Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Enter into the joy ...’
The apostle Paul writes: "Therefore encourage each other and edify one other, just as you also are doing."
The encouragement I received in this place -
In 2010 William edited a book of prayers of the early church. In it I discovered a spiritual writer of the fourth century called Ephrem the Syrian. William notes Ephrem's "poetic approach to theology" which "provides a refreshing counterbalance to the excessively cerebral approach of much Western theology". Ephrem's writing might also be said to exemplify an affinity between pre-
Give me by grace,
O blessed Sea,
one droplet of compassion
that I may invest it
and come by means of Your flow to You.
(Ephrem the Syrian, c. 306-
The inspiration and affirmation of study I received under the tutelage of William and Susan and Carolyn -
A talent was worth more than 15 years’ wages for a labourer ... Jesus is telling a story not in the first instance about the kindom of heaven but about the need to “stay awake” (v. 13), to perceive and to understand what’s happening in the world around us. His parable – full of provocations – encourages active listening, engagement. On hearing it afresh, it’s unlikely we’ll remain unmoved. It’s unlikely we’ll remain unchanged … A talent, a unit of weight in silver, was worth more than 15 years’ wages for a labourer. This is a parable about a very wealthy, very powerful – and abusive – household.
"Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality," writes Pope Francis in a 224-
Lending money at interest is, biblically speaking, unconscionable. Numerous verses may be cited against it (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-
Moreover, in the first century, as in the 21st, wealthy moneylenders made a killing when debtors could no longer pay a loan with interest and, as a consequence, surrendered their properties. Mindful of parallels in Luke and Josephus to the murderous Herod Archelaus, we might retell the parable thus.
The head of a large and powerful household goes away leaving three able employees, the Senior Management team, in charge of eight million dollars. The first two managers do what it takes to double their money. “Those evil so-
The third employee (shown in two poses in the artwork on our printed liturgies) is the hero in this parable. For whatever reason, he (or she) decides he cannot partake of this any longer. He decides to become what is now called a “whistle blower”. Instead of using the money to make more money, instead of entrusting it to the bankers, he takes it out of the system where it can do no harm. When the boss returns, there’s no polite chit-
The boss does not take kindly to this, giving the usual slander of idleness and immorality that accompanies any act of whistle blowing: “You worthless, lazy lout!” The third employee is stripped of all responsibilities. No longer part of the bureaucracy that has supported him, this one will soon be destitute, living alongside the poor – in the outer “darkness” (we’ve been alert to this place of darkness before) – where people do indeed grind their teeth, in anguish or anger; where there is wailing. (After William R. Herzog II, Bertolt Brecht.)
Steven Shakespeare, the Anglican chaplain at Liverpool University, offers the church this prayer:
Resisting the iron fist
which reaps where it did not sow:
give us courage to accept
your faith in us
and compassion to stand
with all who are cast aside ...
(Steven Shakespeare, 2009)
In compassion the church is prepared to be, in the words of the pontiff, "bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security". The Joy of the Gospel singles out as a major challenge of the contemporary world an economic system that produces vast income inequalities, arguing that it leaves the oppressed and marginalised as "leftovers".
I've been reading a book that William gave to me recently entitled Religion and the Rise of Capitalism by Richard Tawney (1926). The classic text of British Christian socialism argues that the liberated economic agent, the basis of social theory since the Industrial Revolution, cannot be understood apart from theological commitments arising from the Reformation.
Tawney bemoans the individualism and loss of concern for the common good that he sees arising from Puritanism in particular. He cites the idolisation of hard work, a distrust of charity and good works, a focus on personal faith and piety at the expense of social obligation, and an attitude toward poverty that comes to blame the poor for their own plight.
"A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this."
"If preachers have not yet overtly identified themselves with the view of the natural man [sic], expressed by an eighteenth-
Having said this, is it pushing too hard to ask of the text whether "talents" might also mean God-
"The only salvation is possibility," says a pseudonymous author of the "master ironist" (Soren Kierkegaard). The only salvation is possibility ... There is a point -
And God knows there's much to do. Institutionally, socially. The work of integrating -
For helping to equip us for ongoing response to challenges and for opening our hearts and minds -
Thank you for what you've done to encourage us. Thank you for being courageous, and for faithfulness.
In anticipation of the wakeful joy that is our true heart's desire. In the presence and power of God -