Monthly Archives: February 2015

22 February – Fear Death by Water

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Lent 1

Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Sermon preached by Rev. Dr Garry Deverell

In 1922 T.S. Eliot published what many still consider to be the most important poem of the 20th century. ‘The Waste Land’ presents itself as a series of scattered images of Europe in the wake of the First World War. Ranging from the author’s memories of childhood visits to Germany, through cockney conversations in a London pub and walks along the Thames, to fragmented recollections of classical stories from Rome and India, the poem depicts a world in which the ‘nymphs’ – that is, the coherence of things – ‘have departed.’ Nothing is left, says the voice of the poet, except ‘voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells’. The poem is also about the author’s own ‘death’ – figuratively speaking – that is, his incapacity to make all these images of European meaning cohere in a way that can sustain his life. ‘Fear death by water’ says a clairvoyant the poet consults early in the poem. And by the end the poet is so desperately dry and thirsty in the wasteland of his imagining that he has actually begun to search for the water by which he is convinced he will die, yet it is unclear if the poet has found it, or no.

The images offered us by the first Sunday of Lent are not entirely unconnected to what Eliot saw and experienced in London at the end of World War 1. The Noah story is about a similar cataclysm, a flood, which – like the First World War – completely did away with the world as it has previously been known. One day everyone was going about their business, sure of the foundations on which they walked and the meaningfulness of the directions in which their lives were taking them. But then, suddenly, rain began to fall. And – absurdly, irrationally, inexplicably to most – the rain doesn’t stop. Indeed, the rain kept falling until all life on earth – all except that preserved by God in the ark – is no longer alive, but dead.

And then there is the story of Jesus baptism by John in the Jordan. If there was ever a time and a place in which the phrase ‘fear death by water’ rang with portending truth, it was the ancient Mediterranean where literally thousands of souls were sent to a watery grave by the wrath of the gods made manifest in ocean storms and the monster Leviathan who lived beneath the waves. The rite of baptism deliberately invoked the universal fear of these apparently cosmic forces, that sense in which one could never be the master of one’s own destiny because the gods were always more powerful. Yet baptism sought also to both modify and transform that fear by invoking a phenomenon still very strange and foreign in the ancient world, the phenomenon of a God who seeks to influence the world solely by the grace of unconditional love.

In the baptism of Jesus a peculiarly Jewish logic about the meaningfulness of things is therefore brought to both its zenith and conclusion. For the semitic peoples of the ancient world both shared and did not share in the pagan fear of catastrophe that obsessed their neighbours. Like their neighbours, they believed that the power of nature, the power of water if you like, signified everything in the universe that could take one’s life away, everything that could render one’s plans and schemes both null and void, everything that could make a mockery of the notion that we are the masters of our own fate. Unlike their pagan neighbours, however, who were constantly seeking to do deals with the gods to secure their protection against catastrophe, the Hebrew preachers believed that the power behind all power was essentially both good and gracious, and desired nothing other than the good of the people, and desired this good unconditionally. The Hebrew stories about death by water were also, therefore, stories of LIFE by water. A flood comes to consume the earth and all its wickedness. Yet God preserves the seeds of a new world in an ark that floats upon the receding torrent for 40 days and 40 nights. The angel of death is sent to destroy all the firstborn of Egypt. Yet God’s people are preserved by walking through the depths of the Red Sea and trecking, for 40 years, through the wilderness until they cross into the land of their freedom via the Jordan river. Jesus’ life as a carpenter and compliant citizen of the Roman state is put to death in that same river by baptism that he might rise to live the life ordained for him by the God who claims him as his beloved Son. He receives, at that moment, the Spirit of God, who immediately drives him into the wilderness so that he can really learn what it means to do away with one’s own dreams and embrace the dreams of God. For 40 days and forty nights Jesus learns what it means to repent, to change one’s mind and heart, for the kingdom of God has come near.

Friends, the 40 days and nights of Lent begin with these stories of death by water in order to set our course aright. 40 days and nights hence is the beginning of the paschal triduum, the Great Three Days which commemorate the fulfilment of Jesus own baptism, his death on the cross at the hands of evil powers, and his rising to life as a sign of God’s final triumph over such powers by the power of what we rightly call love. We look forward to this time because in Jesus’ rising is the possibility of our own rising. In Jesus’ triumph is the possibility of our own triumph. In Jesus victory is our own victory. Easter is therefore our goal and our destination.

