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Ordinary Sunday 23, Year B

Humanity Sunday, Season of Creation

South Sydney Uniting Church
September 5, 2021

Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 105; Mark 10:42-45

‘Rock my soul’

The first or priestly/liturgical account of Creation in Genesis 1 sees Elohim creating human beings in the divine likeness, to be loving and caring toward the fish, birds and wild animals. Responsibility is the watchword. “Stewardship” is a faithful translation, though “dominion/dominance” is a sadly familiar one.

What does it mean to be human? Tyson Yunkaporta uses the term “custodial species” – humanity is a custodial species whose role is to increase connections within the world.

For Christians, it means a priestly vocation according to the person and work of Jesus – fully human (loving and caring) and thus fully divine. Divinity and humanity are related as insistence to existence – the promise of love to love’s embodiment.

Urging us to love and care, the psalmist calls us to “glory in God’s holy Name”, to “seek God’s presence constantly”, and to remember God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah (Psalm 105).

The promise made to Abraham and Sarah entails blessings for “all the people on the face of the earth” (Genesis 11:3).

The promise made to Sarah and Abraham involves receiving strangers as holy messengers; openness to friendship and new birth (Genesis 18:1ff.).

The Orthodox icon of the Holy Trinity is also known as the Icon of Hospitality or Philoxenia of Abraham. I’d like to give a shout-out here to Amy Cheng, our SSH volunteer Human Affairs editor. Amy’s most recent (front-page) article is headed: “Biggest stumbling block to tackling racism is politics” (https://southsydneyherald.com.au/biggest-stumbling-block-to-tackling-racism-is-politics/).

The promise made to Abraham and Sarah invites debate and struggle with God, in the Spirit of compassion (Genesis 18:22ff.).

Unlike Noah, to whom Clive alluded last week, Abraham debates/haggles with God on humanity’s behalf. The promise made to Abraham and Sarah entails advocacy.

The promise made to Sarah and Abraham prefigures renunciation of violent sacrifice as well as letting go possessions – the blessings for all (including Isaac, including Hagar and Ishmael) will come by way of gift and trust (Genesis 22:1ff.).

On this Humanity Sunday, I marvel at these stories. Sacred stories for Jews, Christians and Muslims. I recall the old spiritual – we used to sing it in Sunday School – “Rock My Soul” …

The phrase was intriguing to me then: “Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham …” I understood it somehow. The blessing was offered to me. 

I, too, am a child of Sarah and Abraham called to welcome strangers, asylum seekers, neighbours; called to debate with God in the Spirit of compassion; called to renounce violent and possessive ways; to acknowledge life as gift and to trust in grace/gracefulness/graciousness …

The “bosom of Abraham” is a unique phrase found in Luke 16, where the “poor Lazarus” of Jesus’ parable is described as having died and now resting in the bosom, or arms, of Abraham – a heavenly image of safety, security. 

The image confounds the wealthy and self-righteous who ignore, neglect and torment Lazarus and all those assured of God’s love and care.

The “bosom of Abraham” is akin to the Wisdom/Word of God, the Promised One who gives his own flesh and blood as food and drink; the Promised One who speaks of new birth by water and the Spirit; the Promised One who comes to serve, to give, to liberate … to love and care for the fish, birds and wild animals …

The image of resting in the “bosom of Abraham” is rooted in the image of a sick, frightened or wounded child resting safely in the arms of a parent. The spiritual life is likened to the action of a parent, rhythmically rocking a child in her/his arms.

The “bosom of Abraham”, then, is a placeholder for humanity and for the kindom of heaven – that place where God imagines us and we imagine God. I really love this song! In a world of injustice and impiety, we need the soothing rhythm of love. Amen.

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham

Oh, rock-a my soul

So high I can’t get over it

So low I can’t get under it

So wide I can’t get round it

Oh, rock-a my soul