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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Ordinary Sunday 13, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 26, 2011

Genesis 22:1-14; Matthew 10:40-42

Do you do what you’re called to do?’

In our Gospel reading we are told that to welcome and care for those who are on mission as representatives of God’s kindom is to welcome and care for Christ. And elsewhere in the Gospel we are told that it is the children who most clearly represent the kindom to us, and that to welcome them is to welcome God. It is precisely in their vulnerability before us, the ease with which we can disregard them and sacrifice them in the name of our own selfish interests (tobacco and fast-food industry marketing to children comes to mind), that children embody the nature of God to us. We are called to have the courage and integrity to welcome and defend those whom others would sacrifice, for in welcoming and protecting them, we welcome and honour God.

William Loader from Murdoch University in Perth tells a speculative version of our story from Genesis in which Abraham actually goes through with the sacrifice. Abraham’s grief sets in immediately, tearing him apart with guilt and regret. Those around him try to convince him that he only did what God [El] wanted him to do, but Abraham begins to doubt that and to see that he had failed to hear the true voice of God [YHWH]. As he weeps, a stranger sits down alongside him, and Abraham pours out his heartbreak.

He tells the stranger his story, about what he had believed, how it led him to violence and murder, ... how his grief was changing him, how he knew the heavens wept … how he had been blind and deaf, his faith was now unfaith, his faith become new faith, how his vision of God was not that of [those around him], how he felt that in truth he had lunged the knife into God, how God called not for blind obedience, but compassion, how he should have seen that it was a terrible joke, a divine parody meant to turn him forever away from the ways of religion, how he had confused the words of Yahweh with the will of Baal.

The stranger listened. It had been a long journey. He was weary, but he understood. Hearts were warm; they were beginning to see as the darkness was falling. Truth and pain and love had filled their conversation and yet they had hardly met. Then across the darkness Abraham looked to the bowed head and asked, “Tell me your name”. The other answered: “Isaac”, and showed Abraham his hands and his side.

However we read the story, we must conclude that God does not require or condone violence. Not only does God not desire violence, but God is willing to walk into the force of our violence and bear it in God’s own body in order to expose it for the ugliness that it is. God takes the worst of our bitterness and violence and then steps among us with wounded hands and words of forgiveness. And in that forgiveness, we are confronted with the ultimate test of our faithfulness. Will we lash out at the child again, and kill this one who unmasks our violence, or will we see in the child the invitation to life in all its fullness, to a life that is only found in rejecting the false gods that demand blood?

That’s all I have this week. I’m still, like you, coming to terms with Trevor’s passing. On Thursday I tried to express something of my respect for Trevor’s purity of heart, his strong sense of vocation. I said: “Trevor’s life and death renew a soul-searching: What am I called to be and to do? What do I love when I love my God? How does my life make for freedom, hope, genuine safety and happiness in others?”

After the funeral I started work on a new song. It started work on me. A distinction between doing what you’re told to do (blind obedience) and doing what you’re truly called to do started the lyric-writing process. I stitched together images from the funeral, a line from the previous week’s epistle, and news, on Friday, of the birth of my new nephew, Jacob Andrew. It’s a bit abstract and non-linear but it feels like a song to be shared today.

The song is called “Leap Of Life”. A “leap of life” is taken from a book by Søren Kierkegaard, and refers to acceptance of the lifeGod wills for you, for you alone – the “knight of faith” is not an overtly “religious” or “spiritual” person, says Kierkegaard, but an ordinary-looking person committed to the freedom, hope, genuine safety and happiness of others. I imagined I was receiving the song as though from a departed saint (Abraham?), offering some kind of wisdom to me, to us. The departed saint can see us but can’t see us make our peculiar “leaps”. They are not visible. They are personal, private, interior– that which make us truly human.

I took my guitar into the Women’s Hospital in Randwick(as you do) and played the song for Julie, Damien and little Jacob. I’ll play it now for Nicole and Eve in whose good and safe company I have made countless leaps of life, and to whom I will always be grateful …

Do you do what you’re told to do?
Or do you do what you’re called to do?
Do you know what it means to all of us?
Didn’t you know they were bound to make a fuss?

Rise up and drink your bliss
Know this, in all the beauty and the strife
It’s only you that makes it true
And takes the leap of life

I looked out over the streets and back-lanes
And high above the little green parklands
Sister climbs the stairs, sheds tears for you
All the holy ones send greetings to you

Brother-in-law is hyper aware
Protects and praises his wife
I saw the birthday kiss
But, oh, I miss the leap of life

Do you do what you’re told to do?
Or do you do what you’re called to do?
Do you know what it means to all of us?
Didn’t you know they were bound to make a fuss?

Rise up and drink your bliss
Know this, in all the beauty and the strife
It’s only you that makes it true
And takes the leap of life

 

… Like Abraham, like Trevor, like Nicole and Eve, you are called to courage and integrity – you are called to welcome and defend those whom others would sacrifice. Let us bring“cups of cold water” for those we will welcome, defend and protect … Amen.