8th Sunday after Pentecost July 18th
St Andrew’s Indooroopilly Richard Browning
2 Samuel 7:1-14a and Psalm 89:20-37
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Lean in and allow; ‘undergo’ and become.
Who are your teachers?
In Christ, the dividing wall is ended, there is a new and singular humanity. Prayer:
O God help us become your teaching, where there is hurt, let us bring healing, where there is division, peace, where there is darkness, light. Let us look and look again until we see in every other the face of Christ. Amen. Ephesians 2:11-22
remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” –a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands–
remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; or through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.
One of the roles I have as Director of Mission for Anglican Schools is to help our schools understand and deepen our values as a way of enhancing our quality of education. There are six marks that identify Anglican ethos. I have been working with an artist to conceptualise these marks. This is how we have chosen to go about it. We are working with Cheryl Moggs, teacher, Bigambul1 elder, artist. We asked Cheryl to consider this:
You have received knowledge and learning from your elders.
You are passing this knowledge on.
As you consider what this knowledge is and how you received it, could you express
that in painting? Your work and story would stand on its own, in its own integrity. From your work we could find the marks to tell our story. (Six A4 black and white oil on canvas)
Cheryl said yes, in part because the proposition coincided with a journey she was already on and ready to go deeper. So Cheryl leant in. As she did she recognised how significant was the role her mother had as teacher. This caught Cheryl a little off guard for a number of reasons. Like so many First Nation’s people, Cheryl’s forebears were forbidden from speaking in language, living on country, practicing culture. In Cheryl’s remembering she discovered that her mother had actually been teaching, often in silence, always with symbols. As Cheryl leant in further, she has noticed in her remembering a strange phenomenon, her Mother, now passed, is still teaching her. This has been a profound revelation and a privilege to witness and be near2.
Cheryl’s work is truly extraordinary as she depicts navigation in the night sky, connections of clan on country, pathways following water, pathways following songlines. Each of these paintings come from a specific place on country and connection with her mother. The title Cheryl uses to name the work is telling. She has called the work: “I am my mother’s teacher”3.
Notice how Cheryl leant into the question; notice how she allowed herself to be taught; notice her ‘undergoing’; and in the end, notice how she has become the teacher and the teaching.
This process is key to today’s message: Lean in and allow.
Undergo and become4.
1 Bigambul country is south west Queensland, north of Kamilaroi country.
2 This is a function of memory. It is also, I understand it, a function of First Nation’s mobs way of knowing. It is profoundly relational, the text is inscribed in country. Cheryl’s mum is teaching. The country and landscape is also teaching. Cheryl’s mother passed on what is still written in the land.
3 “I am my mother’s teacher” will be exhibited in St John’s Cathedral in late August
4 These processes are a colloquial translation of words Sarah Bachelard talks about frequently and come from the Contemplative tradition. She talks about receptivity, inhabiting and undergoing. The phrase ‘lean in’ has its roots in work by Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean in – women work and the will to lead”
Tomorrow is the 19th of July. It marks eight years of lock down for hundreds of human beings in the custody of Australian border policy. There are still over 200 in detention and a thousand in limbo.
My middle son Zach went to the Wallabies in Melbourne on Tuesday and has been identified as a tier 1 COVID contact. Victoria is in lockdown for 5 days, Zach is in 14 days home quarantine. As inconvenient as that is, he knows its purpose and that it will end. Imagine being in lockdown, endlessly, for no crime, without a conviction or a meaning, indefinitely. For 2919 days! And counting! It is obscene.
There is a beautiful family in Canberra who rescued a young Hazara boy from detention before centres were shipped off to Nauru and Manus Island. Emma the mother, fought desperately to adopt Abdul as a member of their family and welcome him as their fourth son. The story of this battle is compelling5.
Emma describes an event that occurred in her home not too long after Abdul arrived and it goes something like this. Someone who was aware of Abdul pulled up outside their house and yelled out ugly, racist insults before speeding off. Emma reacted like a firecracker and hurried to the door to defend and rebuke. As she describes it, teenage Abdul calmed her down. And this is what he said, ‘Don’t let them be your teacher’.
Don’t lean into the ugliness and allow yourself to be taught by them. Don’t undergo the vitriol and become it.
Now Abdul didn’t say those word, he just said ‘don’t let them be your teacher’. But that is what is implied in the wisdom of his response.
Side bar questions.
Who is your teacher?
What are you undergoing, even without your consent?
What have you become and what do you do that reveals who was your teacher? What teaching should you lean into now and undergo?
What teaching is in you that you should pass on?
These and questions like them are worth pursuing.
5 This story is beautifully recorded in Emma’s account called ‘Unbreakable Threads’ https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/other-books/Unbreakable-Threads-Emma-Adams- 9781760633103
So then, this
We come now then to St Paul, who, though long dead, can if we allow, minister to us in this moment as teacher. While he required some intervention to lean in, he most certainly experienced an undergoing, and as we read here, he has become the teaching.
