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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Advent 2, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
December 6, 2015

Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Luke 3:1-6

‘Helping to make possible’

“We are all John the Baptists in our own way” (David L. Walker). Our icon shows John looking especially wild. We are all wild in the sense of naked, vulnerable, human, in touch with the earth and with basic needs/desires like John. In our sensitivity to needs, most especially the need of forgiveness (which entails bearing responsibility for our actions rather than self-righteously blaming and lashing out at others), our sensitivity to common life and survival (perhaps in our resistance to the many attractions/distractions of city life), we are drawn, like John, to a wild place or wilderness. What kind of place is this for you? Is the voice of the wild one, the outsider, an audible voice? What message do you hear spoken? What about your own voice in the wilderness? What do you hear yourself crying (either silently or aloud)? God be with you

I had the privilege of hearing this Gospel at De Porres House in Darlinghurst on Thursday night. The community’s weekly Eucharist is inclusive, with diverse contributions from all members. As it ought to be!

The good news of Jesus, the glory revealed in peace/wholeness/right relationship extending to all humankind, throughout the earth can only be achieved through our participation: through our preparing the way, through our helping to make ready the way of our God who makes the twisted paths straight and the rough roads smooth. We are all part of the story.

The volunteers at De Porres helped prepare the dinner. A friendly conversation partner helped prepare me for my tasks as guest presider. Others selected songs to sing. Shelley read the Gospel from Luke Chapter 3. We acknowledged the wisdom of traditional owners whose openness to land, to country, prepares a way of understanding and sharing. Somebody prayed for a community member released from prison, and spoke of preparing a room in the house for this person.

How might we prepare the way of the Saviour? … In our preparations for Christmas, what are we preparing for? For whom are we preparing? How are we preparing?

How might we herald a saviour to come? A democracy to come? A just/sustainable, global economy? An egalitarian/thriving/safe/creative community? Firstly, by acknowledging the shortcomings of the present system/s. Advent is a good time to step aside, to step outside our comfort-zones and conventional forms. A good time to try dressing/eating/shopping/socialising/moving about differently. Seeking a new perspective. The repentance John calls for/th is about thinking and acting differently the Greek term metanoia means a renewal of mind.

I mentioned the experience of the Maronite worship service in Harris Park last week. The passing of the Peace from person to person.

Our December issue of the SSH was accidentally printed on thinner, slightly greyer paper. It looks different. Perhaps it points/smooths the way, suggested one of our editors, to a more responsible use of paper. The bundles are certainly much lighter, much easier to carry around. Perhaps we are offered a prophetic word. The example of John’s preaching/baptising suggests it’s not simply what we make that’s important, but also what we make possible, what we help to make possible.

We refer often to “possibilities” for community. Less paper and lighter bundle loads promises reduced costs to the budget and environment. It’s worth considering.

Just as we continue to revise editorial content. Creating space for dialogue social, political, religious is a faithful response to tabloid sensationalism and the rush to judgement. Our paper is called the South Sydney Herald, not the South Sydney Verdict. Making space for conversation at a table, within a community newspaper is one way of giving peace a chance, of heralding peace.

It’s usually said that the name Jesus means “Yahweh Saves” but it can also bear the meaning “Yahweh Makes Space”. Salvation pertains to a realm, a reign of love, a freedom of movement, a kin-dom. It’s a thinking we might even apply to God the Creator the God who creates by making space for Creation, for every creature in relationship. Theologian Raimon Pannikar, a Spanish priest with a passion for inter-religious dialogue, says: “The Nothing out of which God creates everything is God.” In other words, God is Making-Space. Or, Love is Making-Space.

Our John-inspired preparations, then, our human vocations as preparers of the way, participate in a cosmic Making-Space. How might we prepare the way of the Saviour? … In our preparations for Christmas, what are we preparing for? For whom are we preparing? How are we preparing?

Each year we take part in the NCCA’s Act for Peace Christmas Bowl appeal. The Christmas Bowl involves 19 member churches throughout the country and many more throughout the world. Several projects are highlighted for prayer and financial support. Significantly, the projects entail supporting local churches and communities helping to make possible the hopes and dreams of people who know best what’s most needed.

Today’s project is about conservation farming in Zimbabwe. Act for Peace’s partner in Zimbabwe, Christian Care, has worked with thousands of farmers in conservation farming techniques. The program focuses on farmers in drought-prone areas, and has dramatically improved their capacity to provide food for their families while reducing dependency on food aid. One in three people in rural Zimbabwe are facing devastating food shortages and extreme hunger. Ninety dollars can teach a group of farmers in Zimbabwe so they can grow enough to feed their families.

Our reflections on preparation take a practical/ecological turn. Preparation is the key to good farming methods, especially when the land is vulnerable to climate change and rainfall is decreasing.

John the Baptist’s wild call and the Zimbabwean farmers’ determination are incentives to us as we prepare ourselves and others to be full participants of God’s kindom, God’s realm or reign of love, in the world. May it be so. Amen.