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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 14, Year C
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 3, 2016

Psalm 66; Galatians 6:1-16; Luke 10:1-11,16-20

‘Peace and all good (be with you)’

Jesus sends out the 72, two by two – partners in ministry, partners in discovery, partners in faith. Expect hostility and rejection, he tells them. And yet, proclaim peace wherever you go. Accept the gifts of those who welcome you – in this Spirit of hospitality much can be accomplished. Don’t worry about being successful so much as sharing a vision of change and freedom in a way that means real participation, here and now, addressing urgent needs (a remarkably contemporary word for a jaded/angry world in desperate need of new 21st-century visions, sustainable economics/politics). The Gospel is about “people who love because of the influence of Jesus joining others who love” (Bill Loader) – people who really care recognising others who really care. In this daring Spirit, in this spiritual “field” (St Paul) much will be accomplished. God be with you …

We are given a picture of first-century social and religious life. Palestinian houses had spacious front porches, semi-public areas, and travellers were permitted to seek hospitality by entering a particular porch and offering a word of wisdom. If the householder regarded the guests as friends, it was incumbent on the householder to show hospitality. Scholars emphasise the importance of hospitality in middle-eastern cultures. This picture may help us to understand what’s going on in the text.

A pair of poor travellers proclaiming peace. The Hebrew word shalom means more than the absence of conflict. Shalom is right relations – right relations within Creation, right relations between people and right relation with God. Shalom connotes the kindom of God – all that is just, compassionate – the overcoming of all that is evil. Friends or enemies? Like-minded believers or dangerous infidels/rivals?

The artwork by Judith Klein depicts shalom in colours reminiscent of planet Earth and in lines suggestive of the New Jerusalem – the heavenly city upon the earth.

Jesus instructs the missionaries to build relationships rather than to seek the advancement of their careers, rather than to seek fame (“Don’t keep moving from house to house” in search of a better deal, a richer sponsor). Stay and talk awhile, stay and share awhile, stay and heal awhile, stay and learn awhile. 

Shalom is not just a message, then. Shalom is right relations. Our psalm for today may be heard in celebration of peace/shalom and right relations. “Let us join the earth in praising God./ Shalom./ As metals are refined by fire/ so we are tested by our difficulties./ Shalom./ I can now acknowledge your help./ As I passed through fire and water,/ I thought I was lost./ I now tell others of your support./ I do this with a grateful heart./ Shalom./ God has always been a constant listener./ Shalom.” Shalom is not just a message, then. Shalom is right relations.

The Gospel is harsh, though, in regards to those unwilling to receive such a message, such missionaries.

Because we know too well that missions have been places of disrespect and violence, that missionaries have frequently been judgemental, deceptive, arrogant and ignorant (that is, unwise), the harshness grates. We are likely, then, to see the travellers as colonisers – self-seeking, controlling, overbearing, self-righteous. Our sympathies may well lie with those who resist/reject such missionaries.

It’s also possible, however, to discern a template for dealing with rejection of genuine wisdom. Move on, Jesus says. When you encounter inhospitality, name it, and move on. One door closes, another opens, as we say.

The arrogance or disdain which some in our time have for the Gospel demands that we continue the age-old practices: “Depend totally upon the one who is sending us, and live the message we are preaching. In fact, our lives are the message. The word will only touch other hearts and minds when our lives are one with the message we are preaching” (Francis J. Moloney).

And it’s possible to see in the text a real challenge to prevailing values that insisted people remained bound to locality, family and station in life. Shalom and all it entails opens doors to new possibilities, to new life with others in the world. Franciscans greet one another with the words “Pax et bonum”, which means “Peace and all good (be with you)”. Shalom/peace and all the good it entails opens doors to new life with others in the world. Missionaries, in other words, link one community of hope to the next – one tradition/culture of creativity to another, one world of understanding to another …

And at the heart of all this lies a certain poverty and simplicity.

In an article in this weekend’s Herald, Paul Biegler refers to “hedonic adaptation” – an evolved addiction to materialism and consumerism, the drive toward wanting more regardless of social and environmental degradation. The author seeks a way to resist greed and folly by way of “real world lived examples” – Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Institute (at the University of Melbourne) traces an anti-materialist tradition with roots going back to Diogenes, the Epicureans, Henri Thoreau and ’60s flower-power. 

The Wurruk’an eco-village in Gippsland sees the construction of tiny houses from recycled materials; permaculture and composting; numerous examples of thrift and mindfulness. The way to overcome destructive consumerism, it is argued, entails strategies that trigger “self-transcendence”, positive values such as friendship, community and personal growth, along with acknowledgement of mortality. We are encouraged to think and act “green”, and more than this, to choose “green peers”, green partners. We are “nudged” toward greener consciousness and behaviour by way of positive reinforcements and rewards.

Close relationship with God is what really matters, Jesus says, nudging his disciples and nudging us. That your names are written in heaven is reason to rejoice. 

I’m reminded of a word of wisdom, an epiphany recorded by Thomas Merton: “In every human being resides a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our will … It is so to speak [God’s] name written in us.” Our names written in heaven. God’s name written in us. In such a Spirit, in such a spiritual “field”, we can live through the failures/frustrations that inevitably come. And we shall overcome …

How we make a connection from this first-century practice in Christianity to our 21st-century context will depend on how we respond to the questions the Gospel poses. Who have been the important partners for you in your life? Who have been the important partners in ministry, in discovery, in your life of faith? What has made them so important? Instead of “Peace to this house”, what might we say today? Is this still a good way to communicate solidarity, compassion, hope? How simply ought we live? How simply ought we proclaim the Gospel? What over-complicates genuine encounter with others and what distracts us from addressing urgent needs in the community/world? In the silence of hearts centred on shalom, let’s complete the homily together … Amen.