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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Lent 4, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
March 22, 2020

Psalm 23; John 9:1-41

‘A table with good things on it’

I’m preparing a homily for readers rather than hearers this week. I had planned a homily for all ages today, imagining some children present – and was looking forward to that. As it turns out, along with congregations throughout the country, we have suspended public liturgy at South Sydney Uniting Church in the interests of helping to “flatten the curve” of infections in relation to a viral pandemic. It’s a challenging time. Wherever you are this week, may God give you strength, wisdom and peace. God be with you

On this fourth Sunday in Lent, our psalm is a familiar one. It is comforting. Psalm 23 imagines a God who shepherds and leads to safety, a God who refreshes, encourages, anoints with oil, provides, shelters and shows mercy.

The psalm/song is composed of six verses. In verse five, the singer refers to a table with good things on it (delicious and nutritious, colourful and plentiful/overflowing).

The space around the table, and the path leading to it, are pastoral. The singer imagines green meadows/fields, a sparkling river, and also a safe house where he or she is becoming brave, strong ...

The singer imagines the natural world as God’s house, while imagining a house filled with God’s goodness – animals, grass and plants, water … fish, breezes, birds …

This can be a psalm to pray in our homes.

One way to pray is to set up a special table in your house. Perhaps in the corner of a favourite room, or in the corner of the garden or yard – somewhere you can leave your table set up, and, if you want, add to it each day. If you don’t have a table, perhaps you can use a tray … or an upturned cardboard box.

What type of table might you choose – round or square, low or tall? With cushions or chairs? How might you dress the table – with what type of cloth, perhaps a vase of some kind, a bowl, a cup, objects to symbolise “God’s good things”?

This week, some of our young people and their families will receive an envelope in the mail. Children will find a cotton cloth, as well as some wool, felt and other materials, and the invitation to “use your imagination to create shapes and objects for your table”.

Our congregational chairperson Cathie writes from her house at Bendalong: “Go outside and look up and down and all around. What can you see that makes you feel peaceful, safe and happy on the inside? Is there blue sky – perhaps you can find something blue to remind you of the wide blue sky that is like God’s love for us. Perhaps you can find a leaf or a stone or a gum-nut that might remind you that the earth gives us many gifts. During the weeks to come you can collect things from your house and yard to add to your table.”

The invitation for all is to spend some time in prayer at our tables.

Prayers can be made in silence – just sitting and resting. One of the good things about this time of self-isolation is the opportunity to try this type of meditation – a simple openness to Spirit which can be very refreshing. Listening, waiting, recuperating. Try praying this way for 10 minutes, then for 15 or 20 minutes.

How else might prayers be made?

You might like to give thanks for a place of welcome and safety, or give thanks for those who build, repair, recycle, farm, harvest, cook, serve, tend, care, research, teach, lead, model forgiveness and inspire hope – all the good and godly activity that Psalm 23 celebrates. Are there ways to symbolise these activities?

Then, if you feel like making a drawing or writing some words of your own (a poem, prayer, question, letter, story), that’s great too.

I’d love to see photos of your table – and any prayers you might like to share. Send photos and prayers to sshandrew@bigpond.com and I will be happy to share with Catherine who has set up a special Instagram account so we can all pray together. The Instagram account is @sundayssuc …

In this week’s gospel from John 9, Jesus shows compassion for a person born blind. The blind person is healed and Jesus is criticised by the religious leaders for healing on a day of rest. Jesus insists, here as elsewhere, that healing is a good thing to do on a day of rest.

And we are challenged – we who seek both rest and healing this week – to not turn a blind eye to those most vulnerable and in need of our care (the elderly, those with respiratory illness or immunity weakness, those experiencing homelessness).

We are challenged to not turn a blind eye to forces of exploitation in a context of fear and recession – there are those who would exploit the current situation to increase their own wealth and power.

And we are challenged to not turn a blind eye to “possibilities for community” – there are real opportunities for those who seek both rest and transformation to imagine (by way of insight and vision) and help bring to birth a simpler, kinder, fairer, more sustainable way of being together in the world. May it be so. Amen.