St Andrew’s Indooroopilly
Fr Richard Browning
Key image or metaphor: St Andrew’s Crucifix
Clue for spiritual practice:
Don’t bring an assertion (‘we know’).
Live a question instead.
- Knowing is not a head thing, it is a lived thing.
Unless it costs, unless it shapes how we live and act, we do not know and we do not believe.
- If there is a gap between what we say and how we act, hypocrisy is near. Jesus is unapologetic towards religious experts and any hypocrisy.
The crucified Jesus reveals the eternal nature of God: unconditional loving kindness lies at the heart of God and the heart of creation.
May the Word, the Song, the knowledge of God live in us, and bear fruit; may our actions bear witness to what we see in Christ crucified.
We might be called homo sapiens, but maybe more than our knowing, it is our questions that most defines us. Our questions grow with us throughout life.
Early on they can simply be, ‘will people like me?’, ‘how can I fit in?’.
Later the questions become: ‘am I ok?’, ‘how am I to live?’
As our 18 yo son drives north and beach camps on the way to fruit picking in Innisfail, he is exploring ‘ … who the heck am I and what am I doing?’
On Thursday, there was an extraordinary panel of wise First Nations women in St John’s Cathedral. The host was Aunty Kerry Charlton, amazing Yagarabul elder. Beside her was an incredible woman working among victims of domestic violence. She oozed a quiet but fierce capacity, including tertiary qualifications. She spoke of her grandson saying: I have a house, a pantry full of food and secure work. He is my grandson. Why can’t my grandson live with me? Why does a foster parent have greater rights than I? Of course she has other questions too.
Often we have questions that our bodies are not ready to address, and we find ourselves waking in the night when our unconsciousness rises to the surface and addresses us.
If you knew there was a wise one, a teacher near by, you would rise in that night and enter the darkness and knock on their door. This is what Nicodemus did and called on the teacher. Except … he didn’t bring a question, he brought an assertion.
Nicodemus asserted ‘We know’.
And then Jesus dumps on him. This is totally different to how Jesus related to people in the following chapters.
- To the man living with disability and longing for healing, Jesus asks ‘how can I help’ (John 4).
- To the Samaritan woman drawing water alone in the heat of the day, Jesus asks ‘can you pour me some water?’ (John 5)
- To the woman abused by her lover and used by men as a lesson and recoils at the smell of testosterone and adrenaline in the air moments away from her stoning, Jesus says when the stones are dropped and the men are gone ‘does anyone stand here to condemn you?’ (John 8)
These people are not certain and live much closer to their questions.
Jesus responds to Nicodemus and what appears to be a gap between what Nicodemus says he knows and how he acts.
Nicodemus says ‘we know’ because these religious rulers can see what Jesus does.
And Jesus unloads on him with stories of
spirit and wind
and heaven and earth and
being lifted up and
love of cosmos and the healing of cosmos …
And Nicodemus retreats behind one question and then another until he disappears from view and is gone.
Nicodemus disappears from the scene, but the premise of his assertion is solid: there is a relationship between what some one knows and how they act.
I used to say to students: I won’t tell you what I believe. Watch me closely and you will see. And likewise, I can watch how you act and I will see and I will tell you what you believe.
So what do we know?
The definitive story: Christ Crucified
Mel and I are relatively new here. Being new means we can notice things that might otherwise be lost through familiarity by you who have been here for a while. We have noticed a warm and generous welcome of the kind that makes us think you would give the same grace to any one from anywhere, no matter ‘who they are or what they have done’.
There are many other things to notice, but one stands out. It is the cross of the crucified Christ hanging here behind the altar. I have never belonged to a place with such an impressive crucifix. I have considered this a lot in recent months and have come to the conclusion, this image is the shortest most comprehensive summary of what we know.
The cross depicts the eternal character of God.
Jesus and the Father are one. When we look at Jesus we see Abba, the Source.
This cross and crucified Christ is no one off event, this captures an eternal activity revealing:
God’s immutable disposition is unconditional love.
In God there is only forgiveness and no retribution;
only light and no darkness at all;
all Grace and no shame.
“The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the manifestation of a victory.”
Lesslie Newbigin, theologian and missiologist
Sunday makes visible the transformation that was won on Friday.
