Friday, 21 October 2011

Weather Or Not

A Homily for Holy Communion on
Friday, 21st of October, 2011, 9 a.m.

for the Sisters of the Love of God
Fairacres Priory, Oxford

Weather Or Not

Gospel: Luke 12:54-59

He also said to the multitudes, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, 'A shower is coming'; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? 57 "And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper."

+ May I speak in the name of the Divine Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Obviously, in Jesus’s time there was no Meterological Office, nor BBC. If there had been, an accurate weather forecast would have been an impossibility, and this Gospel reading would have such layers of irony that only the cleverest of commentators could unravel them – preferably whilst the rest of us sleep.

But let us take Luke’s Jesus at his word – if we can read the weather, why can we not read the important things God is telling us? In context, he means the mystery of God in Christ – Immanuel – God with Us – but given that we have all, sort of, got this, how are to read these words now? What weather might he mean?

To stick with Luke’s metaphor for a moment – yesterday my computer told me it was just one degree centigrade (celsius in the new money) outside. I wasn’t at all sure I believed it, but, its being the verge of winter, and having been ill myself, and fearful of asthma, I wrapped myself up like a Christmas turkey – thick, heavy, anorak, scarf, boots, two hats, the works! By the time I reached Cowley Centre I had almost melted. But what could I do? Throw my hats and scarf and coat away? I might need them again! And I certainly can’t afford to replace them.

Is it stretching the figure too far to say this is a little of what Jesus has in mind? Yes, we’re prepared for the Expected, but are we prepared to let go of that, when the Unexpected arrives? I rather think we are not – or else Cowley Centre would be strewn with unwanted clothes, and passers-by would raise an eyebrow, wondering what frolics had been going on.

Apply this to our life as disciples and the effect is chillingly challenging. We surround ourselves with the comfort of the Known. But Jesus, when he comes, will be the Unknown, as he was on the Road to Emmaus. And notice the latter part of the reading – its message is “settle up now, or it will get much worse for you”. Did you notice how it does not for a moment allow the possibility that we might be in the right?

Is the Good News that what we think we know isn’t worth knowing; what we think we expect isn’t worth waiting for? Is the Good News that we are wrong?

If so, let us settle out of court, and quickly, and in that transaction between the real and the ultimate, between earth and heaven, maybe our redemption lies. If so, so be it. But, God be with us on that road to the court, and stop us foolish hypocrites from ever getting there, and, following a yellow-signed diversion notice, instead may we accept the invitation to God’s own banquet. Amen.

Richard Haggis
Littlemore, Oxford
October 2011

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