4th sunday

Fourth Sunday of the Year

January 28, 2018

Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.

We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land
on which we stand.
We pay our respects to them and for their care of the land.

May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.


I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,

the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,

and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.


We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,

(the …..)  and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.

We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.

We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.

We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.

Only the truth is revolutionary

13ordinarioB4      wordlegrandma



The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat it. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken.

Born in 1960, Kevin Carter was an award winning South African photojournalist. He began his career photographing scenes of the violent struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. However, it was a 1993 picture of a famine victim in Sudan that would change his life forever.

‘He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl trying to make her way to the feeding center. As he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle.’

This picture earned Carter the 1994 Pullitzer Prize for feature photography. ‘I swear I got the most applause of anybody,’ Carter wrote back to his parents in Johannesburg. ‘I can't wait to show you the trophy. It is the most precious thing, and the highest acknowledgment of my work I could receive.’ Carter's joy would not last.

Friends and colleagues would come to question why he had not done more to help the child in the photograph. ‘The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering,’ said the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, ‘might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.’

Burdened with feelings of guilt and sadness, Kevin Carter took his own life On July 27, 1994. His suicide note stated in part, ‘...I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain . . . of starving or wounded children...’


Reading I  Dt 18:15-20 God will raise up a prophet.

Responsorial Psalm  Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. (8) If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts

Reading II  1 Cor 7:32-35 Do what will help you devote yourselves to the Lord

Gospel Mk 1:21-28 Demons recognize Jesus as the Holy One of God

Penitential Rite

1.       Jesus, you speak your liberating word to us: Jesus, have mercy.

2.      Jesus, you make a deep impression on us and give us the courage to change: Christ, have mercy.

3.       Jesus, you move us to become more and more like you: Jesus, have mercy.

Penitential Rite [Alternative]

1.       Jesus, you came to heal us and to restore us to fullness of life: Jesus, have mercy.

2.      Jesus, you have made us sons and daughters of the living God: Christ, have mercy.

3.       Jesus, you made yourself one of us so that we could see in you the perfect image of God: Jesus, have mercy.

Opening Prayer

Faithful God,

you have spoken to us in Jesus,

who lived as he spoke

and whose message became flesh and blood.

Make us people of vision and integrity

who speak in your name with authority and truth.

May our voices stir up people who will bear witness to your Reign

of community and serving love.

Prayers of the Faithful

Introduction: We pray to our God for men and women who can speak God’s word with the assurance and authority of faith. We pray in response: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

1.       For the leaders of the Church, that they may receive God's word with humility and pass it to the world without fear or compromise, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

2.      For those who speak in the name of people whose voices are not heard or disregarded, that they may not be silenced by fear or the powerful voices in society, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

3.       For countries such as the USA, China, Japan, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, and others, that continue to use capital punishment that they may come to see that justice is not served by this and it, like all violence, is a failure of humanity, we pray, May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

4.      That we recognise that violent conflict is strongly correlated with human rights violations and work to oppose all violations of human rights – no matter how small, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

5.       That services to people in country/rural areas be provided for people suffering of all kinds of illness, physical and mental, and that these services may help to reduce the great loss of life by suicide, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

6.      That we acknowledge the identity of others by overcoming willful neglect, greed, selfishness and the blind tolerance of unacceptable inequality and injustice, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

7.       That we continue to work towards achieving the Strategic Development Goals to demonstrate to the poorest and the most vulnerable people in the world that we have their interests at heart, and that they are as important and as valuable as we are, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

8.      That we find ways of building a mutuality of respect across the boundaries of inequality and difference where the preventable death of any person, anywhere in the world, diminishes all of us, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

9.      That the rich and wealthy countries give priority to the elimination of poverty and disease rather than to security against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

10.   That all people who are victims of domestic violence may have their voices and pleas heard and acknowledged and that ways be found to bring healing to all involved, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

11.   That all who suffer at a young age may experience the love and attention of people who care for them, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

12.   That our society make more room and show effective concern for people living with mental illness in the community, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

13.   That all those in hospitals and nursing homes may be given much human, loving care and be visited by those dear to them, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

14.   That in our communities we may dare to lighten one another’s suffering and learn to share each other’s pain, we pray: May our hearts not be hardened, O God.

