Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
‘Rituals, writing and righteousness’
I was very excited yesterday to pick up a book I’d ordered some weeks ago. The book is by Maurice Merleau-
“The thing can never be separated from someone who perceives it every perception is a communication or a communion.”
“When I return to myself from the dogmatism of common sense or of science, I do not find a source of intrinsic truth, but rather a subject destined to the world.”
The spiral golden ratio, nautilus shell, galaxy, fingerprint, Celtic maze as a symbol of intrinsic and extrinsic being is an apt phenomenological symbol of the perceived world. Subject and object. Body and spirit. Ritual-
I hope my excitement over a book is not a barrier to perception/appreciation of the spiral as image of our being in and toward the world. I won’t say any more about Merleau-
The reading from James refers to a powerful and saving word implanted in the heart which, whatever that means, means more than a word printed in a book. The Gospel reading is about certain attitudes to laws of religion, to texts and rituals, which (failing to complete a double-
Mark recounts that Jesus was criticised by the experts in religious law for failing to keep or teach others to keep the letter of the law. Jesus responds with a stinging critique of the integrity of his critics. In this particular account, the issue is the ritual washing of hands before eating, and reference is made to numerous laws observed by the experts with regard to ritual washing for purification.
Citing the prophet Isaiah, Jesus turns on them and accuses them of hypocrisy. It is not that faithfulness to “externals” is wrong in itself (caring about washing hands and utensils is good and helpful not least in that it promotes care, reverence for food and the sharing of food, reverence for life), but that externals (rituals as well as written texts) properly relate to inward realities (transformations of heart and mind). As mere externals they are all-
One commentator sees that our readings from James and Mark about rituals, writing and righteousness alongside the Song of Solomon’s ostensibly non-
Not only with ritual washing but with sex, too.
The Young People, Sex, Love and the Media project (Macquarie University) found that 13-
In short, marriage (the external ceremony, the public witness to fidelity, the wedding rings, the marriage certificate, and so on all of which are good, or can be good, for straight, gay or queer lovers) without loving, caring, faithful relating has no moral value whatsoever. It is an empty sign, an all-
I share these words in tribute to Al and Maggie who have chosen the lection from the Song of Solomon for their marriage celebration this week (a liturgical celebration in solidarity with fellow citizens currently denied an equal opportunity for legal marriage). There’s much we could say here about the biblical promise of mutual respect, the biblical promise of mutual submission.
We could add that the Song of Solomon is revelatory in that it privileges the voice of one at risk of becoming just another slave or plaything for the king (the erotic poetry we might prosaically call Ruler Wants a Concubine is undermined by the presence of a strong woman she is not afraid to express her feelings and desires including a desire for exclusive commitment she is unbowed before the patriarch-
The outward sign of marriage is worthless if what is coming from within is greed, envy, pride, foolishness, slander and bitterness covetousness, the desire to constrain or to control.
One commentator writes: “If your sexual behaviour is secretive, pushy, selfish, disrespectful or lacking in mutual respect, then your behaviour is ethically indefensible and no institution [ritual] or label will [make it right] The Christ we follow condemns unquestioning repetition of the old party lines, but continues to call us to strive for love, honesty and faithfulness, and to create structures [and rituals] that will uphold and encourage [purity of heart]” (Nathan Nettleton).
Let’s think a little more this morning about religious “externals” and the part they play in our lives. How do our externals (rituals of eating/fasting, dressing, praying, marrying) relate to inward realities (transformations of heart and mind)? For public and/or private benefit, how do our rituals draw us closer to God? ...Amen.