So then, writes Paul,
as we experience God’s redeeming grace the formerly outside are embraced there is no insider | outsider
there is no foreigner, alien or stranger the far-away are now near.
There is no barrier, no dividing wall, no hostility. These have been killed and destroyed; peace has come to those who are far, and those who are near. For all and everyone, what is Jesus’ is now ours: life in God through the Spirit.
This is the work of Christ, who is our vaccine, the broker, peace maker. His blood as done this; there is a new creation, a singular humanity.
So then, (Paul continues) Not us nor them,
and one state
and one household.
This is the work of Jesus and is why he has come.
This is the place we are to inhabit and by our inhabiting, we too become this place: a dwelling for God’s indwelling. (Ephesians 2.11fl)
Paul has leant into Jesus the Teacher, has allowed himself to come to the cross and here has undergone what is called resurrection.
Come to the cross and undergo this:
There is no enemy, only kin;
no ‘being against’ only ‘being with’;
no endless accusation, only “it is finished”;
no ‘crucify crucify’, just “Father forgive them, they do not know what they do”.
From the cross there is no endless enmity, only ‘peace be with you’; no scarcity and fear, only banquet and welcome;
no envy and rivalry, only grace and unconditional love.
there is One humanity.
There is no Jew, Asian, wog, lebo/refo/lesbo.
There is no unAustralian, no Victorian, NSWer;
no slave or free, no male or female, no insider or outlier; No enemy, no dividing wall; no other,
just neighbour, citizen, and kin. Jesus has done this.
become this; become instruments of Christ’s peace:
In the face of hatred, sow love,
Where there is Injury, bring pardon
Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light6.
Instead of reasoning, we are present.
Instead of explaining, we listen.
Instead of justifying, we lament.
Rather than blaming we call things by their right name.
Rather than arriving at judgements we make promises.
Rather than mongering fear we live as care-mongers.
Instead of reacting we respond, not with suspicion but loving kindness. Instead of spreading anxiety,
we are contagious with the love of God and the hope of Christ. Rather than rationalising we repent;
we repent of our sins and seek on earth God’s way and will,
we live the news that is good for all, bringing release, sight and liberty.
the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus in the teachings of Paul calls us to the place of the cross, to lean in here, allowing the teaching to indwell. Our moral responsibility is framed from here, and through an undergoing become, and in becoming are sent, as citizens and children, to look and look again until we see in the face of any other, the face of Christ.
6 See Prayer of St Francis
The beginning of a Contemplative Community
The sermon ‘so then’ was used in part at a quiet, prayerful beginning on Saturday evening, 17th July in what is hoped to be a contemplative community based at St Andrews’. Portions of ‘So then’ was used, with these words added below.
While most homilies proclaim the good news of Christ, addressing the ‘how’ is often absent. That is, how can we undergo?
Entering into silence and practising contemplation is an intentional engagement in an undergoing; it is a participation in the thing that transforms and hastens a ‘becoming’, a godly, Christ-like becoming.
There are at least two ways this is possible.
The first is the opportunity silence gives for the alignment of one’s own mind heart soul body and experiencing the self. Meditation is not the only time this happens. Bruteau uses ‘concentration’ as a similar notion. Silent meditation is an opportunity to experience the mind bound to one’s heart and with one’s soul in the body in this moment. There is a unity of self that can be experienced, non-judgmentally and lead us beyond the grasping of ego towards the true self:
“When we pray, we find our truest self by unifying our heart, mind, soul, and body. This unification of consciousness is basic to spiritual practice.” Beatrice Bruteau7
The second way describes an entity outside the self that can be encountered.
This entity is the love of God and God’s love for the world. It is available, and able to be experienced directly. It is a love that in Christ draws the universe into wholeness no less. By leaning in, allowing oneself to encounter and undergo, the proximity of and receptivity to this presence is transformative8. This process is an undergoing, draws the ego aside to reveal and refine the true self.
When on retreat two months ago at Ormiston, I found hungry for this practice. I found the water as the best metaphor for this presence outside my own. I found down by the mangroves the place where silence does its work of undergoing.
And the words of this poem describe what happens:
Down there is a space between,
where land becomes tide and fresh water
where soil meets sea
and mangroves reign:
the prayer of the heart leads and undergoing is undertaken; there
longing and fulfilled,
partial and complete;
shadows and plain sight,
being and fullness of being,
self and true self.
This is the place I come in contemplation –
the tidal rhythm is breathing
scored in consonants soft and round, Yh Wh. Here there is silence and beauty,
un-knowing without confusion,
an undergoing with the heart of Love
whose love lies at the heart of the universe.
Fifteen minutes of silence follows.
To meditate, sit still and upright. Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase, ‘Maranatha’. Say it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently but continuously. Do not think or imagine anything – spiritual or otherwise. If thoughts and images come, these are distractions
at the time of meditation, so keep returning simply to saying the word.
© The World Community for Christian Meditation
7 https://twitter.com/CACRadicalGrace/status/1415204559199289347 8 See Bachelard’s new book: ‘A contemplative Christianity for our time