Concluding Prayer: Gracious God, you loved us so much that you sent your Son to show us your presence in our world. May we hear the voice of Jesus and see his face in each person we meet.

Prayer over the Gifts

Faithful God,

as we bring before you

these gifts of bread and wine,

accept our meagre efforts to give shape to your word

in the language of our lives.

Prayer after Communion

Faithful God,

in Christ , you have brought us together

by your powerful word and sharing.

As we return to everyday life,

speak your liberating message to us in each moment.

Open our ears and hearts

to your ever-new language

and let it lead us to you

together with our sisters and brothers.

Parish notices
January 30: Commemoration of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.
Further Resources 

A time comes when silence is betrayal

Martin Luther king Jr


The ultimate weakness of violence

is that it is a descending spiral,

begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.

Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

Through violence you may murder the liar,

but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.

Through violence you murder the hater,

but you do not murder hate.

In fact, violence merely increases hate....

Returning violence for violence multiples violence,

adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968, American Civil Rights Leader

What we focus on, we empower and enlarge. Good multiplies when focused upon. Negativity multiplies when focused upon. The choice is ours: Which do we want more of?

Julia Cameron, American Teacher, Author, Artist and Poet

In every forest, on every farm, in every orchard on earth, it's what's under the ground that creates what's above the ground. That's why placing your attention on the fruits that you have already grown is futile. You cannot change the fruits that are already hanging on the tree. You can, however, change tomorrow's fruits. But to do so, you will have to dig below the ground and strengthen the roots.

T. Harv Eker, Motivational Speaker and Author

From the pain comes the dream.

From the dream comes the vision.

From the vision come the people.

From the people comes the power.

From this power comes the change.

Peter Gabriel, English Musician and Social Activist

Listening to the cry of those who suffer violence and are oppressed by unjust systems and structures, and hearing the appeal of a world that by its perversity contradicts the plan of its Creator, we have shared our awareness of the Church's vocation to be present in the heart of the world by proclaiming the Good News to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, and joy to the afflicted.
Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World 1971
The more a person wants to live in the absolutes of God, the more essential it is for this absolute to be rooted in the midst of human suffering.
Brother Roger of Taize
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King Jr
Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. ln those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.
Fritz Williams:
When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?
Eleanor Roosevelt
But there is suffering in life, and there are defeats. No one can avoid them. But it's better to lose some of the battles in the struggles for your dreams than to be defeated without ever knowing what you're fighting for.
Paulo Coelho
The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering - a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons - a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting - three hundred million people all with the same face.
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.
George Orwell (1903-1950)
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.
War is an instrument entirely inefficient toward redressing wrong; and multiplies, instead of indemnifying losses.
Thomas Jefferson 
The ultimate measure of a [man] is not where [he] stands in moments of comfort, but where [he] stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 
I'm often amazed at the way politicians, who spend hours poring over opinion poll results in a desperate attempt to discover what the public thinks, are certain they know precisely what God's views are on everything.
Simon Hoggart
Going to church no more makes you a Christian than sleeping in your garage makes you a car.
Garrison Keiler
How many does it take to metamorphose wickedness into righteousness? One man must not kill. If he does, it is murder.... But a state or nation may kill as many as they please, and it is not murder. It is just, necessary, commendable, and right. Only get enough people to agree to it, and the butchery of myriads of human beings is perfectly innocent. But how many does it take?
Adin Ballou, The Non-Resistant, February 1845
There have been periods of history in which episodes of terrible violence occurred but for which the word violence was never used.... Violence is shrouded in justifying myths that lend it moral legitimacy, and these myths for the most part kept people from recognizing the violence for what it was. The people who burned witches at the stake never for one moment thought of their act as violence; rather they thought of it as an act of divinely mandated righteousness. The same can be said of most of the violence we humans have ever committed.
Gil Bailie
When shall it be said in any country of the world, my poor are happy, neither ignorance or distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes not oppressive; the rational world is my friend because I am friend of its happiness. When these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and government.
Thomas Paine 
A true revolution of values will say of war, ' This way of settling differences is not just.'… I call on Washington today, I call on every man and woman of goodwill all over America today: Take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late; a book may close. And I don't know about you -- I ain't going to study war no more.
Martin Luther King 
Zealotry of either kind - the puritan's need to regiment others or the victim's passion for blaming everyone except himself - tends to produce a depressing civic stupidity. Each trait has about it the immobility of addiction. Victims become addicted to being victims: they derive identity, innocence and a kind of devious power from sheer, defaulting helplessness. On the other side, the candle-snuffers of behavioral and political correctness enact their paradox, accomplishing intolerance in the name of tolerance, regimentation in the name of betterment.
Lance Morrow, essayist, professor
The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will accept their power and our weakness as something that has been established by divine plan. But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any right other than the desire for death and destruction. Today there is a ‘NO’ which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the weak: the ‘NO’ to war.
Subcomandante Marcos - No to war, February 16, 2003 
Each of the Iraqi children killed by the United States was our child. Each of the prisoners tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade. Each of their screams was ours. When they were humiliated, we were humiliated. The U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq - mostly volunteers in a poverty draft from small towns and poor urban neighborhoods - are victims just as much as the Iraqis of the same horrendous process, which asks them to die for a victory that will never be theirs: 
Arundhati Roy 
Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter:
African proverb

