Advent II Prepare ye the way of the Lord
HOMILY – SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2018
Fr Hugh Kempster “One Brick at a Time” Luke 3:1-6
Three years ago we had a vision as a church community: to build the Corner Plaza and put a social enterprise coffee cart on it. Ever since then we have been working it out, one brick at a time. Preliminary plans were circulated. Consultations took place. Money was raised. Our church committees adopted the idea: the Parish Council, the Charitable Foundation. A new committee was formed, the Social Enterprise Committee, a sub-committee of the Foundation, which last year at the request of the Foundation became a self-standing Incorporated Association: St Peter’s Eastern Hill Social Enterprise Inc. Money was raised.
In 2015, on the last Sunday of our Parish Mission, the Rt Rev’d Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford in England, launched our pilot of the Coffee Cart that will soon sit on the Corner Plaza. Adolf Mora was then, and still is today, our Head Barista. At the moment he has a day job on Sundays, but we rent his coffee machine from him, and Ree and her team of volunteers have learnt how to make coffee. Adolf intends to come and work for us as soon as we finish the Corner Plaza and commence 5 day trading. One brick at a time.
Adolf’s story itself is an inspiring one; it is captured in a 2016 article in the Australian. It too is a story of a vision being worked out, one brick at a time:
Under cover of darkness, 43 West Papuan asylum-seekers clambered aboard a dugout canoe at midnight. The cue to flee Indonesian persecution in the province of West Papua in January 2006 was urgent. They had been subjected to brutal repression at the hands of the Indonesian regime. Reports of government-sanctioned murders, political assassinations, imprisonment and torture were common ….
[They set off on a] perilous four-day crossing that nearly cost them their lives and provoked a diplomatic crisis between Jakarta and Canberra. Lost in stormy seas, they exhausted food and water supplies, despairing as they prayed for deliverance. On January 17, to their resounding relief, they spotted land but worried that they had inadvertently strayed back to Indonesian territory.
“We would have been killed,’’ says Adolf Mora … owner of a small business and an engineering and business student at RMIT. As it transpired, they were drifting off Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, oblivious to the fact that their arrival presaged a rift with Indonesia over concern that Australia was tacitly supporting Papuan independence.
While trying to guess their location, the 43 noticed tell-tale crocodile warnings and signs depicting Australia’s unofficial emblems: emus and kangaroos. It was a moment of sublime joy. ‘‘We were in Australia! We were so excited,’’ says Marike Tebay, 28, from Papua’s central highlands. Huddled beneath a tree on the beach, Tebay was so ravenous she ate the ants crawling beside her. The eerie calm was short-lived: media soon hovered in helicopters, the navy and Australian Federal Police arrived. “They pointed a gun at us. I was petrified,’’ she says.
For three months they were on Christmas Island as Australian Immigration officials deemed their claims genuine, granting them temporary protection visas. Now most … call Australia home but would prefer to live in their homeland, if it gains independence … “I’m living in exile. We’re still struggling for West Papua’s freedom,” says Mora. Echoing an overarching sentiment of the group, he aims to impart the skills learned in Australia and democratise the remote far-eastern island.
Not told in the Australian is that, on arrival in Melbourne, Adolf started working at Brunetti’s, washing dishes. He was a hard worker, and was given a go at making coffee. Pretty soon he was pulling 200 coffees a day, and then in 2015 he decided to buy his own coffee machine. He met the enthusiastic Vicar of St Peter’s that year, and the rest, as they say, is history. One brick at a time.
In today’s gospel we hear one of the foundational stories of our Christian tradition, what is now our Advent story; the story of John the Baptist:
… the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
John’s calling was to prepare the way, to begin to build the road of Christian salvation, one brick at a time. It was not an easy job, or an easy road. Blood was spilled. Heads did roll. Not everyone wanted a road to be built. Some were jealous. Others were furious that he dared to think differently, and build a new road that they deemed was undermining the good old road! But one brick at a time, John preached, he baptised, he loved, he reprimanded sinners and called them to repentance; and the way was indeed prepared.
I have to confess I have stolen the catch-phrase of my sermon today from the Rev’d Dr Janet H. Hunt’s blog: “One Brick at a Time: Preparing the Way of the Lord.” One of her readers wrote a splendid response to Janet’s blog, that I’d like to end with:
I confess my frustration with those who don’t see the “long march” that life involves - who look at “cheap mission” - and take on cheap grace … we [all] hold certain opinions and even defend them - and think we’ve made a difference. [But it is] brick by brick [that we] build our lives [the Way of the Lord] - and only [in this way] do we address our real concerns. John calls us to a new mind - not a quick flick of the wrist.
Close with a repeat of the opening Taizé chant.