Yet, and this is very important, these stories of death by water also remind us that there can be no rising without a dying, there can be no prize without a willingness to give up on the very notion of winning, there can be no victory without a submission to complete and utter loss. For Lent is the process of getting to Easter by a dying to ourselves and a living to God. Lent is about confessing the truth about ourselves and our world, the truth of our utter helplessness to make for either sense or for good apart from a divinely given sensibility concerning the good. Lent is about the art of repentance and surrender, of turning from what is evil and giving ourselves only to what is beautiful and noble and true. Lent is about forsaking the business of getting by and learning to walk in the byways of God. It is about crying through the night and welcoming the joy of dawn. Lent, in short, is designed to kill everything in us that keeps us in chains so that God can free us, can redesign us, and fill our ‘empty cisterns’ with a new resonance for salvation. And we speak of these things in image and metaphor precisely because they are far too important to leave to prosaic, rational, flat language of the prevailing discourse.

I pray you all a blessed and holy Lent. In the name of God . . .

15 February – Transfiguration

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Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 50
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-8

Sermon preached by Rev. Rob Gallacher

The most famous icon of the Transfiguration is the apse mosaic in the monastery of St Catherine’s at Mt Sinai.     It dates from the 6th century and is still in perfect condition.   But to see it you have to go into a side chapel and stare at it from an oblique angle.     More than a thousand years after the church was decorated,  a four posted canopy,  a baldachin,  was built over the altar,   and it obscures the view of the transfiguration.      I once read a remark by an Abbot that no miracles had occurred in the church since the apse was obscured.      You may interpret that as you wish.     I want only to use it a mental picture, framework,   for us to consider how we erect barriers to protect us from the vision.

In 2 Corinthians Paul talks about the veil that prevents belief –  the god of this world blinds the mind  (2 Cor. 4: 4).   But we are to let the light of God’s glory in Christ shine in the darkness.     Paul had his own experience of the light of Christ on the Damascus road,   as did Moses on Mt Sinai,  or Isaiah in the temple,  and in today’s reading, the disciples on the mount of Transfiguration.    In each case the brilliance of the light is a problem.   Paul goes blind,  Moses veils his face,   Isaiah says he is not worthy,  and the disciples fumble around,  not knowing what to say.    The vision of the glory of God is too bright for us to bear,  yet without it we fade away.

The first time I heard this story I was dutifully attending Sunday School.   The teacher told the story, and that was all right.  But then she did a terrible thing.   She added a sentence. “This can happen,  early on a sunny morning on the top of a mountain covered in snow.”    She turned an epiphany into a picnic.     Worse,  she gave me a model that I applied to all the awkward bits:  At the feeding of the 5,000 they all had lunches hidden away,    where Jesus walked on water there was a rocky protrusion making the water shallow,   the resurrection was the result of Jesus going into a deep trance and so on.   The need to reduce the gospel to something we can easily comprehend is a barrier.

Back in the 1970’s James Fowler wrote “Stages of Faith”,  setting out what kind of material children could understand and accept at each developmental stage.    Christian educationalists loved it,  and lesson material changed accordingly.     It is hard to prove a direct relationship,   but it was at the same time that Sunday Schools collapsed.     Anniversary platforms and Songs of praise were out and glossy graded lessons leading on to group discussion were in.    Somewhere in there a massive barrier was erected,  and Epiphany became a funny word attached to a season on the church’s calendar,  routinely observed,  but seldom productive of  vision and inspiration.       It was a situation that caused James Loder to write a critique of Fowler called “The Transforming Moment”.     It spoke more of a defining experience,  a moment when a greater reality, a deeper meaning,  is suddenly apprehended.   Loder’s book did not have the same currency in the rationalistic climate of the day.    But it exposed some of the barriers separating us from a vision of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So one contemporary barrier is the realism that eliminates the not yet,    that insists that the way things are is the way things will always be.    In that cold climate, the world shrinks and human arrogance grows.

