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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter 6, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 6, 2018

Psalm 98; Acts 10:44-48; John 15:9-17

‘Joy, completely’

This is a page to have our Bibles open at! Which words or lines might you underline? “As my Abba has loved me, so have I loved you,” Jesus says to his friends. “I tell you all this that my joy may be yours, and your joy may be complete.” Love, divinely. Joy, completely. God be with you

The verbs are striking – in the passage and in the commentaries: abiding, keeping, loving. But the notion of joy – the joy of Jesus (as depicted by the artist whose artwork we have to enjoy) and the joy of friendship/community is inspiring.

I picture a circle. Joy-ful-ness. The joy of a parent, delighting in a child. Pamela, Heather, Cassandra, Ben and Jemima. The joy of promises made and sustained. The joy of adventure and safe return – the freedom to risk life and love for others, finding a way back to nourishment, acknowledgement, thanksgiving. A circle of ever renewing joy.

John 15 is haunted by a sadness. The joy of Jesus encircles death – betrayal and failure, persecution. We are given a joy that we might face death in various forms, including the death that threatens to separate us from love.

“I tell you all this that my joy may be yours, and your joy may be complete.”

It seems we’re given joy as a project of some kind. A work to complete together. A work of mourning.

On Friday I attended a funeral for Bruce Milne, an electrical engineer, an elder and long-serving treasurer at the Balmain Uniting Church. Bruce was consistently supportive, kind, humble. His children expressed thanks for this humility in particular, acknowledging their father as one who made time and space for them.

The photograph they selected for the order of service shows Bruce with a broad and toothy grin – the epitome of joyfulness. Gratefulness, too – gratitude – was a strong theme of the songs, eulogies and prayers.

To be grateful and to be humble means to abide in a Spirit of wisdom and joy. To remain open-minded and open-hearted. To keep seeking and learning. With respect to love, to keep trying. The circle, the project. It’s not my burden alone, but a gift to cherish and to share.

A week ago I overheard a radio interview with a neurologist speaking about brain plasticity. The professor made the comment that it’s important brain-health-wise to do what you’re not good at – to keep trying new things.

I suspect it’s also a truth that applies spiritually. With respect to love, to keep trying. Forgiving, and also respecting the experiences of other people – what others have to give. And confessing my prejudices, my limitations, my fears and foolishness. The circle, the project. It’s not my burden alone (to perfect or to forsake), but a gift to cherish and to share.

I have spent the past week meditating on John 15 (the mystical image of the vine) and the line “I do what I am not good at”. My Wordplay friends have helped toward some refinement of the lyric. And I offer this song as a prayer to the God with whom we converse – seeking, imagining, sitting, standing ­– about goodness.

The last line has been with me for a while, since my own father’s funeral, seeking a faithful way to remember his life and love. “Returning grace for grace” might also be a way to abide in a Spirit of wisdom and joy. Joy, completely. Amen.


I DO WHAT I AM NOT GOOD AT

I do what I am not good at
My eyes are sore but I search
And when the sentiments fall flat
I imagine you’re here in the church

A vine reaches this way and that
I do what I am not good at
Rearranging chairs to make an aisle
My mind becoming versatile

I do what I am not good at
I hate death for all it will destroy
And I stand in the place where I sat
The darkness a backdrop to joy

I renew my vow not to forget
I do what I am not good at
Dismissing an unhappy case
Returning grace for grace

Returning grace for grace
Returning grace for grace


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