In order to get power and retain it, it is necessary to love power; but love of power is not connected with goodness but with qualities that are the opposite of goodness, such as pride, cunning and cruelty.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer
What experience and history teach is this - that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770-1831) German philosopher

The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.
Robert Lynd, (1879-1949), Anglo-Irish essayist, journalist
It is never right to do wrong or to requite wrong with wrong, or when we suffer evil to defend ourselves by doing evil in return.
Socrates, 469 - 399 BC
The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means.
Georges Bernanos

The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something better to come. That's why we want to be considerate of every man--Who knows what's in him, why he was born and what he can do?

Maxim Gorky

Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.

Ginetta Sagan

Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life….

Nelson Mandela

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

Thomas Paine

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless.

Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) Russian writer, from On Life and Essays on Religion

"Free inquiry requires that we tolerate diversity of opinion and that we respect the right of individuals to express their beliefs, however unpopular they may be, without social or legal prohibition or fear of success.

Paul Kurtz, ‘A Secular Humanist Declaration,’in On The Barricades, 1989

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities,"

We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter - but beautiful - struggle for a new world.

Rev. Martin Luther King, ‘Beyond Vietnam’ A Time to Break Silence

‘In the end only kindness matters’


If I could tell the world just one thing

It would be that we're all OK

And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful

And useless in times like these

I won't be made useless

I won't be idle with despair

I will gather myself around my faith

For light does the darkness most fear

My hands are small, I know

But they're not yours, they are my own

But they're not yours, they are my own

And I am never broken

Poverty stole your golden shoes

It didn't steal your laughter

And heartache came to visit me

But I knew it wasn't ever after

We'll fight, not out of spite

For someone must stand up for what's right

'Cause where there's a man who has no voice

There ours shall go singing

My hands are small I know

But they're not yours, they are my own

But they're not yours, they are my own

I am never broken

In the end only kindness matters

In the end only kindness matters

I will get down on my knees, and I will pray

I will get down on my knees, and I will pray

I will get down on my knees, and I will pray

My hands are small I know

But they're not yours, they are my own

But they're not yours, they are my own

And I am never broken

My hands are small I know

But they're not yours, they are my own

But they're not yours, they are my own

And I am never broken

We are never broken

We are God's eyes

God's hands

God's mind

We are God's eyes

God's hands

God's heart

We are God's eyes

God's hands

God's eyes

We are God's hands

We are God's hands

Jewel, Hands-

We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
Albert Einstein
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life flow no longer into our souls.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton

God of our present and our past,

Help us to remember how you have empowered people

to work for positive change in our world.