If this were a seminar instead of a sermon,  I would now put you into groups and ask you to discuss your own barriers.    I would expect to get “I can’t believe what I can’t understand”,  or “My professional training compels me to think thus”,  or maybe “I had a bad experience as a child” or even “I was brought up in Christian home”.

It is the nature of an Epiphany that witnesses cannot capture its full meaning.   It will take you out of your comfort zone.       The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.     The eye of faith will see all kinds of things of which you cannot be certain.      The light of Christ causes you to see the world differently.

Just look at the connections in this account of the Transfiguration,  and it will blow your mind.    Light is God’s first act of creation,  while Christ, the light of the world is the first act of new creation.  The mountain was where Moses received the Law, the basis of the first covenant,    while Jesus gives a new law on the mount of the beatitudes and dies on Mount Calvary, and a mountain is the site of the new Jerusalem  (Rev 21:10) .  The cloud is everywhere,  from that which led Israel out of Egypt,   surrounded Moses on Mt Sinai,  to the Ascension and the picture in Revelation of Jesus returning on a cloud,  and beyond Scripture to the Cloud of Unknowing in mystical devotion.        The voice connects with the voice at the Baptism of Jesus, affirming his divinity, “This is my beloved Son”.    The shining face reminds us of Moses.    The white robe is heavenly clothing  (Rev. 4:4 and 6:11),  while the presence of Elijah signals the imminence of the new kingdom.

If that is not sufficient to refresh your vison and shift a few barriers,  be like Isaiah, and let the symbols in the church come to life.     Contemplate the empty cross and let it take you into resurrection life,    look at the open Bible and let the Word speak.    Touch the water of baptism to your forehead let the significance of your belonging to the messianic age sink in.    As you consume the bread not only does the life of Christ dwell with in you,   but even more significantly,    you dwell in Christ.   See yourself in the company of Moses and Elijah,   see Christ transfigured,  and not just Christ,  but the world transfigured into the kingdom of God,  reflecting the glory of the face of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The best sermon on the Transfiguration I ever heard was given by Desmond Tutu.     At the National Christian Youth Convention in Ballarat,  I think it was 1985,   he applied the Transfiguration to South Africa under apartheid.     He told stories of personal struggle,  persecution and suffering.     A young man called Tom returned from prison to his faith community,  and there was vision there,  and hope.    The transfiguration of Christ flows into the transfiguration of human community,  light for the world shines back down the mountain.     Tutu reached the climax.   His eyes bulged like saucers,  his black face shone,   his hands went out,  and the voice said,  “This vision will lift us up,   up…..up   ……….up!”

8 February – All things to all people

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Epiphany 5

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39

Our rights – as citizens, as individuals, as human beings – have been much in view over the last few years. Against governments responsible for limiting the behaviour of a few, the many wonder whether their own rights are also being unnecessarily limited. Against the forces of globalisation, big business and the greed of the developed world there is a growing concern for the rights of the “two-thirds” world which lags behind us in so many ways. Against the memory of a time when we were defined by our past, our gender, our race, our age, our religion or any other thing inflicted on us by fate, today we strongly assert our “rights”, our freedoms from all which might make a claim somehow to limit us.

At the same time, with increasing regularity, there is also talk heard about responsibilities although, over against the urgency of the talk about rights, talk about responsibilities seems to have a weariness or an irony about it. Once it was the other way around, but today responsibility is on the back foot and has to defend itself against right. Rights tend to win over responsibilities because it is part of our lot that my “right” to exist or prosper or be secure will eventually come into conflict with yours. When it does there enters another principle, “might is right”, and the conflict is intensified. Even so, if in practice one seems to have precedence over another, in our better moments we still seek to balance the two: rights imply responsibilities, and vice-versa.

The fundamental nature of talk about rights and responsibilities is legal. The attempt to balance my rights with yours – my rights with my responsibilities – takes on the character of a transaction, a social “contract” in which certain things are required of me, and certain other things guaranteed to me. Contracts reflect an economy of exchange. My responsibilities serve your rights; your rights imply corresponding responsibilities: balance without excess.

And this brings us to Paul, the apostle of excess.

