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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 19, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
August 7, 2016

Hebrews 11:1-3;8-16; Luke 12:32-40

‘Where is my heart?’

Andy Warhol is known for making art about fame, celebrity, consumerism. Irony is very much a part of Warhol’s art, however, and his last works comprise 100 repetitions of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. Warhol, a gay man and a Catholic Christian, attended mass every week, and his “Last Supper” series includes images of Jesus overlaid with logos/icons signifying the Holy Spirit, God the Creator, and the Easter mystery. The series asks us to consider a tension between consumerism and Eucharistic spirituality – in Western culture, in ourselves, in the artist himself. There is a warmth to Warhol’s Christ – a contemporary figure (I imagine a figure people of all ages, children especially, might find compelling). In the last works of his life Warhol asked: What is the meaning of my art? Where is my heart?

Jesus said: “Sell what you own and give the money to poorer people. Make purses for yourselves that don’t wear out – treasures that won’t fail you, in heaven, that thieves can’t steal and moths can’t destroy. For wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be …” God be with you

About one-sixth of all the New Testament records Jesus as having said concerns our relationship to money and material possessions. Jesus speaks more about this than he does about prayer or about forgiveness. And much of it is to be found in Luke’s Gospel.

Wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be. Perhaps there is nothing that can seduce us away from what really matters – the kindom of all peoples, the kindom of all creatures in God – so well as possessions; so well as possessive attitudes and compulsions.

We could wrestle today with how we might go about being more careful with our money (wary of political leaders’ obsessions with economic growth at all costs), or how to learn to live more simply and give more generously, and that would be perfectly in keeping with our Gospel for today, but there is another question that underlies our fear of Jesus talking about possessions, and if we don’t address that question, we risk wasting our energies and time.

Underlying our anxiety about money-talk is a question about the place that faith occupies in our lives. Indeed, the formulation of the question is telling. Does faith merely occupy a place in my life (and if so, what role does it play in respect of other places/compartments in my life? – What role does faith play in respect of money, for instance?), or does my life occupy a place in the kindom – in the city/commonwealth of no possessions where Christ reigns?

“Faith is the reality of all that is hoped for; faith is the proof of all that is unseen.” So we read in the Letter/Homily to the Hebrews. Faith is a No to anxiety and fear, we might say, and a Yes to liberty and love. Does faith merely occupy a place in my life, or does my life occupy a place in the kindom – in the city/commonwealth of no possessions where Christ reigns? Where is my treasure? Where is my heart/life?

I also read this, from Jill Friebel at South Yarra Community Baptist Church in Melbourne: “Transcending ourselves, going beyond ourselves, reaching out to another, is what happens when we fall in love … Whenever we fall in love [with a partner, a child, a creature or country] we forget ourselves for a while … As you put your faith in God and act in ways that respond in love and endurance you will be transformed in the process. You won’t notice at first, but others will.”

In 1965 Blind Willie Johnson wrote and recorded a song about falling in love with the Gospel – an experience of free kindness and a promise of freedom:

Brother don’t stop prayin’
Sister don’t stop prayin’
See what my Lord has done.

Keep your lamp trimmed and burnin’
Keep your lamp trimmed and burnin’
See what my Lord has done …

Six years ago this week, Takbirul was baptised here in the church. In setting out to become a Christian, accepting the reality of that call on his life, Takbirul professed anew an openness to God as a loving Parent and Provider. He professed a willingness to wait on the good news of new life – meaning, purpose, hope, peace, grace.

He has waited so long for good news. On Friday he faced a three-hour interrogation at the Refugee Review Tribunal in the city – answering questions about his love of God and his attraction to Jesus and the Church. In the context of fears at the prospect of facing majority suspicion and rejection (the risk of persecution), he did his best to talk about conversion – his love for the Gospel. How do we speak of this love? This experience of free kindness, this promise of freedom?

As an advocate and witness, I did my best to affirm Takbirul’s faithfulness – expressed in kindness and respect for the congregation – over six years. I salute his patience and endurance – and the goodness of his friendships. I salute his faith.

When we come to the altar-table in a while, we will be offered a free gift – a piece of broken bread in wine. Nothing much, you might think. But if you will allow yourself to hear the words, “Take, eat, this too is my body”, and recognise the presence of Jesus Christ you will be at a moment of decision. You can take and eat, accept the broken Christ who gives himself to you and say: “I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; Put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you; exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal” (John Wesley).

Or, you can just eat the bread with the wine and walk away. Perhaps enjoying the ritual, the sense of mystery, the links to an ancient tradition. Perhaps even stirred by the prayers and the songs and sense of sharing a special moment with others. Perhaps even value your friendships with those you come to the table with, and appreciate the sense of belonging and community. But just walk away. Close the spiritual compartment of your life for another week and go on living your life unaffected by it all.

“Fear not, little flock, for it has pleased your Abba to give you the kindom.” You can file a few Christian values and experiences in a little spiritual compartment of your life, or you can open up everything – your very heart – to receive the free gift of the kindom.

And because your life occupies a place in the kindom, you are free to ask: For what or for whom do I keep my lamp lit today? For what or for whom shall I light a candle? … Amen.

Draws on reflection by Nathan Nettleton.

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