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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Advent 1, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 27, 2016

Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 24:37-44

Yesterday I noticed the headlines on the front page of the Telegraph.  ( I didn't buy the paper). The headlines said 'Tough new laws to stop no-hopers'.  I was stuck by its relevance to the Christian world at the beginning of Advent.  Advent, a time of waiting, of hoping, of longing and rejoicing in new life that draws us into the mystery of God.  

What's a 'no-hoper'?  Someone without hope?  Someone society does not hold hope for?  Someone judged as hopeless?  How will tougher laws help?  The paper was referring to people needing some form of welfare to manage their lives.  I asked myself: Am I a 'no-hoper?  When am I without hope?  When do I behave like someone without hope?  Would others who look at me or listen to me recognise the hope that motivates me?  

One of the learnings for me when I was a Creighton University recently was about my understanding of the value we express in Cana Communities about the value of each person.  For more than 25 years I have said thousands of times 'everyone is worth celebrating....  I've said it in thousands of ways as well.  A bit of a theme song really.  Well.   I arrived in Omaha to banners of 'Opus Prize week'. Meet the finalists etc.  then it started ,.....  meeting people and as I shook hands I was greeted with 'It's an honour to meet you....'. Over and over.  It went on the whole week.  My reaction.  Denial, embarrassment, 'hang on, it's only me....'.  Do I believe I'm worth celebrating?  Do you believe it of you?  We can keep trying and keep getting caught out!

Let's keep in alive in our hearts this week the light of the candle we lit for advent and our prayer that we 'light a candle for hope.'  The hope we hold for a better world as we link with others today to say we believe 'we can do better' for asylum seekers and refugees in our country.

In the reading from Isaiah we have before us the hope and the dream for a world where peace and justice are a reality.  That people might 'walk in God's paths', beat their swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not lift up sword against another nor shall they train for war or learn war again.  We have much to do in our own country to reshape our national priorities re defence and security.  We need courage and community to hold a vision that goes so strongly against the tide of public opinion and policy.  Do we dare to hope, to work for peace and be seen to believe that war and violence are not the ways of God?  This is the message of Isaiah.

As we begin a new church year we focus on the gospel of Matthew.  We can dare to hope for something much more than we hear reported in the media.  

Matthews gospel was written some time in the 80s.  Approximately 50 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The community Matthew wrote for had strong roots in Judaism.  They believe that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who brings their past Scriptures and traditions to fulfilment.  For this reason Matthew will emphasise the connection between Jesus' life and the Scriptures of Israel.  When listening to the reading of the gospel  it is important to listen/ read with the two time frames in mind.  The time of Jesus and the time of Matthew's community who are already beginning to experience a separation. From Judaism.

Two people are referred to in today's gospel, Noah and the Son of Man.  Both are meant to urge Christians to live with an alertness to the dream of God.  People were not ready for the flood in the time of Noah.  According to the book of Daniel, at the end of time, one 'like the Son of Man', will be given all authority in God's new world.  The early Christian Communities related this image to Jesus.  Matthew is therefore urging his community to be alert and ready for the day when Jesus will return.

Even in the struggles with emerging Rabbinic Judaism and within the Roman Empire, Matthew's 'good news' is that Jesus is 'God with us'- Emmanuel.  This is the name given at his birth and the final promise Jesus leaves with his disciples, ' I am with you always.'  (Cf Mary Coloe 2007)

Today the struggles for our time are different: climate change, asylum seekers, refugees, war and terrorism, drought, personal daily struggles in family life and work....the list could go on.  We still need to hear the good news that God is with us.

We are called not just to imagine and dream, but to make peacemaking a priority in our lives.  This Advent, for the sake of peace, what steps might we take to heal division, alienation and broken relationships in our family, our community, our world?  How can we transcend our differences and speak with one voice about the dream of peace given by anGod who here, today loves and celebrates each one of us?

This Advent we wait once again.  We wait to hear that story again, of a child born under the shadow of a mighty empire, of a child who would show us a new way of living, and a new attitude to death.  We wait not just for Christmas morning but for his birth again and again in our lives, for eyes to see that it is among the vulnerable the scared and marginalised he is found.  Let us listen with an openness to having our hearts and lives transformed.

We need to wait, to hope, to see what comes, knowing that it often doesn't look like anything we thought we were hoping to get.  

The baby did not look like God.

The manger did not look like the kindom.

The place did not look promising.

But in those things lay our hope and our salvation.  

Sr. Anne Jordan

Homily by Sr. Anne Jordan