Paul says of his preaching: “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!!” (9.16). That is, there is no freedom here. There is an obligation or responsibility laid on him by God for the benefit of others. This responsibility, however, is to be met by the responsibility of his hearers to provide him a living. We might say that the congregation has the “right” (in a qualified sense) to hear the gospel, and it’s Paul’s responsibility to meet that right. Conversely, Paul has a right to eat, and it is his hearers’ responsibility to meet that right.

This is all well and good. Even if we think that hearing the gospel is no desirable thing, we know the logic of exchange and can follow Paul’s argument to this point. Yet Paul is not really interested in spelling out how the rights and responsibilities of preachers and their audience should be balanced. Rights and responsibilities are natural components of human existence, and not the content of the Christian ethic Paul goes on to describe. Christian existence does involve rights and responsibilities, but you don’t need to be a Christian to assent to them. If this were all Paul has to say to us, then the gospel is simply a particular flavour of law. It’s Jesus-flavoured law, but merely law nonetheless.

Paul is under obligation to God and to the world to preach, and he does. The crucial point, though, is that although he has this responsibility and the corresponding right to claim an income, he does not claim money for his work. While he speaks of rights and related responsibilities, he points beyond these merely legal, contractual requirements to the possibility of good news: news which is not legally necessary but surprising and liberating. For the good news is concerned not with what is due, but with over-payment, with what is in excess of what is due, with the delivery of more than is legally required.

In the first instance, this means for Paul the exercise of ministry without claiming the payment it is his right to claim. But he opens the issue right up with the language of freedom and slavery which is so much a part of his way of thinking about the gospel.

Although free in the gospel to claim his rights from others, instead he denies himself these rights and so makes himself subject to those to whom he ministers: to the Jews he is as a Jew; to the Gentiles, he is as a Gentile; to those under or outside the law, he becomes as one under or outside the law. God has embraced Paul as he is and sent him with a commission to preach as he is, and so Paul can rightly expect of others that they accept him as he is. Yet, for the sake of the gospel Paul becomes as they are, that there may be as few obstacles as possible preventing them from receiving the gospel.

Yet, we have to push still further than this. He is not simply being helpful or accommodating here. Paul turns his way of relating to others into the gospel itself. In another place he exhorts his readers: be as Jesus was, who, although he possessed all the rights of God, did not think them things to cling to but set them aside, taking on the form of a servant, humbling himself to the point of losing himself – even through the cross (Philippians 2).

This Paul does himself. He does not merely speak of what God has done in Christ, as if it were some piece of historical information to be delivered to the ignorant. God’s work shapes the way Paul himself works. Becoming all things to all people is not a missionary strategy, although we quickly turn it into that. The point is not that evangelism works best if we become like those we seek to evangelise. The point is that evangelism is excessive service, responsibility which does not claim its right. Evangelism then becomes not the presentation of information, but the very expression and embodiment of the gospel itself – a giving of self in excess of what might justly be required. The message becomes the medium.

In his closing remark in our passage this morning, there is one final point Paul lets us in on: “I do all this on account of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings…” (v.23). “I do this, so that I may share in the blessings of the gospel…” Not only does Paul embody, or realize, the gospel in the way in which he relates to those who have a “right” to hear the gospel. Paul also experiences the gospel himself through his excessive and unbalanced service to them.

There are clues here for churches like ours. Our Synod’s Major Strategic Review springs from a concern for sustainability, realised through strategy. Yet sustainability is an ecological concept, ecology being a profoundly “legal” (here: natural law) space of predetermined cause and effect. Strategy is a military concept, again the realm of cause and effect: bigger guns, cleverer plans and sneakier commandos win the day. Strategy unto sustainability is a commitment to balance and not to the excess of the gospel. It assumes that we already “have” the gospel, and that the question at hand is one of delivery; for Paul, the delivery itself is the possibility of further experience of the gospel.

