5 June 2022 by Richard Browning
Genesis 11.1-9 | Acts 2.1-21 | John 14.8-17
“We are being addressed”
Have you heard this one?
Once, there was a mob of hominids, four to be exact, crammed onto a stone couch deep inside a cave. There that sat quietly, transfixed by the shadowy movement of figures on a wall; a captivating screen that seduced them all.
A curious breeze licked at the napes of their necks, but only one was curious.
The breeze drew her away from the screen. She followed the draught past the fiery projection, through the darkness and outside the cave into the world beyond. There she found out what it was to be truly transfixed. Here was reality, to be experienced in person. He face shone with delight, then she turned and raced hurriedly back to the cave.
Of course Plato was the first to describe a story like this.
Now there is an ending to the story. But I won’t be the one to finish it.
We are being addressed. But don’t take my word for it. Test it yourself.
We are being addressed – from over the horizon.
We are being addressed by life; called to enter into it and live, aren’t we?
We are being addressed by truth, called into authentic life. Aren’t we?
We are being addressed by love, to live into the very thing that matters the most. Aren’t we?
There are plenty of reasons to resist this call. Despite the address, we can remain in the cave with our consciousness sufficiently dulled to the light and life beyond. For one, if we leave the cave and enter the journey, we will have to face change. We would also have to face inevitable hardship and pain. We would also have to address the question that addresses us: how can we love and serve the increase of others?
See Rev Sue’s sermon from last week: What must I do to be saved?
We are being addressed by the Good News
Here is one way to describe the Good News.
In the beginning, the Creator Dreamt then spoke.
Waiting for this moment is the Life Giving Breath, that wild bird, the Untamable Wind who carries the Living Word to the ends of space and fills them. In the Word and upon the Spirit, all things are made.
And from there come hominids, blessed with the very image of the Creator, in whose likeness they are called to become.
And from over the horizon we are addressed with a language that comes to us in person.
From over the horizon comes truth. But truth is not an idea or a word, truth is embodied in person.
From over the horizon comes life. But life is not an idea, but embodied in person.
From over the horizon comes love. But love is not an idea. Love is embodied in person.
We know this person’s name. It is Jesus the Christ,
The Christ comes to us as truly human. From over the horizon we encounter Mercy in person, we meet Wisdom, Forgiveness, Truth, Steadfast Love, all in person.
The reader/hearer is trusted to join the dots.
The reader/hearer is trusted to join the dots.
Jesus was asked to show the disciples the Father.
“I am in the Father and the Father is in me …
I do not speak on my own but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
The conclusion of this homily proposes that the location for the language of God,
brought to us in Jesus, is our lives; the Word of God is to be embodied in within each of us.
Jesus pushes this to the limit when he goes on to say that all who believe will do Jesus’ work,
“in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father”.
This text also appears in a paper co-authored by John Rolley and myself:
Toward a Diocesan Model of Faith Formation for Young Anglicans:
That Jesus would say ‘do not be afraid’ suggests our context induces fear. Yet the one who is the way leads the way, embraces change, enters and swallows suffering in his body, a work of service that liberates humanity with the gift of life for life. And if this is not enough, the very Breath in whom all life is born, the wild bird and untamable Spirit comes alongside, within and between us, the Advocate and companion for the journey. So enter the great journey, but do not be afraid.
This journey calls us into a dangerous new reality, the very possibility that we would manifest in our own bodies the same love, the same truth, the same life that addresses us from over the horizon; that here on earth would be manifest in person the language of God and the things of heaven: truth, life, love.
Where does the Spirit lead?
So where does this spirit and this language take us? I wish to take one small text a little deeper. We find in Acts chapter 2 verse 8 the Greek words ‘the language into which we are born (ἐγεννήθημεν – egennēthēmen). It is commonly translated as ‘native language’. A powerful and elegant translation is also ‘Mother Tongue’. Repeated trips to Timor-Leste, the latest of which was two weeks ago, have opened up a richer meaning to the notion of ‘Mother Tongue’.
After 450 years of Portuguese colonisation twenty four years of brutal Indonesian invasion and occupation, and disingenuous negotiations from Australia over the maritime boundary oil and gas reserves, the dreams formed in the Mother Tongue stirred the Timorese to resist, to rise up and fight for independence. Mother Tongue is the building blocks of learning, and binds a people to the land to which they belong. Mother tongue is the language in which sovereignty is understood, the dignity that comes from self-determination. Yet more wonderfully, Mother Tongue is the language in which intimate knowledge of place and profound connection is made. Land is not possessed, but the very thing that possesses the people. It is what you belong to and care for, and if need be, fight for.
As I recently learnt, even virtues are not possessed. In our culture private ownership is normal and each individual can possess courage or determination or strength. But in Mother Tongue there is a stunning inversion. Virtues that include courage and fortitude belong to the community who belong to the land and share mother tongue. They are the gifts that are stirred within the people who serve the good of the land and its people. When Jose Ramos-Horta ended his recent presidential speech and asked to be guided by God and Timor’s ancestors, this is how I understand it. The virtues needed to lead a people come from the people.
Horta’s speech: https://ramoshorta.com/ramos-horta-inaugural-speech-english-text/
This is a way to understand the extraordinary resistance
of the Ukranian people
We see incredible fortitude, sacrifice and courage
from a people fighting for sovereignty of language and land.
We actually have a language for this. It is called the fruits of the Spirit. When we see love or joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness even faithfulness, these are the fruits that come from elsewhere, and whose benefit is for others, the community in a fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
So there on that first day of Pentecost, the followers of Jesus are sent among others with the language of others’ Mother Tongue. This is the language that carries great humility, recognising the dignity and sovereignty of those in whose company they stand, standing as guests with gifts or virtues that honour and serve the good of the other.
Here in this place, in the elbow of this bending river, Mother Tongue would be Yagarabul. And if we were to know some of it, we would know the names of hills, trees, river bends and mountains. We would know more deeply where we live, and by knowing we would better love where we live, and by loving it, we would know how to care for and protect it, for the good of the earth and those to whom it belongs – the young and yet to be born.
Don’t be afraid.
We are being addressed.
The horizon bids us come. And the Spirit of God, that wild bird, that untameable wind calls us out. We are the very creatures in which the language of God and Living Word is to indwell. We are sent in the power of the Life Giving Spirit as guests, to serve and honour the people and places where we live, and work the Abba our Creator will be manifest in us, the compelling witness of a life fully lived.
If we were to return to the cave, it would be to speak with our bodies the address:
see for yourself,
life in all its beauty,