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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Advent 1, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 29, 2015

Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

‘It's about hope’

Advent is all about the promise of God that a time of salvation is at hand. A great gift is about to be given. And it will transform life and it will herald the coming of the kindom of peace and justice. Advent, most obviously, is about hope.

However, unlike many social New Year celebrations, Advent has its roots firmly planted in the soil of struggle. Its hope is no blind optimism. It knows the deep darkness, it knows the long waiting, it knows terror and anguish and it cries out, “Come, Jesus!” Come to our world and put right everything that is wrong.

Lutheran theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote an essay entitled, ‘Why am I a Christian?’. Moltmann talks about his own unique experience of coming to faith as a German soldier in a British Prisoner Of War camp at the end of World War II. He talks about utter desolation … and finding hope there.

He talks about hope as the defining characteristic of Christian faith. But it’s not the sort of hope that lulls us into a relaxed comfort. It’s the sort of hope that leaves us with a profound restlessness as we anguish over the suffering of life and as we yearn for the coming of salvation and as we offer our lives in order to embrace God’s future.

It’s the sort of hope expressed by Patricia Corowa, Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) delegate to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.

It’s the sort of hope expressed today by Miriam Pepper, Ray Minniecon and the People’s Climate March leaders – volunteers passionate about inclusive participation, determined to amplify the voices of those most vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels (those fighting to preserve land and culture, past, present and future) – to amplify the voices of those seeking visionary government, intelligent and respectful discourse on economics and energy, sustainable technology, healthy community and clean water, atmosphere…

It’s the sort of hope expressed by the Jesse Tree – a diverse artistic tradition about prophecy and God’s (miraculous) restoration of branches, lines/channels of creativity and service, compassion and salvation.

It’s the sort of hope expressed – if only we can hear it – in the prophetic texts of Judaism and Islam. An Abrahamic hope founded on respect for fellow “people of the book”, people of earlier and other revelations (Qu’ran 29:46). Hope founded on gender equality (the Qu’ran gave women rights of inheritance and divorce centuries before Western women were accorded such status) (Qu’ran 33:35). Hope founded on egalitarian desires for justice/reconciliation, care for the most vulnerable – belief that war is a catastrophe, peace an imperative (Qu’ran 8:16-17).

Margaret and Brian Vazey once asked me why we didn’t have readings from the Qu’ran in our worship services at Maroubra Bay. It was a good question then; it’s more urgent now. I spent a day last week reading from the Qu’ran, from Karen Armstrong’s Short History of Islam, and Sufi poets Rumi and Hafiz. So much hope and beauty – the underlying faith in a God of the poor and faithful. In the face of violent fundamentalism of all types, yes, it’s heartbreaking.

“There is no compulsion where faith is concerned” (Qu’ran 2:256).

“The worshippers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, ‘Peace!’” (Qu’ran 25:63).

“When you go through a hard period,
When everything seems to oppose you,
... When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,
NEVER GIVE UP!
Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!”
(Rumi).

“Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being …” (Rumi).

“Would you think it odd if Hafiz said,

‘I am in love with every church
And mosque
and temple
And any kind of shrine

Because I know it is there
That people say the different names
Of the One God’” (Hafiz).

As part of Luke’s telling of Jesus’ teaching about the end times, Jesus says this: “On the earth, nations will be in anguish, distraught at the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth. The powers in the heavens will be shaken …”

Anguish, perplexity, terror. Perhaps we respond by wanting to run away, wanting to make ourselves small. Jesus says, “When these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your ransom/redemption is near at hand”.

Stand tall, stick your necks out, seize the day. Understand the signs and the seasons – God does not come as the abuser, the oppressor, the invader, the terror. God comes as creative light and colour in the midst of darkness, emptiness.

“Advent reminds us that God embodies for us a way of renewal and of love that is strong enough for anything. It calls us to prepare even in the darkness in which we can lose our direction” (Mary Pearson).

We are all God’s beloved …

In the silence, let us discern what the Spirit reveals to us and within us.

… Amen.