Grant us courage and a vision of the future

to affirm and defend the right to wholeness for all people.


Reflections on the readings

Mark presents Jesus beginning his public life with a significant event. He, and his first followers, go to a synagogue and join the reflections on the scriptures being read that day. Those present note that he does not wander or ‘bull on’ about possible understandings or interpretations, but speaks clearly, decisively and boldly ‘with authority.’ He is seen as speaking with authority because he is authentic. To emphasise this, he acts with boldness when he performs an exorcism where the unclean spirit or demon who recognises Jesus as ‘the Holy One of God.’ One of the most prophetic acts of Pope Francis to inaugurate his emphasis on ‘mercy’ was to go to Lampedusa in defiance of politics and opinions to show where he stood with people who were lost, hurting, unsafe and unwanted. Francis’ fast paced journey reflected Mark’s fast-paced journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem. It will be no easy walk. For the follower of Jesus, this journey takes us through the heart of the world – through places of death, suffering, pain, corruption and destruction. But any discipleship that ONLY takes us through safe places where there are warm homes and happy meals should be suspect.

Jesus ministry, and our discipleship, is always about putting flesh on words. Religion can be complicated when those who participate in it complicate it when they bring with them their own needs for personal status or proof of piety and their prejudices and worry about religious minutiae. However, in the synagogue, the people heard a new voice that spoke clearly, plainly, directly, understandably, and ‘with authority.’

We hear the saying: be careful for what you pray for because it may come to you. In the first reading, the people get what they asked for, ‘a prophet…from among their own people…… who will speak to them everything that I command.’ They wanted God to speak through one of their own.  God’s mission has always been carried out through people - ordinary people like farmers, shepherds, children, women who were tapped on the shoulder to serve as prophets and confront ‘idolatry’. Idolatry is to look for love and security where there is none. When people struggled to appreciate God’s love, it was then incarnated in Jesus, in order to relate to us in an ever more personal way. To find other means of love is form of idolatry. It is no so much about statues or images or artefacts that fill our lives. More often idolatries are the ways our lives coalesce, imperceptibly, around the ‘invisible unholy.’ Idolatry’s normalcy becomes a comfort and is taken for granted. We get so used to violence in the Middle East and rationalise it, the violence of 50, 000 street children in Kabul at the moment, the violence where 100’s of 1000’s of people are looking for a safe place to be and to live and be welcomed, the violence that causes the  wailing of mothers seeing their children die in theirs arms because of hunger, or because their homes have been destroyed by weapons we sell, or the killings of black people or people who may drug addicted by police. We can easily justify this status quo!!!

Be careful what you pray for because prophets are inconvenient reminders of our everyday idolatries and how they have hardened us in the structures of death. ‘God will raise up a prophet like me from among your own people,’ says Moses. In the face of the realities the people faced, God would send one like Moses who would point to God’s calling, and callings, every day. This prophet will not be a stranger with a new perspective or expertise that does not already reside within the community. The fact that this prophet comes from among the people will make her/his words more difficult to listen to because she/he is one who is familiar and thus easy to ignore. This familiarity means that her/his words will cut deep. The prophet sees how we relate and who we connect with, who we sit with. Do we want to know? The prophet sees who has to do the heavy lifting while others have their fill and deepen the inequality among people. Do we want to know? As one called from within a people, the prophet will speak to us of idolatry – not in terms of belief and worship but the realities of relationships with our neighbours and the strangers and the estranged among us. It would be easy to resist and dismiss the prophet as being crazy, too emotional or too radical. Do we want to know? It happens all the time when it comes to those who warn about world poverty, the use of violence over active nonviolence, homelessness, ignoring the stranger, prejudice against people from different faiths, ethnic background or sexual orientation. Do we want to know? Will we refer to them as too crazy or too radical because their words cut deep or will we listen to their words as they display the courage and risk to lead others to a place that reflects the inclusiveness of God’s reign?

