“’Summer’s a comin’ – the power of an idea” ©
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Homily Thoughts on 33nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
As the liturgical cycle concludes, as it always does, with a consideration of “Final Things” today’s Gospel speaks of end-time. It occurs to me that the message of end-of-time and second coming is too often couched in language that is foreboding and menacing. Preachers and Sci-Fi writers alike swim in the same pool of threat and self-accusation that leads to an intimidating focus on signs of distress. Nothing like a little fear and loathing to get your attention.
Yet, the message of Jesus is about coming to fullness, fruitfulness, and fig trees of summer. How so much like Jesus to go against the grain and speak to us of the path that ends in warmth, comfort, and embrace. When others present the message of the end-of-time as the full wrath of the Creator come to full siege Jesus speaks otherwise.
Jesus says, “Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the Promised One is near, right at the door.” (Mark13:28)
How fortunate for those who live in the southern hemisphere at this time of year and who hear this message. Ten years ago, at this time of year, Jean and I were visiting New Zealand, that two island nation so beloved by fans of “Lord of the Ring.” In early November the land of Maori, tribe and culture, celebrates the coming of summer. One of those “dumb luck” things that happens to us on our trips happened as we stayed in a B&B across the bay from Auckland on the north end of the north island. The area is Devonport and was our final stop before heading home..
Our hosts, Howard and Joyce, informed us as we registered that we were in for a treat. It turns out that weekend was the “official” start of summer, comparable to our Memorial Day Weekend in May. It was the weekend of the Sailing Regatta. We woke up in our B&B at water’s edge and walked out along the Queen’s Parade to see the bay completely full of sailboats of all sizes. That sight with the skyline of Auckland in the background – well, it was worth the price of admission. It is truly a glorious way to begin summer.
Mark’s Gospel reading at this time of year in New Zealand is more than an idea of how one should view the end-of-time. Down under it’s “Summer’s a comin and don’t we feel good!”
For us on the northern side of the planet this reading conveys the idea that we are headed for fullness, warmth, embrace. And the power of the idea may, just may, retrieve us from the misfortune of fearing with foreboding the crash and bang of the end with its total devastation. After all is said by the preachers and sci-fi authors we are still blessed with this idea from Jesus that this life, my life and yours, is not an end but a transition to fulfillment, unity, and peace.
The blessing in the southern hemisphere is that this idea is given “oomph” by the fact that, indeed, “Summer’s a comin’.
Should it be that we do not consider the power of an idea reason enough to situate our lives on a path of care, compassion, faithfulness, and love let’s consider the idea whose power leads to violence, destruction, alienation, and nihilism.
Let’s take a look at this past Friday night in the violence, horror, and yes, the sacrilege that regularly passes as the idea of Islam among the terrorist crowd. Yes, ideas have power. And when such ideas as those that surfaced on the streets of Paris fester in a vat of rage that is fired by a deranged understanding of one of the world’s great religions such ideas certainly have power.
Children, we ourselves, and all people of good will must be trained in and treasure the idea of fullness, faithfulness, peace, and compassion. We must treasure the idea of love and allow its power to fill us. This is the full, supple, growth of the fig tree with its leaves of shade and life. We fear that the power of the idea of terror and barbarism is now so imbedded within certain populations that it will be a long time before it is contained, if not defeated. An unfortunate similarity is on the side of those who share dark horrors from Christian history when “true believers” killed, beheaded, and terrorized in the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, the power of an idea goes deep into our psyches. And sometimes that power is sin – regardless of the excuse or justification.
We began our Eucharist in silence this morning because, once again, terror has made us speechless in time. However, we must claim the time to speak, sing, clap, dance, in the light of the idea of life. We gather in prayer to acknowledge the battle over ideas and to encourage ourselves through the message of Jesus. Warmth, embrace, faithfulness – after all, Summer’s a’ comin’.
A Prayer by Jim Ryan
We praise you, All-loving Parent, for life.
Gift of light and promise, if only we would see and respond.
Gift of fire and hope, if only we would commit to act as you lead.
Gift of vision and future, if only we would rest in you
on this Sabbath day.
Holy One of those who proclaim their faith in you,
Forgive, please forgive, those who live by ideas of violence,
hatred, and revenge;
Mercy, please your mercy, on those who are victims of the same;
Return, please return, to us in the wave that washes us with a
bath of peacefulness born of your love.
May we find ways that lead us, and all humankind, out of the dark
and into the light that has no end.
We pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
“Summer’s a comin’” (JR)
In the southern hemisphere Summer is on the way. Summer has its way of calming us, even entrancing us, into a semi-slumber of calm and peaceableness. Here is the warmth that enfolds and embraces us – just as we thought it would never come again (in the northern hemisphere) by winter’s ice and cold. How blessed, how graced the southern hemisphere that hears Jesus’ parable of the fig tree at this time of year. They know that summer is near, that the earth is aligned with this promise of return. How blessed are we to hear a message that carries us in light, in hope, in freedom. Abandon all fear and love the light and warmth.
This is the reassurance that emboldens and un-frightens us. How we hunger and thirst for such calm and rest. This is our bread and wine, our body and blood, to be shared with such at-one-ness with one another, with all who seek peace.