Recognising the Sacred

Posted: January 7, 2021 in Uncategorized

Recognising the Sacred

We have all seen them. Walking briskly with briefcase and mobile phone in tow,
weaving in and out of pedestrians along the footpath as they go from appointment to appointment. Company representatives. Sales people. Public servants. Even ministers of religion. With bible in hand its spine cupped in the hand as if a natural appendage belonging to the carrier.

Rex Hunt tells a story of a group of computer salesmen going from Newcastle to Sydney to take part in their annual State one-day sales meeting. They assured their spouses they would be home in plenty of time for dinner. But, with one thing or another, the meeting ran over time so they had to run to Central Station, tickets in hand.

As they rushed through the ticket terminal area, one man inadvertently crashed into a table supporting a display of fruit. Without stopping they all reached Platform No. 10 and the train – just, and boarded it with a sigh of relief. All but one. He paused, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compunction for the youth whose fruit stand they had caused to almost collapse.

He stepped off the train, waved goodbye to his companions and returned to the ticket area where he helped pick up the scattered fruit. He was glad he did.  The youth was blind. As he picked up the fruit he noticed several of the peaches and pears were bruised. He reached into his coat pocket, took out his wallet, pulled out some money and said to the youth: “Here, please take this $20 for the damage we did. “I hope it didn’t spoil your day too much”.

As he started to walk back towards the platform to wait for another train, the bewildered youth called out to him: “Are you Jesus, or something?”

Mark the gospel storyteller has told his story this morning.  And we have accepted his invitation and told another story in reply. In that story Mark invites his listeners to see the present-ness of the sacred, of G-o-d, in Jesus…  He says: “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” But Mark is not here and we are a different people in a different time.

Our challenge now is to ask the question: How can we translate that into a daily recognition of the present-ness of the sacred in every person? For most of us, that can be a bit hard. And It is my suggestion that one of the factors in our difficulty is that the church since Augustine’s time has been in error in the way it has portrayed the humanity of Jesus. The Orthodox Christian expression of Christianity has made him significant because he died rather than lived. The Christ of faith in essence has denied the humanity of Jesus to the point that we have become dependent upon the supernatural and a Theism that denies any questioning of the deity of Jesus at the expense of the connection with the Jesus of history. This has the effect of separating humanity from the divine potential and thus making it difficult to see the sacred in everyday life and in each other.

Another story. This one from the Roman tradition. It is time for the evening service to take place and Freddy is sitting in the church very drunk. He sits in the church alone, abusing our loud. Nobody else is there yet but shortly after they begin to arrive for the evening service. Freddy becomes more abusive and aggressive so that it is inappropriate to begin the service. Conversation swells and consensus is that Freddy has to go.

Things were proceeding fairly well and Father Ernie is coaxing Freddy to the door. They are almost there when ‘all hell breaks loose’ and foul language is directed at the priest;
threatening to hit him and kick him, blaming him for so many things and finally, spitting at him.

“Through all this,” said Fr Ernie Smith, “I remained externally calm. Inwardly I felt both angry and a little frightened. “What a relief it was when Freddy left the church and I closed the side door behind him. Now, on with the service.”

Crash.  Freddy has returned and started to kick in the door of the recently restored   church. “Now I showed my anger externally”, Fr Smith said. “A bit of a chase ensued and then he was gone again. “It was difficult to compose myself after this.”

Ernie reflects that this was the grog presenting a facade. The dignity of the man was hidden. “I saw him later,” Fr Smith said, “and gently reminded him of this episode, but he had no memory of it”(Smith 1994).

The question we are left with is ‘how can we translate that into a daily recognition of the present-ness of the sacred in every person?

At a macro and theological level I think that we need to challenge the assumptions we have built up over many years about the humanity of Jesus. He is significant for faith not because he died, not because of Easter and a post Easter priority but rather a Christmas or an incarnational priority. He was born as one of us, Emmanuel – God with us- priority and not a God who is supernatural and beyond our humanity. If you are wondering about making God in our image about here then you might be missing the sacred in every person.

At a micro and individual Freddy level this means breaking down the façade that keeps us from seeing the God-given dignity of every person, and recognising the present-ness of the sacred in others – especially those who are suffering.  When you shake hands with the heroin addict or the street prostitute can you see the Christ in them?

“Hey Wally, what are you doing down here tonight?” After all, he isn’t well and he has a room in one of the Mission houses. Here he is out on the street. “You’ve got a room to go to, so get yourself into gear and go home”. This is crazy that he should be out on a cold night. “Come on, get home.”

And then he gets a chance to speak. “I can’t go home, Father.  Frank’s crook and he as nowhere to stay, so I’ve given him my room for the night. “I’ll be right” (Smith 1994).

The Jesus of history does not have to return as God because he is already present in the sacred in every person…. as the parables tell us. It is in the poetry of the human Jesus’ parables and we should not reduce them to silence and lock them up in our rituals of salvation. See the sacred in the person and the incarnation make real sense. Amen.

Crotty, R. E Smith. 1994. Voices From The Edge. Mark’s Gospel in our World. Melbourne. CollinsDove.

Galston, David 2016 God’s Human Future The struggle to Define Theology Today. Polebridge Press

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