But we are called to be God’s prophets and messengers and speak the ‘truth’ about our everyday realities. Jesus chose ordinary people from various backgrounds to share his mission – to speak and incarnate God’s love. This is our baptismal calling. The words attributed to St Francis demonstrate what God has done in Jesus, does in Jesus and what we are called to do: preach always and if necessary use words. As today’s gospel reveals, the most effective way to proclaim God’s word is through action. It may be through presence, sharing of stories, sharing of suffering, and practice of hospitality. This is the ‘speaking with authority’ that so astonished the people in the gospel. This was something that I think was missed by many in the churches with same-sex marriage debate and plebiscite where some tended to abstractions rather than seeing, as did Jesus, that the people we are called to be with are flesh and blood.

Words can produce avoidance as much as understanding. They can dazzle with ‘knowledge’ that ‘puffs-up,’ as Paul knew well. They can seem impressive even necessary– for a while. But then comes an authentic voice, gesture, act from a person who speaks as one ‘with authority,’ leveling prior questions and controversies. Religious people can, unlike Jesus, be prone to words and abstractions which seem urgent and important but as Paul, in response to many religious controversies, called people back to the gospel, not just by another religious argument, but a transforming experience that is available to all people, whoever they are. This is the consistent theme of the scriptures and provides the only necessary criterion for distinguishing between ‘true’ and ‘false’ religious interpreters. Healing is the result of the authentic interpretation. ‘God-talk’ can distract us from reality and human engagement: they hurt rather than to heal; they divide rather than unite; they instill hatred rather than love; they deceive rather than enlighten; the tear down rather than build up. This is the babble the gospel confronts today. Jesus’ direct ‘Shut up!’ needs to be repeated by those who can see through the babble.

So when the people asked for a prophet, what did they hope for? One who would confirm them in their prejudices and comfortable lifestyle? Or, or one who would move them towards a ‘new way’ of living and being? One who speak the word of corporate and political figures or who would speak God’s word?

Last week the USA commemorated the birth of Martin Luther King. In 1973, a university professor recalled how Martin Luther King’s appearance at a rally a decade before captured the attention of every listener. Men and women, young and old, poorly and richly dressed, black and white (as well as the other colours people are labelled with) sat or stood while they pressed against their neighbours as they listened. This professor was amazed that all seemed to be listening. Their attention had been captured as he spoke with authority as his words - his truths, hopes, dreams, metaphors, stories, confessions, criticisms, and challenges – touched his hearers.

Jesus’ encounter with the people left them astonished. They are a healing and liberating force. For Mark, healings and exorcisms raise the broader question of social oppression. The political impact was to seek the root cause of marginalisation of people. We see here a story of power displacement. The people had been listening to old news, spoken without authority. Is this still not the experience of many in the church? Jesus does not trot out  what he has heard from others but speaks  with authority from within himself - freely and fearlessly proclaiming a loving God - not an oppressor God; a friendly presence who invites us to live creatively – not a menacing and controlling God as promoted by the religious leaders.  

There is a power play operative in the gospel. We are called to take sides in a conflict – one between those who speaks of love, compassion, equity, peace and nonviolence; and those who promote fear, judgementalism, hatred, deception division and violence. Jesus has displaced the religious leaders from their accustomed power over the people and puts a lie to the view among those appointed to leadership that their status, position and power gave them authority and the right to impose their will on ordinary people. Genuine authority inspires and encourages. It authors in people a sense of their own agency, their capacity and power to be part of a world that could be changed.

