12th Sunday after Pentecost Yr C 2016 Br. Luke

11th Sunday after Pentecost

Blue Mountains Franciscan Church

Homily given by Br Luke efo on 7 August 2016 at Springwood NSW

 12th Sunday after Pentecost

763px-noah27s_ark_on_mount_ararat_by_simon_de_myle

 

Gospel. Luke 12:32-40

Well got a dilemma really, which passage do you want me to talk about.  How about Faith?

Abraham obeyed when he was called out of place he was living. He left his father’s house and travelled off to places unknown.  Why did he do this? Because God told him to. We won’t get into the conversation about how did he know it was God talking to him – that’s for another day.  But he did was he was told and he set forth with his family and went off to the promised land.  When he got there, God changed his name to Abraham, no longer Abram, and Sarah was called Sarai, God changed her name too.

By faith he stayed for a long time in the land he was promised.  In a foreign land living in tents and did as Isaac and Jacob did who were heirs with him of the same promise.  He did because he believed and he set out in faith.  Sarah was barren, but had a child even when she was totally incapable of having children.  You know the story.   They confessed they were strangers in the land.  His faith was so strong that he did what he was told. They went into a completely foreign country and established themselves near the kingdoms of Sodom and Gomorrah.  I’m digressing for a moment.

Isaiah in our first reading was talking to the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He said: “wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”[1]  Doesn’t this sound like Jesus, talking to the scribes and the Pharisees? It’s the same message isn’t it. Defend the orphan, protect the widow, do good, don’t do evil.  Isaiah is admonishing the people, just as Jesus did later.  I suspect there are people he would want to admonish today – but we won’t go there.

So, it was faith that led Abraham into the promised land and helped him stay there.  Of course, we all know the story he was established and his descendants are as numerable as the stars in the heavens.  People may say that the Jews are not that numerous, but remember we believe that we are co-inheritors with the Jews.  We’ve been grafted into the tree, as Paul tells us.  Hence the name Judeo-Christian faith, and as you all recall in the early days Christianity was seen as a sect of Judaism.  Just another group within the old faith, and later we split and then the whole world changed.

The writer to the Hebrews says: “all of these died in faith without having received the promises.”[2]  Here he is talking about the promise that was coming – Jesus.  He is writing Christian theology into the Jewish scriptures.  They were looking at the land they were going to not the one they had come from.  I think this echoes so eloquently the discussion we are having at present about forming a new church.  Doesn’t this sound like setting out in search of the promise of a new land?  Doesn’t it sound like stepping out in faith, and to be fair to us, just as we did in October of last year.  We did that, we stepped out and we knew that we do not hold or agree to what is happening around us.  We know what our spirituality is, we knew then, and we know now, that we are Franciscans and it lay at the core of what we wanted to do, but couldn’t, so we changed and stepped out in faith.  We are a very faithful little community.  We gather every week. We are faithful, I believe, to the vision and the calling we had.  I do believe that it was a calling that we had.  God called us out of the land in which we were living, and led us into a new land.  And I believe God called us out and sent us on our way. The reason I say this is that so often we see the hand of God when we look back.  We often do not see it when we are the midst of whatever is happening.  So, when we look back and see how quickly the church was established, it all just came together, we see God at work.

I recall all those years ago when we established the EFO.  I was talking with an indigenous Deacon and I told her it could not have happened if I had planned it any better.  She said that is because God planned it and all you had to do was say ‘yes’.  And I think this is what happened again with the Blue Mountains Franciscan Church.  I think when we left, we did not have a clear idea of what we would do.  We simply decided we had to leave and so we did.  But when we look back and see what happened, God was there.

Now part of our human nature is that we sometime lose faith.  So, we may look at us today and say we haven’t grown here, there aren’t 100 people here in the room today. Yes, I know we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses so there could well be more than 100 people here, and we can’t see them. What we do and what we think, is not what God thinks and does.  Only God knows what Abraham thought when he set out all those centuries ago, but he did it.  We did the same, with the BMFC and with now the other communities.

It doesn’t matter where we camefrom.  We do not need to cling to where we came from. We do not need to define who we are by holding limpet like onto other denominations. We are who we are, because we have come together as a community, and we know why we are here.  We know why we come here every week.  Yes, some people will come for a time or a season and then go, and that is ok.  We have fed them when they came and we pass them on knowing that our work is done.  We have sown or watered the seed of the gospel and others will reap it. And we give thanks to God for this.

When we start to focus on just how many people here, we lose the plot.  Because I’m remined in the passage from Luke.  It wasn’t this passage that St Francis heard, he heard the passage in Matthew, but it resonates: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”[3]  And this is where Francis would go, ‘yes that’s what I want to do’. And went off and sold his father’s goods and was then locked up and Pietro got angry with him.

No, I’m not suggesting we all go out and sell our properties, because we can’t.  But we need to remember is that our prosperities and our possessions are not our treasure.  Our faith is our treasure.  That’s the thing we hold fast to, because without that faith, we would never have left the old church, we would never have established our little church, and we may never establish the ARK Church.  Why ark, well its because we have become an ark for our community.  I re-read the scripture very carefully because I have miss-read it.

Listen the passage “And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.[4]  See, not build me an ark, but build yourself an ark.  Why? Because Noah needs the ark to be rescued and kept safe, God doesn’t need the ark, Noah does.  We did that. We built an ark.  We built the Blue Mountains Franciscan Church (BMFC). We were in danger of floundering when we left, but the BMFC has become our Ark.  Our faith, built our ark. It’s our faith that keeps our ark afloat. And that what keeps us going.  What is important is our community, we come together and we stay together and it is the ark that keeps us supported and safe.

Now Noah’s ark didn’t need a rudder.  It was designed to float; it didn’t need to be steered. But we have a rudder and our rudder is Christ and he guides as we go.  True every now and then we tend to take our eyes off him, especially when he wants us to do something we don’t want to.  Jesus says this: “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’[5]   I would suspect that none of us thought ten months ago, that we would be here today, with our little church.  He arrived at an unexpected hour, at an unexpected moment in our lives, and said ‘I have a new job for you’.

Our faith got us through. Our faith got us here, and our faith keeps us together, and our faith will lead us into the vast unknown.  Just like Abraham and his family, we are stepping out into new uncharted ground, new territory, desperately hoping with our heads that it’s God we are following, but knowing in our hearts that it is. And when we have doubts remember Sarah.  How old was she when she had that baby? Ninety.  So if she can have a baby at ninety, Lord alone knows what our faith will help us to achieve.

Amen.

[1] Isaiah 1:16-17

[2] Hebrews 11: 13

[3] Luke 12: 32-34

[4] Genesis 6: 13-14

[5] Luke 12: 39-40


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