But this is not just “their” problem: we too, as a congregation, have to resolve how to move into the future: what to do with the enormous resources at our disposal. None of what I have said pre-determines what we decide because gospel excess is not a natural, legal – determined – category: it is an historical one, a question of decision, a casting of ourselves in trust in the one who looks and waits to see what we will choose, and promises to work with that. While we might – perhaps even must – be as clever and careful as we can as we make these plans, we need to be aware that in fact we are more “forcing” God’s hand, so to speak, than reading it. This would be an appalling thing to say were it not that this God can take our worst excesses – even crucifying the Lord of life – and make of them something life-giving.

The empty economy of right and responsibility cannot bring us life, but only a precarious balance and, with it, anxiety. The good news about Jesus tells instead of an excess of love which is undeserved, but nevertheless is pressed down and flows over through his disciples into a cascade of hope.

Paul finds himself caught up in the whirlpool of the gospel. Having been drawn into the current, he uses its force and power as the means of reaching others, and yet that same force again swirls him around, shifting, buffeting, cleansing and empowering for more such work. This is our calling, and the promise which carries it to us.

May God’s people ever continue to hear the call and trust the promise, for their own sake and for the sake of those who do not yet know themselves to be daughters and sons of this God and Father, sisters and brothers of this Christ, women and men sustained by this Spirit. Amen.

1 February – Demons

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Epiphany 4

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

1973, The Exorcist: an archaeological dig in Iraq, a young girl, shaking beds, pea soup vomit, a 360 degree head turn – demon possession! Central to the action are a couple of priests, indicating the roots of this kind of story in the church and its Scriptures. While New Testament references to demons or evil spirits are something of an embarrassment to many modern Christians, they seem be the source of an endless fascination for movie makers.

The demonic in the movies is all pretty laughable, although the chances are we laugh at the wrong thing. What seems so funny is that there are no such things as demons, but it is fun to have the b’Jesus scared out of us occasionally. But what is “funny” from a New Testament point of view is that demons are treated these days as something like diseases. In popular imagination there is no difference in substance between the battle the exorcist has with the demon and the battle immunology scientists have with a new rampant virus threatening to destroy the whole human race – another familiar storyline for films and TV series. The movies are straightforward and moralistic: human person = good guy, possessing demon/lethal virus = bad guy; human person = free agent, demon/virus = enslaving agent. The drama is resolved when the bad guy is finally dealt with, with the implication that the exorcised victim will now returned to her fundamental, free self. When it comes to looking at the New Testament, then, the stories of demon possession seem little more than quaint interpretations of illness. Jesus appears now as a gifted therapist, able to put a finger on the problem and relieve these sufferers of their illness; off they then go, happy ever after.

But we do little justice to the stories, and rob ourselves of a great deal, if we simply reduce New Testament demonology to primitive medicine. The exorcisms in the New Testament are stories of the liberation of people who find themselves inextricably entangled within things greater and more powerful than themselves. And the emphasis must fall on inextricably, for while we typically draw clear distinctions between the demon and the demon-possessed, the stories themselves show how the spirit and the person become confused, to the extent that it is not really clear where the person actually is and where the demon is, other than that they are wrapped up in each other.

Listen again to the first part of today’s reading
1.23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us…”
While it probably sounds straightforward, in fact it’s not at all clear who is speaking here. If it is the man who cries out, “what have you to do with us”, why the “us” which seems to include the man himself with the demon? This confusion is even more dramatic a little later, in chapter 5 (vv6ff). When a possessed man sees Jesus, he shouts “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For we are told that Jesus had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” That is, Jesus has addressed the spirit, but it is the man who speaks; or is it? Has Jesus been “tormenting” the man, or the spirit? The account then goes on: Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” While it might seem that Jesus has addressed the man and asked his name, “the man” replies, “My name is Legion; for we are many”. Presumably here the demon speaks, though it is the man’s reply. Finally we hear, “He” earnestly begged Jesus not to send “them” out of the country. Who is the “he” here? If it is the man, why does he refer to “them” as a group distinct from himself? Does the man not want to be exorcised?

