March 17, 2013, Cochin, India
17.03.2013 - 17.03.2013
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Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
on March 17, 2013, the Fifth Sunday in Lent
on the Silver Whisper in Cochin, India
It would be hard to take a trip like the one we have been on without recognizing that human beings have all sorts of differences. We vary in size, skin color, facial characteristics, dress, diet, customs, ways of organizing our society and our government. We also have different religions that express our understanding of who God is, what is the meaning and purpose of our lives, what is important and where we are bound.
It would also be hard to deny that we human beings often have great difficulty living with our differences. Indeed we often let our differences be the cause of division. We erect barriers to keep the stranger out. We look down our noses at those we think are not our kind. We let politics polarize us into liberals and conservatives, red state and blue states. We fight wars over which religion is right and which is wrong and fight crusades and jihads in the name of God. And even within religions like Christianity, we have a long history of dividing ourselves into the orthodox and the heretical, not only splintering the Church, the Body of Christ, into countless sects, but justifying the hatred and cruelty of inquisitions and persecutions.
There are no easy solutions to the problem of learning to live creatively with our differences rather than letting differences lead to division. But what is clear is that while division is human, God is always about the business of breaking down division to bring about reconciliation, peace, and unity.
The people to whom St. Paul addressed the letter to the Ephesians that we heard tonight were no strangers to division. They represented one of the great divisions of the ancient world: the one between Jews and Gentiles. God, says Paul, has overcome this division in Christ who came to proclaim peace to Jews and Gentiles alike.
A large wallpainting at Colombo’s Anglican cathedral captures perfectly the meaning of St. Paul’s words. The painting depicts the familiar Gospel of Christ’s miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, the turning of the water into wine. All the familiar characters are there - the bride and groom, the guests, and in the background the nervous servants aghast that the wine has run out, and Jesus giving his instruction to fill the wine jugs with water and pour it out for the guests. We also see the servants bringing the water made wine to the guests, all delighting that the good wine has been saved to the last.
It was our Sri Lankan guide, a Buddhist, who pointed out something we did not see. “Look,” he said, “the people in the painting are all different. Some are Tamils, some Singhalese, some are Hindus, some Buddhists, some are even Muslims.” We would never have been able to see the differences so familiar to Dominic. But then we did notice another change. In all the other pictures I’ve ever seen of the miracle at Cana, the servants are men. But in Colombo version, the servants and the wine steward are all women.
At this Cathedral, appropriately called the Cathedral of the Living Christ, the story on the wall is more than a tale of Jesus rescuing a wedding reception from running out of wine. The story is made into a modern miracle of Christ’s presence enabling men and women to transcend the boundaries of race, ethnicity, culture, and gender to become a new community drinking the good wine of reconciliation, peace and unity.
I think we do that by opening our minds and hearts to new ways of seeing and new ways of being - by refusing to stereotype folks, by listening to people with political opinions that are not ours, by seeking to understand and not to judge, by giving thanks for differences because they enrich us.
The Jews have a prayer to be said upon seeing the unusual. “Blessed art thou, Lord God, King of the Universe,” they say “for showing us strange things that teach us that you have created more than we know or imagine.” May this be our prayer as we continue on this journey together and as we continue on the journey of all our lives.