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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Epiphany 5, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
February 7, 2021

Mark 1:29-39

‘A light and lasso of truth’

In the early centuries, the church developed a liturgy of exorcism as part of baptism. Candidates for baptism were questioned by the bishop, and the key question was: “Are you living your life under the fear of Rome, or are you turning towards the joy of Jesus?” A sign of the cross was then made upon the ears and eyes of a candidate, against the reinvasion of fearful forces. God be with you …

As we approach Lent and our own rituals of reaffirmation and baptism, we might ponder: In what ways have the controlling forces of our dominant culture and time come to dominate our lives? In what ways have we absorbed/internalised foolish and harmful desires? In what ways have they made us afraid, distorted or diminished the promise of salvation?

There is another way, Mark says, another possibility. Controlling forces or demons are like shadows that recede/disappear when the light of truth is brought to bear.

The film Wonder Woman 1984 (directed by Patty Jenkins, 2020) presents salvation in terms of renouncing mere wishes (demonic currency) and learning to pray (with and for others in a world of truth and beauty). There is a light and lasso of truth!

It’s a fun movie, not without serious plot issues, yet posing a serious eco-feminist distinction. Perhaps a Christian one too (a televangelist makes a brief/key appearance).

In our text for today, a (wonder) woman is called a deacon, one who serves (Mark 1:31). The same Greek word is used by Jesus to describe his saving mission: “The Promised One has come not to be served, but to serve …” (10:45). Jesus prays, and teaches his followers to pray: “Let it be not my will, but your will” (14:36).

What, then, is the difference between a wish and a prayer? How might renouncing wishes (narrow/conventional, greedy/desperate) inaugurate/enact prayers?

Prayers involve us wholly just as ministry for Jesus entails both preaching and exorcism, words and actions – words about freedom and commitments to freedom with and for others.

The promise of Easter lies before us: Renouncing our colonised/frightened selves for the sake of Christ and the gospel we shall find ourselves anew, in a new form of life and community we could not have imagined before.

“The promise of Easter,” writes the Rev. Dr Garry Deverell (Fellow in Indigenous Theologies at the University of Divinity in Melbourne), “is lives filled with the Holy Spirit and with freedom.” Amen.