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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 19, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
August 12, 2018

Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2; John 6:35, 41-51


‘Godly freedom’

Jesus said: “I am the bread of life …” God be with you

There are seven “I am” sayings of Jesus. Each echoes the revelation to Moses, by way of the burning bush, where God called Moses to lead the Israelite captives to freedom. The holy name of God is “I Am” or “I Will Be” (Exodus 3:14).

Jesus said: “I am the bread … light … sheep gate … shepherd … vine … way/path … new life …”

The stuff of everyday existence. We are invited to look for, to see the divine in ordinary life. The good food we share (bread, company). The light and warmth of the winter sun. The animals we care for. Plants/trees/vines (which satisfy many kinds of thirst – physical, existential, spiritual … human as well as non-human). Pathways and roads – to and from places of worship and friendship. New life every morning, new life every time we experience hope, forgiveness, love, meaning.

We are invited to see the divine in nature and culture most familiar to us. Perhaps we are not so familiar with sheep gates and sheep. Perhaps, like Matt and Tammy, we know better what it’s like to herd, to feed and tend a dog … or a cat (I like Bea’s drawing of the woman with the kitten), the pigeons in the park, ibis, magpies, lorikeets …

We call it incarnation. The closeness of God – the self-emptying love of God praised by Paul in Ephesians – a giving first, a for-giving.

Not in general paths and roads so much as the streets we know best – Raglan Street, John Street, Chalmers Street, Redfern Street. Not in metaphysics so much as the very life and wonder of a sister, brother, friend, lover, companion – life and new life in particular voices, smiles, hands, faces …

That’s the first thing. God in the familiar, the ones we call, the ones we choose to call “family”.

The second thing to note is that the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus recall the words of Wisdom (Sophia) in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom, too, offers bread and wine, companionship, a way to health and wellbeing … She is to be found, we read, wherever people, any people at all, search and pray for wisdom, value wisdom, learn to be wise (Proverbs 9:5ff).

And so we are challenged to see the divine in nature and culture unfamiliar to us – in foreign times and places, in those we might regard strange, wrong, frightening, irrelevant or different.

I’m thinking about people of other faiths (theist, atheist and non-theist) or professions – cat lovers suspicious of dog lovers, South Sydneysiders suspicious of Roosters supporters, artists suspicious of scientists, philosophers suspicious of eco-justice activists …

But I’m also thinking that the strange and sometimes most frightening person, the one we are challenged to welcome, is the one we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror. The person I am challenged to confront and accept.

In what ways are we held captive to unhealthy desires – compulsions, addictions? How am I enslaved to consumer appetites, eating and drinking without prayer/respect – foolish and harmful habits of mind or body? To whom am I most hostile? Under what circumstances? What excuses do I offer for my hostility? Am I living according to real opportunities for life, relationship and growth, or am I deluded about myself – lost in a fantastic past or future?

Reflection on the holy name, “I Am” or “I Will Be”, brings us back to freedom … beyond captivity, hostility and fantasy (freed from all that), the godly freedom to be there for each other. To give thanks, to break bread and make sure there is bread/life for all. The godly freedom to be there for each other. Amen.


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