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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Ordinary Sunday 16, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 19, 2015

2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-44

‘Doing what we love’

During the week I received my new issue of Raw Vision, a journal of “outsider”, folk or naive art and what the French call “art brut”. I was drawn to an article on Gérard Sendry, whose colourful work features on our liturgy cover today. God be with you ...

Sendry, I read, delights in things that appear unexpectedly before his eyes. “I don’t find, I search,” he says. I learn that the “creator” (a term Sendry prefers over the more academic term “artist”) takes great pleasure in unveiling the unknown within himself, and that he’s convinced everyone has great potential and many talents. One needs to pay attention in order to pick up the cues in everyday life, he says; it is easy to miss them.

I began my homiletic preparations in the company of Sendry’s works, feeling a certain happiness and sense of God or Life or Mystery (synonyms according to statements quoted in the journal article). I made the following note in my journal: Sometimes I forget to do what I love.

Sometimes I forget to do what I love. Taking time for art. Taking time to think and feel, and to cultivate a sense of wonder and affection for the world. Taking time to read and learn, to question, to engage in dialogue and inquiry, interpretation. Sendry’s work made me feel happy, lifted my spirits, reminding me that passion need not be considered selfish. Doing what I love can be a loving way to live.

Sometimes I forget to do what I love. Maybe because I’m anxious about the opinions of other people. I forget to cultivate my own sense of the world, to trust my own instincts, confused as to what others might regard my love and my task what they might think about it. Maybe I balk at the hard work of doing what I love (the demanding and infinite nature of it), afraid of failure? Maybe I get tired and lazy due to poor time management? Maybe I get distracted by spectacles and consumer desires, caught up in criticism of what other people do or say?

In today’s Gospel, the apostles are tired, following a successful missionary sojourn. They have begun to do what they truly love, and weary of it, forget even to eat. The well-known passage describes their restoration by way of compassionate service sharing their resources (five loaves and two fish) with others hungry not just for food but for God, Life, Mystery.

This is a striking feature of the text. The apostles experience restoration not by way of serenity and rest (as essential as these moments are for health and wellbeing), but by way of compassion and action. In the midst of weariness, we might say. One commentator, reflecting on the struggle for race equality in American society, says: “Weariness is the constant companion of those who seek justice. But so also is the God whose justice we seek.”

Doing what we love is one way of keeping close to the God who is Love. Doing what we love is one way of keeping close to God even when we are tired, anxious, confused or afraid.

It is a matter, on a basic level, of trusting in the love of God. As Sendry says, it’s a matter of recognising the potential for good in every heart, even my own. It’s also a matter of recognising that love, like art, is something we are given to do or make, just as peace, real peace, shalom, is something we are given to make or build.

The apostles experience restoration not by way of conflict’s dissolution or simple retreat, but by way of compassion and action an induction into peace-making. Is this not what they, and we, most love to do? Yes, we need rest. But more than that we need reasons to live and work in and through our rejoicing and weeping, seeking and hiding, running and growing tired reasons, passions, connections, communions.

Peace is something I love to do. Peace is not still. It is not tranquil. It is not calm. It is not respectable. The peace of God, shalom, is a burning passion that requires action. Peace is the hard work and miracle of reconciliation the building St Paul describes in the letter to the Ephesians: “You are included in God’s holy people and are members of the household of God, which is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus as the capstone. In Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in our God ...”

I think this is the same building we can interpret it that way referred to in 2 Samuel as Solomon’s house for the name of God. Solomon did build a Temple (destroyed in 587 BCE). He is also the symbolic founder of the wisdom tradition in Hebrew scripture and scholarship, and Wisdom is one of God’s many names. Beautiful and good.

Peace, shalom, means holy construction just and trustworthy relationships, diverse and safe community, wise councils and counsel. When we exchange the peace we can think of God’s peace as something powerful, empowering. We are exchanging dignity and purpose, building trust, sharing freedom (not wishing one another lives free of difficulty, conflict or noise).

I made a list of the verbs in a series of online comments about today’s Gospel. “We read ... We looked ... We saw ... We dug deep ... We wept ... We sang ... We told the truth ... It broke our hearts ... We were at peace.”

Doing what we love is one way of keeping close to the God who is Love. Doing what we love is one way of keeping close to God even when we are tired, anxious, confused or afraid. Doing what we love is one way of keeping the peace, of making peace.

In love there is powerful restoration.

Of course we will be weary and anxious when we think about people sleeping rough in Belmore Park this winter. When we talk about recognition of first peoples in our Constitution, and when we listen for an indigenous consensus on a referendum question and timetable. When we see the disparity between economic and environmental measures of value our government divesting from renewable energy technologies. When we note with alarm that the world’s richest 85 billionaires control as much wealth as the poorer half of the entire global population. When an artist is shackled, jailed and deported from Abu Dhabi for posting a comment and photo online. When harsh and disproportionate punishments evoke little or no sympathy in our mainstream media. When anti-Islam protesters invoke the very worst sentiments of patriotism. Who wouldn’t be weary and anxious? Who wouldn’t feel confused and afraid ...

... and hungry for good news?

Doing what we love is one way of keeping close to the God who is Love. Doing what we love is one way of keeping close to God even when we are tired, anxious, confused or afraid. Doing what we love is one way of keeping the peace, of making peace. Doing what we love releases restorative powers for new hope and action, new beginnings, new life.

What do you most love to do or make? ... Amen.