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Maria of Ravensbruck
‘if we were Christians, we would all wear the star’

Homily for Trinity 16, Matthew 21: 28-32  

It was the great early 20th century philosopher, poet, mystic

Eliza Doolittle

who said it:

“Words, words, words,

I’m so sick of words.

If you’re in love, show me!”

Show me….

Now, as you may have noticed,

I like words – I talk for a living.

And I honestly believe that words have the power to touch us, move us, delight, heal, shelter and encourage us.

But here’s the thing:

without corresponding actions,

our words ‘are just noisy gongs, or clanging cymbals’  (as S Paul says).

When she’d had enough of promises and pretty speeches, Emmeline Pankhurst decided it was time for something different.   She and the militant wing of the Suffragette movement adopted a new approach:  ‘deeds not words’.

deeds not wordsIf you’re with us, they said, no more well wishing, no more nice speeches:  let’s see you on the picket line.  Let’s see you right beside us, as we block roads, chain ourselves to railings, take the action that’s needed to make the ugly mistreatment of women a price so not worth paying.

 

Deeds, not words

Martin Luther King is remembered for his artistry with words,

but King said no speech compares to the poetry of a deed

shaped by love and sustained by courage.

In our gospel story today, Jesus tells a tale of two sons. A father asks one of them if he will help him in his vineyard.  The son replies, ‘no, I’m not doing it’ – but later on, he thinks about it and turns up, he shows up.  The father asks the second son if he’ll help, and this son says, ‘of course I will, yes Father!’ – but doesn’t actually do anything.

In case his audience misses the point, Jesus spells it out:  The religious people say they love God –  and do nothing about it.   But the crooks, the screw-ups, the failures, the odd-balls, the prayer-less,  -who all say they hate God –

find themselves here! -in the company of Christ.

If you say you love God,

don’t tell me, show me.

In his great novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ there’s a dream like sequence where the leader of the Inquisition judges and condemns Jesus.   The in-reality-no-faith Grand Inquisitor  condemns Jesus, rejects God, for all the suffering of humanity.

Jesus and PilateHe gives this long, powerful speech that lays all the blame

at God’s feet.

And when he’s finished speaking, Jesus says…..

Nothing.

There’s this silence,

one of the great silences of literature,

and the silent, condemned Jesus

gives the Grand Inquisitor

a wordless Kiss.

Sometimes, often,

Love’s response is not a clever argument,

but a wordless action, a beautiful deed,

that fills us with hope and makes all things new.

Deeds, not words.

From us Christians, the world does not need more words, more of arguments.   What it needs are wild and wordless acts of Christian compassion.

To a hurting, unbelieving world, our response can never be,

‘we’re right, listen to us’.

No, it should be something like:  friends, we know that the pain and brokenness of the world hurts you.  It hurts us too.  We’re in this together.  We don’t have easy answers.  But we have hope, so  join us at the food bank, join us at the homeless shelter, in schools and prisons and old people’s homes, in volunteer work for refugees, and parks, and green spaces, and let’s work out, together, what we can do, to heal this world.

Let our deeds,

talk to each other.

******************

“In the beginning was the Word”

St John calls Jesus the Word of God.

But in His incarnation, St. John says

‘the Word became flesh,

and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth’.

The Eternal Word became a Beautiful Deed,

a cross-shaped action,  a wordless embrace,

that fills us with hope and makes all things new.

Christ doesn’t tells us about the Divine Heart,

He shows us.

Deeds, not words.

If you have faith in God’s love,

don’t tell me,

Show me.

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