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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Advent 2, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
December 7, 2014

2 Peter 3:8-15a

‘End of the world’

There have always been Christians for whom the imminent end of the world is a compelling, sometimes comforting, notion. The apocalyptic imagination conjures fire and fireworks, darkness, judgement – destruction and re-creation. It can seem primitive, crass, emotional – and yet it’s long been a mode of religious thought, and often highly complex and intellectual.

I think of contemporary fundamentalism (escapist and anti-intellectual) but also modern science fiction, which critiques the chauvinism of the present – by way of future technologies and dilemmas, new possibilities for life together. It’s usually far-fetched, and that’s the point.

Not only does apocalyptic imagination call to mind the brute fact of human limitations (we’re all moving towards the “end” – personally, culturally, historically), it also calls us, as perhaps no generation has ever been called, to address environmental damage and decay – the world of ever-increasing humans and human appetites, the world of diminishing bio-diversity – the world of climate change – droughts, floods, melting sea ice, and so on.

We’re not about to stamp out apocalyptic thinking, though we should always be prepared to critique narrow-minded fear-mongering. The world may well end, one day. How shall we live in it? The world as we know it is ever at an end – and ever re-created. That's the special wonder of Advent – the arrival of the ever new, the ever engaging/inviting/confounding/delighting ... How, for Christ’s sake, shall we live in this world?

Last night's SSH end-of-year party at Weave was a quite Adventist occasion, by which I mean that expressing thanks and appreciation for our volunteers entailed quite radical openness to changes in the weather, an unfamiliar (though wonderful) building, new relationships (not least with the Weave community itself), delightful new songs and engaging art practice, inviting cuisine, lively conversation ... Peace, we often hear, means more than the absence of conflict. It has to do with being for others. Radical openness is quite an apt definition.

I sat with a man at the Sacred Heart Hospice yesterday morning. Five years ago he married the love of his life and set about building a home for them in Mascot. One year ago he received a cancer diagnosis that meant rapid physical decline. He went then for several months to Bali (where he'd lived previously for 12 years), unsure whether he'd return. Then he came back to share his remaining months with his beloved/loving partner. He told me that he'd written 10 chapters of his life story and how many adventures those chapters recounted. He knew the title of his book, too. It's to be called The Last Cracker. Whether the last biscuit, the last firework, or some other cracker ... the title just felt right he said. We shared a pot of tea. He said to me: "I didn't know what we'd talk about but this has been good."

The world as we know it is ever at an end – and ever re-created. That's the special wonder of Advent – the arrival of the ever new, the ever engaging/inviting/confounding/delighting ... The Last Cracker ... The Last Supper ... How, for Christ’s sake, shall we live in this world?

These are not so much my thoughts as a reworking of our epistle. Peter writes: “… what we await are new heavens and a new earth where, according to the promise, God’s justice will reside … Consider our God’s patience as your opportunity for salvation.”

These verses do what holy Scripture is professed to do – they imbue common anxiety (and superstition) with uncommon grace and hope. They speak into the general knowledge of a time and invite a flowering of wisdom. 2 Peter 3:1 reads: “Beloved, this is the second letter I have written you. I wrote both of them to stir up your honest minds.”

How does the Spirit stir up your honest mind today? What questions are raised for you? What opportunities do you discern for “salvation” – which means wellness and wholeness?

Today, we’ll contemplate this question in silence, complete the homily in silence.

Later we'll commission our spiritual leaders or elders with whom, it is hoped, we will learn to speak into the general knowledge of our time and invite a flowering of wisdom. In short, we have discerned these elders as wise members, or better, as members who are also passionate lovers of wisdom. The ministry of "spiritual oversight" they offer – as pastoral carers, teachers, missionaries, advocates, prophets – will help build our own understanding and development of our ministries.

In Peter's first letter we find this evocative reference to elders: "I send a word of advice to the elders (presbyters) among you. I, too, am an elder, as well as a witness to the sufferings of Christ and a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Shepherd the flock entrusted to you. Shepherd it, not just out of duty, but eagerly, as God would have it. Don't do it for money, but do it freely. Don't be pompous or domineering, but set an example for the whole community to follow ..." (1 Peter 5:1-3).

How does the Spirit stir up your honest mind today? What questions are raised for you? What opportunities do you discern for “salvation” – which means wellness and wholeness? ... Amen