The important thing here is the slippage between the identity of the man and the identity of that which possesses him, such that the one is addressed, but the other answers, but the one answering seems to speak also for the one possessed, and so on. In these stories we encounter something much more subtle than what features in popular representations of the demonic. If all a demon can do is throw you into convulsions and twist your head 360 degrees on your shoulders then, by comparison with what the gospels describe, you’ve really nothing to worry about(!). The demons of the New Testament are far more dangerous than this, for they suppress their victims in such a way that the victim seems almost to embrace his oppressor. By contrast, the neat separation of the powers which possess and those possessed by them does not speak the truth about our condition. It imagines that I exist independently of the things which have formed me, or that I am clearly distinguishable from the things which bear down on me from without. This portrayal of the demonic imagines that, fundamentally, I am free but occasionally limited by some external and unfriendly force: just deal with that and I’m free again.

When we look to see what Jesus the liberator encounters in this broken world, it is rather a confusion of identities, such that it is not clear whether I am myself, or the things which have happened to me. Am I as free as I and others imagine, and so responsible for what I have done; or is my hand forced by things beyond my control, such that I don’t know how I could have done differently? Although we speak of “I” here, perhaps we should learn also to say “we” – not to be inclusive of each other but to be inclusive of all the powers which seem to direct our lives – those things the New Testament calls the demonic: “What is your name?” My name is Legion, for we are many.

For most of us, identity- and freedom-blurring “possession” is much less dramatic than that of the man in the synagogue in Capernaum. But it is there, and it is powerful. Consider our love of democracy – that “worst form of government except for all [the] other forms”. This is the only political system for us and yet the source of endless political and social frustration as senators are elected on a fraction of the vote and outgoing governments can knowingly expose a community to enormous compensation payments, without any accountability.

Or we might consider our situation as a congregation, enjoying both the benefit and suffering the burden of buildings like these. We know that the church is not its buildings, and yet also that a gathered community needs a place to gather. Our buildings have generally served us well and, yet, they also constitute an enormous burden, particularly at a time when most congregations’ fortunes are declining. What does freedom look like in the tension between the call to be the church, and the call to maintain structures (of all kinds – buildings, committees, reporting regimes) which are not of the essence of being the church? If we were to make a simple statement, what most has us as a congregation in its possession? Clues might be found in what we spend most of our time talking about when we get together, or what we spend most of our money on.

The “demonic” is symbolic of what is external to us and yet also within us in such a way that we are both distinguishable from it, and not. To understand what Mark has to say about powers is to able be to see more, and less, clearly than the simplistic demonologies of the movies and of contemporary politics and moral discourse. That is, we are learning to see how hard it is to see clearly here; we and our demons are not easily prised apart. While the political “right” pins everything on the free individual, and the “left” on the binding structures of society, the New Testament is less optimistic about our capacity to know which is which.

This is the realism of the gospel, although, perhaps it also seems to be the pessimism of gospel: what can save us from this body of death, this ever being enthralled by things which are not us, this never being fully ourselves? Yet this realism is a necessary preamble to the good news, and what causes the response of the people to Jesus in the synagogue: here is a teaching with authority, and not what we have been used to. The authority has nothing to do with whether Jesus has a deep voice or penetrating eyes as he speaks, but with his being “author” of those he addresses. A truth is expressed which is not merely true but which resonates, which moves. Here is a surgeon who understands what we are, who can separate flesh and bone, preserving what matters and excising what is wrong. In a modest and derivative way this is also the ministry of the people of God, but it is derivative from Jesus, and it is modest. For it is Jesus who expels and heals, and not us. The heart of New Testament demonology is seen in a place where no demons are actually manifest: in the crucifixion of Jesus. Here, for all the right reasons, the wrong thing takes place. When most clear-sighted, the people of God take a wholly wrong course. Here is the same kind of confusion the possessed man has with his demon. As it is unclear what is good and bad in us, where we end and the powers begin, so also a broken thing is made a sign of healing: “This is my body broken by you” becomes “This is my body broken for you”.

To be called to into the kingdom of this God is to be called to a discovery of the true nature of the kingdoms within which we already live, the powers to which we are already subject, our incapacity to extract a pure “me”. To be called into the kingdom of this God is to hear a promise that, despite all which seems to envelope us, we belong to God: You are mine and I am yours (to recall our Advent reflections last year). God discerns and claims us even in the midst of all the world’s confusion.

For such healing and liberation, and such a share in the life and work of God, all thanks and praise be to him, now and always. Amen.