Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘What do you see?’
Today’s readings are about vision, imagination. The prompt today is simple and open: What do you see? In the Spirit of the readings, in the text or for our own context, what do you see?
Dorothy of Lilyfield, who proudly displays a tree-
Painter, Gustav Klimt, refers to the tree of life as a symbol known to many cultures – a symbol of reconciliation, a tree dwelling upon, beneath and above the earth. He also refers to it as both a feminine and masculine symbol. His artwork, as printed on the front of our order today, also includes rectangular shapes suggesting buildings and streets.
I begin, however, with our own Juliette of Waterloo, who advised me one time (I’d very recently taken to road running): “Keep your head up and your eyes looking ahead.” She explained the importance of runners keeping their vision long. When runners get tired they tend to drop their shoulders and look down at their feet, she said, which only makes them more tired – dispirited. “Where you look,” said Juliette, “is where you’ll go.” I have learned the wisdom of that – of keeping my vision long.
Out on the road, prescription sunglasses sliding down my nose, I am often reminded of this. And I think on her words today in the light of lections from the Book of Acts and Revelation.
Paul’s vision is about Paul seeing further that his immediate surrounds/assumptions. His vision opens to new opportunities for ministry, new understanding of God’s mission, and a new relationship/friendship – with someone called Lydia, a witness and leader ready to begin a congregation in her house. We could also say, then, that Paul’s vision leads, in some sections of the church in more recent times, to reappraisal of Paul’s thought and work, renewed appreciation for the diversity of early Christian faith and ministry, and to renewed calls for the ordination of women (it seems shocking, perhaps, that we still need to mention this).
John’s vision is about the ultimate reconciliation of nature and culture – God’s desire to save/heal/make whole creation and all creatures, including human beings and all nations. John’s vision, most succinctly, professes not a return to Eden (in fact, it helps us resist the naivete of much nature-
John’s vision, in other words, is not conservative. It is not backward-
It is fitting and fortunate that we have today the promise of the fully Human One: “[T]he Holy Spirit whom Abba God will send in my name, will instruct you in everything and she will remind you of all that I told you.” The Holy Spirit is imaged for us today as a guide, as a guiding force. Perhaps she is the ground of imagination itself – She Who Inspires Vision.
I’m writing this on a bench seat behind the church, in our own Eden Garden. Beneath the Mulberry Tree. In the very spot that will soon see our new Council-
All of which makes wonderful and theological sense of Revelation’s depiction of an urban setting through which runs a river of life, and, “on either side of the river [or the water-
Eden Garden alongside the Garden Shelter for homeless men. Eden Garden in the very midst of the city. Council staff in the Eden Garden planning training workshops on rain-
“On either side of the river is the tree of life … and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations”. What do you see?