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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Ordinary Sunday 11, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
June 17, 2012

1 Samuel 15:34–16:13; 2 Corinthians 5:6–17; Mark 4:26–34

In the Event of Something Happening to Me’

“[W]e must not seek Christ’s presence in the dense reality of unbroken bread”, writes theologian G.P. Ambrose (The Theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet, 2012). It’s a concise and insightful comment. We can sometimes think of revelation as something like a perfect loaf of bread, as alluring as it is contained, steaming hot on the plate, straight from heaven’s oven. Apologies for the lumpish prose, but sometimes we think of revelation in terms of lumps – lumps of information, lumps of legal or moral “stuff”. There is another way to think of revelation, though. Revelation is a break with convention. Revelation interrupts. Revelation deconstructs. Revelation is the cross or crisis that calls us to account, to responsibility. Revelation, to paraphrase songwriter Leonard Cohen, is the crack-ing of everything – the crack-ing that lets the light in. Revelation is experienced as shock, as amazement, as movement, as conversion. In other words, revelation is an event. We must not seek Christ’s presence in the dense reality of unbroken bread, but in the event of bread broken and given. Christ be with you …

I’ve been enjoying a book by G.P. Ambrose, which is why I’ve chosen to start today’s homily with the quote about unbroken and broken bread (it will speak again when we break and share the Eucharistic loaf). “In the event of something happening to me” is the opening line of a song (1967) by the Bee Gees about a mining disaster in New York (1941). It’s a song about resisting or overcoming despair, yearning for life. It’s a great opening line. Overcoming despair is an event, it goes on. Yearning for life is an event, it goes on. Revelation happens to me, to you, to us – or it doesn’t happen at all. Theologians have long taught that revelation is God making Godself known in the world. God makes Godself known – not information, not lumps of legal or moral “stuff”. God, too, is an event, then. God be with you, God be to you, God be for you, God be through you, and – lest we merely project our own desires, our own images of God into the heavens – God be against you and me …

Today’s readings trace the event of revelation, the happening of God, and not without humour (which, like revelation, overturns expectations, even as it returns us to the world, to each other and to ourselves as though for the first time – “The love of Christ overwhelms us,” says the stand-up apostle Paul, and, behold, “everything is new”).

David is the Cinderella of the Hebrew Bible. He is the least likely ruler. God makes Godself known in and through the people of Israel, in and through their desires for a monarch to rule over them – but in a way that interrupts their knowing and desiring. David is the boy, the little one, the last one, the excluded one. Thus he prefigures the event of the messiah – a prefiguring seen also in his humility, his faithfulness and his brokenness. David’s story – full of cracks and crises – is akin to all the stories about younger sons, smarter daughters, stoned prophets, faithful foreigners, resourceful managers, humane tax collectors and sex workers, children made visible, witnesses made credible, women empowered to preach and to lead churches, everyday farming scenarios, bumbling disciples brought to tears and to their knees, manger-cradles, apocalyptic lambs, wise birds and lilies. God makes Godself known in events that interrupt our illusions of possession, our illusions of mastery and control. Revelation interrupts what we know about the world and who we think we are ...

In our Gospel, Jesus points to seeds and shrubs as signs of God’s rule. Seeds that grow into shrubs (shrubs or weeds, not imposing trees), whose foliage provides shade for the birds on the ground! The reign of God is like a shrub? The reign of God is like a weed? Like the image of David as Cinderella, over centuries we can forget that this was/is comic. Jokes make their points. Empires – Babylon, Egypt, Rome – were frequently imaged as mighty trees. One commentator writes: “The reign of God … rather than being a mighty tree easily cut down, is … a weed, spreading everywhere, out of control, unstoppable” (John Queripel).

Weeds interrupt.

Admittedly, the revelation-as-interruption model is not for everybody, and there is a sense, an important sense, in which – the Scriptures are a case in point – revelation leaves a trace in the world, inscribes a pattern, a glory, a beauty in and through histories and bodies. Still, there is nothing particularly funny about comments like the following, attributed to Cardinal George Pell: “As Christians, we follow what Christ did, and he didn’t appoint any women as apostles, or what we now call priests. So that’s the way it is” (“Good Weekend”, SMH, June 16, 2012, 17). There’s nothing funny about that – is there?!

Unbroken bread stands for the dream of full presence, immediate knowledge, total control. Christ is really present in bread broken and given. That means Christ is present “in his own strange way” (Basis of Union, para. 4) – present-absent – disorienting, deconstructing, elusive, restorative ... Christ is present in our humble openness to the world and to each other ... In our brokenness and readiness to give and to forgive. As we say in our Mission Statement, Christ is present in our “sharing gifts of friendship and hope with each other and with our neighbours”...

We’ll complete the homily together. When we gather as “the lost, the least, the forgotten and the ignored” to commune with each other, with creation and Creator symbolised in bread and wine, when we have received the broken bread, let’s share a word for the elusive and restorative Christ who is present-absent with and within us. The first word that comes to mind. We’ll say our Amens then …