a welcoming multicultural country, rich enough to be generous rather than afraid.”

Let’s complete the homily together. Perhaps what people offer to us are little “pearls”, to be valued and cherished for what they are, rather than what we think they should be. What do you hear in the Gospel today? What’s most provocative? What’s most promising?

… Amen.