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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Land Sunday,  Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
September 14, 2014

Genesis 3:14-19;4:8-16; Psalm 96; Matthew 12:38-40


Our Genesis reading presents a (if not the) human drama of disobedience and violence. Primordial and perennial. Of note today is the presence of the land as a witness to human sin and a figure caught up in the consequences of sin. The ground bears the curse of sin (just as Jesus will bear the sins of others), and from the ground the blood of the innocent cries to God (again, there is a pre-figuration of the blood of the crucified). The blood of the Land prefigures the blood of the Lamb. God be with you ...

Disobedience (which also has to do with a greedy immaturity, a grasping at knowledge that falls short of wisdom) and violence (violence between humans as well as violence at the hands of human “masters”) entail suffering for the land and its nonhuman inhabitants.

Our Gospel reading presents in miniature the drama of salvation which sees Jesus placed in a tomb at what we might regard the centre of the earth. The earth (field, ground, soil, land) becomes a place of new beginnings, rebirth. The risen Jesus, as Paul says, is the first fruit of a new creation of faithful nonviolence, or love. None of this happens without reference to the land, without the dirt or dust from which we all are created.

Another way to say this would be to say that human salvation (wholeness, wellness) is inextricably linked to the land. The goodness, the communion for which we deeply long, involves our care of the land and its many different inhabitants, our delight in the land, our honouring the land.

There are many ways we might come to appreciate this.

Miriam has helped to resource congregations for this Season of Creation and has shared a link to a short online video about protesters at the Leard State Forest in north-west NSW, a bio-diverse environment under threat from the Maules Creek coal mine proposed by Whitehaven Coal. The forest is part of the ancestral lands of the Gomeroi people. Seven of 11 sacred sites have already been destroyed. In June this year, a group of Christians joined the blockade to try to stop the mine.

Participants explain that the action is about respect for a God who loves at great cost to Godself, love for many neighbours, love for the environment, and hope for the future of our climate and our planet. (See www.frontlineaction.org)

Care of the land is not simply a romantic matter but is thoroughly political. Questions are raised about access to the land, its bounty and its beauty.

Margaret and Brian Vazey, over many years (since about 1986), have been part of a group called Friends of Malabar Headland - cleaning up, weeding, advocating for the conservation of the beloved area and its designation as a national park. It almost happened under the previous state government but things now are looking dire. The prospect of development is just so attractive.

Margaret speaks of diverse plant life and wonderful, wind-formed sculptures, thousands of years old. The headland is a great place for whale watching in June and July, she says. The humpbacks, it seems, make use of Magic Point and Boora Point in navigating their way north.

Local artist Michelle Collocott, whose artwork appears on the printed liturgy, continues to document in painting her deep love of the land she loves near Oberon on the Central Tablelands. An abstract painter, Collocott works in a precise manner, dividing her canvases into areas and spaces, influenced by cartographical markings. She is meticulous in employing shapes, colours and tones abstract mappings of her familiar regional towns and spaces, lovingly transformed. Her art is harmonious and zings with life and pleasure.

Jovana Terzic, our art class tutor yesterday, is on her way to Lorinna in north Tasmania. She is returning to draw and paint and work on a farm that is shared land. The enterprise works as part of a wider network called WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms).

What lands, which landmarks are important to you in terms of the salvation or communion you long for? Let’s complete the homily together ... Amen.