Trinity Sunday Year A Sunday Week 14 Year A

Sunday Week 11 Year A

Print Version June 13th, 1999

It’s the look that makes all the difference in the world. …
There’s a quiet little magic that almost slips by unnoticed in the gospel today. Jesus, heartbroken by the crowd, gathers disciples but sends out apostles. In the space of a sentence twelve bewildered beginners are promoted to full ambassadorship with authority to speak and act for their boss. … Now, isn’t this a little premature? …
There’s a magic act in the first reading too. A rag-tag bunch of slaves is transformed into a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. Now, you might not have such a high estimate of the value of priests … you might prefer to be turned from slaves into rulers or slaves into owners. But the way Exodus tells it is important. Slaves have no power over their own fate, they have no resources to earn God’s favour, not even the time to worship correctly, let alone the luxury of living good lives—by all normal measures they don’t stand a chance of catching God’s eye. But God catches theirs. Instead of relying on a high priest to navigate the treacherous waters of divinity, each and every slave gets direct access, God’s private telephone number.
This is not the customary behaviour of deities. There are supposed to be rewards for good behaviour, prizes for showing promise, and always a spot of smiting to keep backsliders on their toes. If Adonai doesn’t watch it there’ll be complaints from the union. What is God doing anyway setting his heart on this bunch of losers? What is God thinking, claiming them as her adopted children? Where’s all the necessary paper-work? The protocols and procedures? And what about the good name of divinity? Gods should have an eye for appearances and not go slumming in the mud of Egypt. … It’s not even as if Adonai has good taste or an eye for potential. Polish the little blighters all he might they still don’t shine. They don’t deserve the attention.
… Neither did the disciples turned apostles. They didn’t deserve the honour. … So why does God bother to choose a people and fill them with ideas above their station, ideas they can never live up to? Why does Jesus bother to take a bunch of fishermen still stinking of their trade, a toadying tax-collector, a turncoat terrorist—and God knows what else—and give them the authority to speak for him, act for him, be him—when one of them will sell him out, another will swear blind he never knew him, and all the rest will run away rather than risk their necks. Way to go Jesus! Nice judgement! …
Why does God bother to come here every Sunday, rain or shine, whether we care or not, whether we are sincere or not, whether we notice or not? Why does Jesus humiliate himself here among us each Sunday, taking flesh in our flesh, pouring out his blood for our lips, when we hardly notice and scarcely care?
Doesn’t there come a time when even the dumbest divinity can say enough is enough? Isn’t there a moment to cut losses, to pack up and go home and start again somewhere else? But, no, God just has to keep on keeping on.
Well I feel sorry for God. I pity the poor sap. He just can’t seem to do without us, so, I say we make the most of it. We’ve got God wrapped around our little finger, just think what we can get away with …
It’s all in the look. I watched a video a few days ago—and no it wasn’t “Shakespeare in Love”—if you’re interested it was “Sliding Doors.” Anyway, there’s a moment late in the film that’s astonishing. It’s a look, a gaze, and everything’s in there. The two main characters are sitting at a dinner table with friends. It looks like there’s been plenty of wine and plenty of laughter and what they’ve been dancing around the whole movie happens. They fall in love with a look. They’ve both been stung before by love, scarred by it, and both are wary of being hurt again. They’ve been careful with their hearts. But in that look they give them up. They give in. It’s quite a look. Surprise, recognition, calm. Passion too. And there’s discovery and hope offered and risk taken. One life embraced and another lost. They both set aside the safety of a familiar, lonely future and they try for something more dangerous—love. They look at each other and from that moment on they have the power to hurt—to really hurt … and be hurt. They give away more than they knew they had to give. And they look at each other and they know they’ve lost everything … and they smile.
One day in Egypt that happened to Adonai—she looked too long into the eyes of slaves and she fell in love—and she’s never gotten over it. One day in Israel that happened to Jesus, he looked too long into the eyes of his people and his guts did a somersault and he’s never gotten over it. And this morning Jesus is here and looking—lost, stupid and totally at your mercy. Hoping to catch your eye, to hold your gaze just a moment too long, hoping you’ll give in, lose everything, and smile.

Entry Filed under: Berkeley,Homilies


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