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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 33, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 18, 2018

Psalm 16; Mark 13:1-8

‘It's alright, baby's coming back’

Last week I heard a song on the GoGet car radio – a catchy pop song by the Eurythmics. Perhaps you know it: “It’s alright, baby’s coming back/ And I don’t really care where he’s been/ It’s alright, baby’s coming back/ And I won’t turn him around this time …” (Annie Lennox & David Allan Stewart, 1985). It’s a joyful love song, similar in some ways to Psalm 16: “My heart is happy and my tongue sings for joy …” It’s alright … It’s alright … I’d spoken with Dorothy earlier in the week, noting that our gospel reading from Mark 13 comprises reassurance as well as warning, so when I heard the particular line in the pop song, “I’ll even be your danger sign”, my ears opened wide. The song has been playing in my head/heart ever since. God be with you

“Baby”, the beloved, is the vulnerable one – once rejected, soon to be embraced: “I won’t turn him around this time.” Baby might be Jesus, the stone the builders rejected, soon to be the corner stone. Friend to the friendless – the lover no longer cares “where he’s been”, or with whom he has been eating or drinking. Baby might be you or me, any one of us who has experienced rejection, poverty (a poor reputation), one or other death.  

In the Spirit of life, the lover anticipates reunion …

This thought of love, the image of the beloved’s imminent return, elicits a response – a poetic or theo-poetic response: “I’ll be your cliff … ledge … bridge … And I’ll be (the ticking of your clock)/ And I’ll be (the numbers on your watch)/ And I’ll be (your hands to stop the time)/ I’ll even be your danger sign.”

In the Spirit of life, the lover promises a costly and authentic love …

Fidelity in and through difficulty. I’ll be there for you. Whatever you need. Whatever it takes. And not simply to flatter you. “I’ll even be your danger sign.” Elsewhere, the lover declares: “I will be your storm at sea.”

Before venturing a comment on the gospel, can I just acknowledge how uplifting a love song like this can be (I share with Dorothy a passion for music of all kinds).

Sometimes the most authentic expressions of love are concealed and revealed in short, catchy tunes – they almost pass us by. A genuine love song lifts the heart, participates in the Spirit of life, to the extent that we are reminded to read/hear scripture, the Word, as a love song – and we are reminded to read/hear the world itself as a love song. All things bright and beautiful sing of love …

In the Spirit of life, rejection, one or other death, evil … does not have the last word. It’s alright … we won’t be turned around/away. It’s alright … you won’t be turned around/away.

In relation to Mark 13 and its twin themes of reassurance and warning what else might we say?

The farewell statement of Jesus assures us (“Do not be alarmed,” he says, “Do not fret …”) of a wisdom born of difficulty, even violence.

Newborn in a physical or spiritual sense, each one of us is loved regardless of qualifications or achievements. You are loved with a love that confers freedom and dignity – nothing less than a part in God’s unfolding program of salvation (non-violence, peace, shalom). That’s the reassurance. In view of our doubts and insecurities, we are given psalms and songs of love – they almost pass us by – inspired by love, thus vulnerable.

In the Spirit of life, in the depths of our own loving hearts, we receive this reassurance as an invitation to wisdom, an invitation to love again …

We are also exposed to a warning (“Be on your guard,” says Jesus. “Stay awake! Stay alert …”). There are consequences if we allow our fears and anxious expectations to overwhelm our hopes for one another. Judgemental and disrespectful actions bring on consequences within families and communities, as in the world. We are warned about the risk of hurting, failing or losing a loved one.

There is a positive meaning to the pop-song term of endearment. Baby, I don’t yet know your thoughts or hopes. Baby, I will never fully know your prayers or the path/part that is your path/part alone.

Fears and anxious expectations may include an expectation that you be a certain kind of believer, that you, baby, achieve a certain level of autonomy. A fear that you might not be sufficiently wealthy/powerful, or support the right party or team. A fear that your convictions, baby, might show mine to be weak, short-sighted, ignorant.

We are warned lest we turn from the God who in Christ inspires our reverence for life together in the world. For perhaps there’s nothing so precious as inspiration of this kind – our doing consists in our being with one another – “discipleship is the art of accompaniment” (Pope Francis).

We are warned lest we limit God’s song in and for the world to our own fears and anxious expectations.

Baby’s coming back – in the flesh, in bread and wine, in the strangeness of a pop music theophany, in the face of a neighbour or stranger in need – and we won’t turn him/her around this time. Let us pray for one another … Amen.