The cross – and Jesus on it – is the fullest revealing of the eternal character of God. It is also the truest mirror into our human nature. The cross and Jesus on it exposes our addiction to domination and control; violence is bonded to the human heart- every human heart.
So let us play for a moment. What if there was no gap between what we know and how we live? What would this look like?
This is a reasonable question. What if we asked members of the wider Indooroopilly community to watch us closely and tell us what you think we know and believe? What would they say?
The Integrity of knowing and acting
Let’s play a little and explore what the crucifix declares and how we should act.
The crucified Christ declares the defeat of death.
If we know this
then we would practice joy, and each day joyfully choose life through multiple mini deaths:
- freedom through service;
- strength through forgiving;
- having by giving,
- finding by losing,
- and ruling not by having but by giving power.
The crucified Christ reveals the face of God’s unwavering, unconditional eternal love.
And if we know this,
then our practice too is unconditional love.
The crucified Christ marks God’s supreme act of solidarity with human suffering; that in the cross the Divine is wedded to the human condition and the cry of “my God, my God” marks Jesus’ union with the universal human moan and turns anguish into the pangs of
and our practice should be resolute solidarity with human suffering, where we join the moan in order to ‘be a part of the newness God is birthing’.
(Dr Barbara Holmes)
The crucified Christ is God’s perfect, non-judgmental, full-bodied gift of attentive presence, the eternal ‘I hear you’, releasing healing without shame …
and our practice is to listen, with our whole body, nonjudgmentally.
The crucified Christ is God’s supreme demonstration of love – that while all were bonded to sin, the second person of the Trinity took God’s existence to the brink of non-existence and died for us …
and our practice is love; love of neighbour, a love tested by our love of enemy.
The crucified Christ is the ultimate unmasking of the scapegoat mechanism; the uncovering of humankind’s complicity with evil, the revealing of violence’s roots deep within the human heart …
and we practise peace making; we stand, always with the victim, the least, lost and little; we never ever join the mob; we practice confession and repentance; we attend to the voices of the victim and advocate for the truth they embody.
The crucified Christ is the Eternal moment of forgiveness …
so we practise forgiveness.
The crucified Christ is the beauty that saves the world …
so we practise beauty: we recognize beauty, attend to beauty, delight in beauty, participate in beauty.
The crucified Christ is the ultimate model of discipleship. It is not an image to worship but the way to follow; Jesus is the way and Jesus’ way is the cross. This knowledge has to be lived, not in our minds but practiced in our bodies. If it is not, then we do not actually know, and practically do not believe
So what of the Trinity?
What if we were to know that this same cross reveals God’s name:
That God is Communion – the Trinity
an eternal dance of three Persons
and that there is no person outside of person-in-relation.
If we knew that, we would also know that reality itself is relational.
And not only reality, but knowledge.
And life, health, truth – all relational.
Economy, derr: relational.
Meaning; time; solutions; freedom, and answers to impossibly large questions – all relational.
If we knew this, how then would we live? I shall pose this question, albeit poetically, but leave the practice for you to answer.
John, the author of this Gospel begins his account with an exquisite poem: “In the beginning was the ______”. The Greek is Logos. John’s metaphorical description for the Second Person of the Trinity is can be translated as Word, but also as Wisdom, or Logic, or Lore, or Language, or Song.
What if we knew:
In the beginning
was the Song
and the Song was with God
and the Song was God.
The Song was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through the Song;
and without the Song was not anything made that was made.
There, in the beginning, the Dreamer and the Song
and when the time was right, the Dreamer sang, and on the breath of the Dreamer came the Song, and in the Song, all that is, is, and in the Song was life.
And when the time was right, the Song was born of a woman called Mary, and this (crucifix) is the truest score of that song.
If this is what we know, how then should we live?
What if we knew that it was possible to come forward, here, beneath this crucifix and reach out hands, not with an assertion to make but a gift to receive;
And with our lips, take and eat, and know that this same Song was pleased to live in us, and that this Song drew us into the very dance with Dreamer and Breath, Creator and Spirit, and that this Song is pleased to bring forth fruit, the same fruit through which healing is known, liberation wrought, peace won, life and all its questions, lived?