Deuteronomy and Mark raise the raise the question ‘who speaks for God’? and ‘how do we know that God is speaking’?  Intuitively, we know when God is speaking if justice, creativity and beauty are being promoted; if the common good is sought; if diverse opinions and lifestyles are respected; if creativity, adventure and compassion is unleashed in people; if it enables people to be big-hearted; if inclusiveness, hospitality and interdependence are promoted. Who is central in God’s reign? Now we need also ask, ‘who will speak for God?’

We have seen even in very recent times how people in authority – political, religious, and cultural - have been displaced from their positions because they have been silent, abusive, neglectful and disrespectful whilst attending to their own status. Their words and actions were empty of God’s loving presence. We have seen and know of people who are more concerned with being ‘good’, not making mistakes, not rocking the boat, but do not take the risk of following of Jesus. Israel had many prophets, as does the church and society. God speaks through them. Many were and still are killed or tortured. They are still imprisoned or killed in Egypt, Israel, Latin America, various countries in Africa, Russia, Sri Lanka, China, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Indonesia, France, and the USA in order to silence them. That silence (in particular by Australia) continues as the people of West Papua continue to suffer oppression (torture, killings, dispossession, and environmental degradation) at the hands of the Indonesian military. That silence continues as Rohingya people are killed or forced out of Myanmar. That silence is observed as Israel continues to kill children and others or imprisons children who challenge the occupation. Israel, as today, had a reputation for persecuting its prophets and listening to false prophets. It continues to silence Israeli peace activists and human rights activists who oppose the cruel treatment of Palestinians. The false prophets are like the ‘babblers’ – the ’evil spirits’ – who lull the people into complacency, who instill fear and hate; who try to tell them that injustice is necessary at times to protect ourselves as we still do with refugees; who tell us that we have to go to war to make peace; who tell us that certain groups of people are scapegoated in order deflect us from other problems; who tell us we are not racist so that we do not have to confront our past treatment of Indigenous people. . These are the competing voices that want us to accept a status quo that leaves us passive: to accept as normal domestic violence that kills and maims many women and some men; to accept as normal the abuse of children; to accept as normal the inequality of women in church and broader society; to accept as normal the ongoing oppression of the people of Papua and destruction of homes and killing of children and innocent people in Palestine; to accept as normal the wailing of Afghan or Yemeni faces covered in the rubble and dust of missiles cowardly fired from drones. London, Washington, Canberra, and Paris continue the ongoing babble. Our Department of Immigration continues this babble when it justifies the interminable detention of people seeking asylum in the name of saving lives from risky journeys, stopping people smugglers and national security. Such words and actions are diversionary tactics. They cripple, disable and enslave. But, those who challenge this are seen as crazy, radical, emotional and unhinged.

The true leader, like Jesus, invites us to ‘come and see’ the places and people where God is truly present and active; where people struggle to be faithful in their relationships and engagements. Jesus spoke with ‘authority’. It was liberating. It was forgiving. It was inclusive. He did not say nice things or intimidate but declared that God’s Reign is about healing and transformation. As indicated already, many contemporary voices - ‘evil spirits’ - compete with Jesus’ message of a big-hearted God of compassion as opposed the small-hearted God of religious dogmatism, retribution, and legalism.

Jesus comes among us and invites us to recognise the authority we have - and accept it. If we do not speak with the authority of Jesus to decry sin, injustice and inhumanity, who will? If our voices will not insist on the truth when so many lies abound, whose will? We can do this in our own homes, workplaces, in our streets, in our letter-writing and phone calls to politicians and religious leaders. Let us not only imagine a different world but also live towards bringing it about. Jesus drew people to a loving God, not to blind submission to the Law. We can do that as well and stir up love for life, to live out of goodness and kindness, forgiveness and a love that excludes nobody. This is itself healing.

David Hayward The Naked Pastor January 21, 2018

4th sunday