Presence.BapJB.2012

Baptism of Jesus B, 2012
Mark 1: 4-11

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RECOGNISING THE SACRED PRESENCE IN EVERY PERSON

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.

A few years back now a group of computer salesmen went 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?”

oo0oo

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 presentness 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 presentness of the sacred in every person?

For most of us, that can be a bit hard.

oo0oo

Freddy is very drunk.
He sits in the church alone, abusing our loud.
Nobody is there.

People begin to arrive for the evening service.

Freddy becomes more abusive and aggressive
so that it is inappropriate to begin the service.
Freddy has to go.

Things were proceeding fairly well and we are nearing the door
when ‘all hell breaks loose’:
foul language 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 he left the church and I closed the side door behind him.
Now, on with the service.”

Crash.  He has returned and started to kick in the door
of our 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.”

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).

oo0oo

How can we translate that into a daily recognition
of the presentness of the sacred in every person?
To do so means breaking down the facade
that keeps us from seeing the God-given dignity of every person,
and recognising the presentness of the sacred in others -
especially those who are suffering.

“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 has nowhere to stay,
so I’ve given him my room for the night.
“I’ll be right” (Smith 1994).

The presentness of the sacred in every person....

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

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