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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Easter 3, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 4, 2014

Luke 24:13-35

‘A stranger to be welcomed in’

Our reading is from Luke 24 where Christ returns to his loved ones. The disciples cannot discern Christ (he appears in a stranger’s guise) until they relax a certain resistance and hostility born of disappointment, depression, anger ideological convention and commit to hospitality. Until they cease, for a moment, their anxious worrying. Until they give up, for a moment, their griefs. Until they let go their own version of events. They listen to the stranger from whom they are willing to receive ... They attend to the stranger for whose wellbeing they assume some responsibility ... They attend to the stranger whose pain they do not understand … whose pain, it turns out, they have in some sense inflicted … God be with you ...

“We have to begin,” writes Rowan Williams, “by seeing the cross as the cross of our victim, not of ourselves as victims … If I am involved in the transmission of violence, I cannot pretend that violence is something I can do absolutely nothing about; and if I discover, through this recognition, a possibility of transformed relationship with the other in whose suffering I have colluded, this makes some difference to the structure of the violent world …”

There are so many ways we might read today's Gospel, which some call Luke's masterpiece. It is a model of Christian liturgy affirming revelation as event in and through both Word and Sacrament. It is about the present-absent Christ, present in bread broken, yet ever eluding our idol worship. 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”... The risen Christ converts/reorients our running away from injustice toward a new courage in community for justice-building and peace-making.

Today, we can simply be alert to our own suffering self-pity.

We can be alert to what may encourage in us a concentration on our own suffering self-pity that prevents our liberation. “I shall not be asked at the last day whether I have ‘suffered well’, I shall be asked how far I have allowed Christ’s questioning to transform my life into compassion, and how far, therefore, I have allowed compassion in me to transform the world.”

We can be alert to the ways that suffering self-pity hardens our hearts to asylum seekers in “insanity factories” of our own government’s making.

We can be alert to the ways that suffering self-pity keeps us in a state of infantile dependence, eager to please and thus to harness “parental” authority and just as quick to blame, to resent and to punish.

We can be alert to the ways that suffering self-pity fools us into thinking our own species of primary and central importance. So self-important we hardly notice the suffering of our fellow creatures.

We can be alert to the ways that suffering self-pity fools us into thinking ourselves the completely innocent ones keeps us from responding to the resurrection call forward “into a life that is genuinely new and effectively changed by a grace which both displaces the ego from its central and domineering position and grounds the self more and more profoundly in the accepting love of [Abba God].”

Today we are reminded that all this is possible because of the One we encounter at the altar-table because of the Presence both real and reorienting. At the altar we are altered. The Eucharist confronts us with our victim. Firstly, the risen Christ is other stranger, dialogue partner. Then only then our eyes are opened and we recognise Christ as friend, as one of us …

“He is constantly ‘not here’. He is always the partner as well as the self-image, the stranger on the shore, in the garden, on the road, eluding identification and control. As such, he stands as a stark reminder that it is only in confronting the partner and the stranger that we meet him. He compels us to a self-forgetful ‘attention’ to all strangers and all dialogue partners those of other races and cultures, of other faiths, of other Christian confessions, those with whom we create our ‘private’ lives, in marriage, family or community. To let the other be strange and yet not reject him or her, to give and to be given attentive, contemplative regard this is all part of our encounter with a risen Lord.

“Yet at the same time, it is the encounter with this stranger which generates our own most central sense of identity, of ‘being at home’, so that the believer can invite the whole human world to find a home in the same encounter ... Around [the] magnetic centre of the person of Jesus risen and exalted there is room for us all, since through the medium of this figure the complex multiple relationships which bind people in mutually destructive patterns can become relations of gift and mutual enrichment” (Rowan Williams).

The disciples cannot discern Christ (he appears in a stranger’s guise) until they relax a certain resistance and hostility born of disappointment, depression, anger ideological convention and commit to hospitality. Until they cease, for a moment, their anxious worrying. Until they give up, for a moment, their griefs. Until they let go their own version of events. They listen to the stranger from whom they are willing to receive ... They attend to the stranger for whose wellbeing they assume some responsibility ... They attend to the stranger whose pain they do not understand … whose pain, it turns out, they have in some sense inflicted …

How might you relate to this? How have you encountered the risen Christ in the guise of a stranger? … Amen.