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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter 7, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 12, 2013

Psalm 97; John 17:20-26

One love

God be with you …

On Thursday night our biblical scholars discussed the Gospel text set for today – known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. We discussed the nature of the oneness for which Jesus prays. What kind of unity is it? A unity of thought or doctrine, a unity of practice or purpose or service? We tended toward unity of service.

We discussed whether Christian unity is a task or a gift – more gift than task, we thought, but a task nonetheless – and a challenge that sometimes entails, paradoxically, the maintenance of good boundaries. Jesus prays for unity, not for uniformity. Respect for difference lies at the heart of Christian unity – we might have explored this in relation to the Holy Trinity.

We noted the importance of this Gospel for the Ecumenical Movement, and thus for the Uniting Church – an inspiration for all those who hope to see evidence (mutual recognition of baptisms, Eucharistic celebrations and ministries) of an invisible and indivisible church.

We read from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: “Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and if we are fortunate, with ourselves.” Bonhoeffer called his student pastors to eschew naïve and arrogant notions of unity, to expect and to accept conflict and struggle in community, for glory is best known in compassion, in forgiveness, among those who can examine their own faults and recognise their need of God and others.

And we reflected on our Moderator’s Address to Synod which calls for work towards the common good – in terms of justice, in terms of sharing resources, in terms of hospitality for those seeking asylum, in terms of promoting renewable energy technologies, in terms of equitable education, and so on …

In and through all this, the High Priestly Prayer goes on. It resonates. This is a wonderful Gospel for our first Pioneers’ Sunday.

I suspect this is a prayer that resonates in the ministries and memories, the hearts and hopes of Dean and Judith [Eland], Ron and Pam, Stephen and Jan [Denham], Jeannie [Kelso], John and Robyn [Floyd]. It’s my pleasure to welcome them today, with visitors and friends – friends of Ron Brown, John and Robyn Hutchinson (apologies), friends of Liz Ramage whose ashes we will inter in our community garden today, and others for whom Christian unity means a gift worth celebrating with heart, mind, strength and spirit; for whom Christian unity means a task worth the dedication of much time and effort – perspiration and collaboration over many years.

Let’s complete the homily today by way of welcoming stories of our ministry “pioneers”, by way of sharing our stories and by way of cherishing what is heard. Let’s complete the homily by bearing witness to the mission of God at St Luke’s, at Mount Lachlan, at Palmer Street, the Inner City Parish, South Sydney Uniting … the mission of God who, to quote St Augustine, created us without our help, but will not save us without our co-operation … Amen.