Other Homilies

Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

Home Mission Statement Homilies Liturgies In Memoriam Reports Resources Contacts Links

Easter Day, Year B
Reaffirmations of Baptism
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 1, 2018

1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8

‘God of Little Things’

I’m going to sing the homily today. It seems like a good day for singing – especially in the good company of our reaffirmees/confirmees – and I have been given a song. A theme to explore. An idea to develop. A refrain to repeat. God be with you

Paul writes of resurrection as an interpretation of certain events in the lives of believers. Appearances and empowerment. He refers to his own experience which involved seeing and not seeing Christ, hearing the voice of Christ as the voice of those he himself was persecuting. The little ones. Thus, he expresses humility. He makes himself little – “the least of the apostles”.  

Elsewhere in correspondence with the Corinthians he sees apostles as least of all – as “fools for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:10).

Paul can be sarcastic, didactic, but there’s also Paul the broken one, the little one attuned to little things; aware of his arrogance, ashamed of his violence; dying to arrogance and violence. Bearing witness to a God revealed in the weak and despised.

He often struggles to find the words – or to make the argument – because what he is trying to say is so often counter-intuitive, offensive, strange (even to himself!).

The gospel he proclaims makes the wise/educated/powerful tremble. It rocks conventions – Greco-Roman household codes, for example … gender relations, social hierarchies, cultural distinctions. And a God of little things is of major importance. In the light of certain appearances and empowerment on the part of those regarded last and least, all these familiar terms will be redefined: sovereignty, leadership, power, wisdom, world, flesh, cross, resurrection …

At my father’s funeral, the preacher read from 1 Thessalonians 4 where Paul writes to a community anticipating Christ’s triumphant return. With trembling love for my father, I heard the text differently.

I saw these early Christians anxious over who would be saved/delivered first. Like those first apostles, jockeying for positions of honour. Ready for the rapture. Perhaps worried/superstitious about loved ones who had already died. Had they missed out? Lost their chance? Like so many born too early, untimely born …

I heard Paul saying no, the dead will be delivered (from evil?) first. In the kindom of God, as he well knew, the last shall be first. A God of little things has special concern for the lost and the least – and the power of the resurrection (this term redefined) is experienced in grieving the dead, in loving memories, in respect and honour (forgiveness?) for those who have lived, laboured … whose frailties and failures are most evident.

I’m not sure how important the metaphysics of all this is for Paul.

But I see and hear the risen Christ in the text. The dead will be delivered first. I experience an empowerment. Something like a call to new life, new regard and respect, new love … for my father, and for all those told or tempted to think they’ve been forgotten, left behind.

The love in our hearts for Jesus and Paul and for those we miss most is real. And the love we have for God and for others is already a gift to us. Which may seem a little thing … worthy of praise. Amen.

God of Little Things

Oh, I praise the God of little things
My fingers catch under the strings
While back-and-forth the garden sings
Of nothing evil, no one cursed
And the dead to be delivered first

Adrift then, what did I know about grace?
Can I learn to look real events in the face?
Anger is natural, grief clears a space
For a coming-to-be-seen reversed
When the dead will be delivered first

Fight for the peace and outfox the liars
Pose for a portrait with candle and pliers
Take off a sandal to put out spot fires
A cup of water for any that thirst
And the dead will be delivered first

Each day is full, it feels like a week
Dying to vain speech, trying to speak
Some kind of hope that can survive critique
A wager in spite of the worst
The dead will be delivered first

Andrew Collis, 2018.