‘The Promised One is near’

HOMILY: Today is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. The Latin word means “arrival” or “coming”. On one level, we know that we will celebrate Christmas in a little under four weeks’ time. On another level, this can be a surprising event – for adventurous hands, hearts and minds. Faith is adventure.

‘A thorny crown’

HOMILY: The icon by Kelly Latimore (see below) shows Christ framed/enthroned by the four evangelists. Some theologians suggest that the scriptures, the gospels in particular, re-present, or stand in for, Christ.

Today’s gospel presents Christ in the six-fold works of mercy: Christ who feeds (there is enough food and drink, of course, we just need for it to be blessed, broken and given freely and fairly); Christ who welcomes, clothes, comforts and visits …

‘Oil of gladness, togetherness’

HOMILY: Our parable invites thinking about oil, light and joy. Poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal suggests we think of this oil in terms of community spirit … the oil of gladness, togetherness …

‘Leadership qualities’

HOMILY: Our Orthodox icon shows Jesus washing the feet of disciples (a scene from John’s gospel). It’s about being kind (even amid difficulty and under stress). It’s about mutual service. It’s about equality – “encouraging, comforting and urging … lives worthy of God” (as the Apostle Paul says). It’s about bare feet and holy ground, hard traveling and “walking the walk”. And it’s about overturning expectations of honour and status.

‘A musical Way’

HOMILY: We can think about mission in terms of our mission statement (key words: open, creation, dare, share, seek) … in terms of a mission structure to our life and work (and website) – an underlying mission theme: congregation-community-garden (crossing back and forth, translating) … in terms of a mission motto: we pray, we serve, we grow … or mission stories bearing witness to God’s presence and promise in South Sydney.

We can think about mission, the missio dei, God’s love for the world, in a musical way.

‘An image to bear’

HOMILY: A trick question elicits a trick answer. Jesus asks for the coin used to pay the Roman tax (it’s interesting that he himself does not possess the coin), then asks whose image it bears.

Most likely the coin in question bore the image of the emperor Tiberius who ruled Rome during the years 14-37 CE. One side of the coin would have deified Tiberius as a “son of the divine Augustus”. The other side would have honoured him as the “Pontifex Maximus” or “chief priest” of Roman polytheism – which is to say that the two sides of the coin celebrated absolute religious and civil authority for Tiberius.

‘Weeping and gnashing of teeth’

HOMILY: In the presence of this parable, we may well freeze, speechless …

The central character of the parable is one who dares attend a royal function (in response, we note, to a tyrant’s invitation) without the requisite garment – thus challenging the tyrant’s authority. We might think of Jesus defying the powers, withdrawing from unjust systems, refusing to play along; bound hand and foot, cast out. We might ponder this “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (these cries of distress, pain, anger/protest). We might think of many silent or silenced protesters.

‘The words of my mouth’

HOMILY: “May the words of my mouth/ and the thoughts of my heart/ be pleasing in your sight, Adonai,/ my rock and my redeemer!”

So concludes our psalm for today, a three-fold prayer-poem. The sum of the first part of the psalm can be stated simply: the world witnesses to God. The second part is a precisely constructed passage exalting the virtues, benefits and desirability of the torah (God’s “law”, or “instruction”). The third part is a prayer for God’s help/grace …

‘Just as rivers flow’

HOMILY: The final chapter of the book/letter of Revelation depicts a heavenly city on Earth – the descent of a New Jerusalem – where the Lamb of God (nonviolence) rules, and God’s name (love/liberation …) is reflected in human faces. We are shown a street, a life-giving river and fruitful/medicinal trees. The vision is one of harmony, sustainability; illumination, salvation (wellness and wholeness).

This movement from above to below is significant. The vision counters conventional (otherworldly) notions of transcendence and calls us to lower our sights – to look around us for signs of truth, goodness and beauty – just as rivers flow from high to lowlands and to the sea …

‘Dancing in the desert sand’

HOMILY: Coloured Stone is a band from the Koonibba mission, west of Ceduna, South Australia. Their distinctive sound is described as “desert reggae”. Mirning singer-songwriter Bunna Lawrie and band perform using electric guitar, bass, drums, yidaki or didjeridu, bundawuthada (gong stone) and clap sticks.

I’m listening to “Wild Desert Rose”, Bunna’s tribute to the desert flowers, one of the stunning sights that make his home country such a special place. The sparkling lead guitar and joyful backing vocals conjure a stunning image of the outback …