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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Palm Sunday, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 17, 2011

Psalm 118; Matthew 21:1-11

An easy way’

I’m thinking about triumphal entry as a frame within which to consider spirituality – mature faith and hope and love – firstly in terms of gratitude for our Elders and discernment with a view to our elections in May.

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem “without display”, humbly and mounted on a donkey, ancient dreams of peace with justice are made contemporary. Many people are excited – some, we might imagine, stirred to excitement by others, by the sheer spectacle, others stirred to the very core. Some are motivated (by jealousy, fear of the authorities, fear of change or loss of privilege) to plot the destruction of this “royal” performer/pretender. It’s a noisy scene of high emotion and shouting, jostling, political and religious fervour. Expectations. Aspirations. (Could we imagine Prince William riding a bicycle on his wedding day, in symbols renouncing the violence of colonialism, renouncing the monarchy’s headship over the Church of England?)

We get the impression that Jesus is aware of what he’s doing. He’s arranged this “triumphal” entry to attract attention. When he arrives in the city he turns his attention to corruption (in the Temple) and to healing (in the Temple) and to teaching (in the Temple). We can guess that he’s aware of the risks he’s taking. He is taking on the corrupt powers (religious and political) in a Spirit of fairness, wellbeing and access to wisdom for all. In a Spirit of confrontational and nonviolent love. In a Spirit who inspired the psalmist to sing: “The gate of justice is open to all who love right living. Even stones rejected by builders have a place. In God’s work a poor stone can support a corner. Blest are all who come doing God’s work. Let us make of ourselves a place of peace and light.” The latter phrase may suggest a harmless or “hippie” bonhomie. Not so.

Confrontational and nonviolent love – with special concern for the “rejected” ones – is more like the creativity of an Elder we learned something about on Thursday night: Emily Kam Ngwarray of the Alyawarr people (Northern Territory). Ngwarray took up painting in her late 70s – and pretty much redefined landscape and abstract painting in Australia. Her work draws deeply from Alyawarr country, a harsh but austerely beautiful landscape intersected by the winding Sandover River. Her work – stripes/contours, layered dots/desert colours, kams and subterranean waters – participates in Altyerr, the dreaming of her clan country. It’s astounding work, internationally renowned – and has helped draw attention to the suffering and hopes of her people, to attract much-needed funds and resources for her community, and to win a land rights claim for the Alyawarr and Anmatyerr clans. Powerful work. The work of a mature artist, ancient and contemporary, rooted in love for her people and country. Humble. Triumphal.

I started with reference to our own Elders. We can give thanks today for their distinctive and faithful ministries over the past year. Each one of them has led by example, taking on corrupt powers (religious and political) in a Spirit of fairness, wellbeing and access to wisdom for all. In a Spirit of confrontational and nonviolent love. In that way, they have borne witness to the Christ of Palm Sunday – humbly, with self-awareness, and not without cost or risk to themselves. Let’s also be mindful of God’s calling us all to greater maturity in faith, hope and love – some among us to be elected/commissioned Elders for the year to come. Let’s be mindful of that in a still Spirit of discernment.

I’ve been preparing our liturgies for Holy Week and Easter and came across this journal entry from monastic activist Thomas Merton, another kind of “triumphal” entry that might lead us into a deeper time of Silence. Merton believed that faith, hope and love (rest, work and play) were born and sustained in Silence, in dialogues with Silence (one of his favourite names for God).

Merton writes/prays: “The way You have laid open before me is an easy way, compared with the hard way of my own will which leads back to Egypt and to bricks without straw. If You allow people to praise me, I shall not worry. If You let them blame me, I shall worry even less. If You send me work, I shall embrace it with joy. It will be rest to me because it is Your will. If You send me rest, I will rest in You. Only save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act without reason, to move for movement’s sake, to unsettle everything that You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for Your glory. This is what I live for. Amen, amen.”

You’re invited to underline, circle or scribble on the “triumphal” journal entry. If there’s anything you’ve found to be significant, you’re invited to come to the table and share aloud.Amen.