One thing you know already - that clergy are not normal people. They don’t eat normal food, think normal thoughts, do normal things. That’s why I am a failure as a clergyperson - our home subscribes to the Ezibuy catalogue. In fact, in the days when I did my parish visiting, I discovered that more homes in Palmerston North read the Ezibuy catalogue than read the Bible. But don’t hold that against the people of St Andrews. I think it is just as likely to be true for St Peters. And why not? We in Palmerston North must honour our icon; after all it may not be long before some Australian private equity firm takes control and Ezibuy is packed off to Woollongong or Murumbidgee. Then, of course, the Ezibuy catalogue is very religious. There’s a miracle on every page. I say, as I turn the pages, how magnificent these clothes are, but when you go and look at the real thing you’d be lucky if they fitted a convoluted dwarf. Still, if I were to be fundraiser for St Peters I’d get Ezibuy to put on a fashion parade for us - we’d have the whole of Palmerston North clamouring to come in. They provide the fashion show and we provide the venue and a singing commercial. Garth will write the music, and I humbly offer the following words:
When you want to zoomify, zoomify, zoomify
You must go to Ezibuy, Ezibuy, Ezibuy!
Now, if you are as mystified as much by this as by the book of Revelation, I should explain. This enclosure informed me that the online Ezibuy catalogue has full colour images and a zoomify feature to allow you a close up look at your selected item, so close you can even see the fabric weave. How about that? The wonder of being able to zoomify, get up close and look at the texture.
Let’s all zoomify, zoomify, zoomify
And we’ll go to Ezibuy, Ezibuy.
My mother, before the age of computers, did it differently. She’d look at sheets or fabrics and she’d rub the cloth between her fingers to feel the texture. That was her way of zoomifying. And if you ever meet me in Arthur Toye’s or Spotlight, I’ll be doing it too. I can’t stop myself feeling the texture, doing my bit to zoomify.
That’s what people do, they feel the texture, they rub things between the fingers, they zoomify. We’ve been doing it over the way the power was cut off from the house where the woman depended on her oxygen machine. The texture seems wrong when we rub it through the fingers of our mind and zoomify with our conscience. This is 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade by William Wilberforce and others - and they zoomified on slavery and found it wrong. [And it’s exactly what Elijah did when Ahab and Jezebel put their heads together and connived at getting rid of Naboth so they could take his ancestral land, land he held in trust for the future and for his family, simply because it would make a convenient vegetable garden.]
What does God do all day? God’s name, Yahweh, explains all. At the burning bush when Moses faces the divine presence the name Yahweh lies on the table before them, and they both look at it hard and long. Moses realises that God’s name is a description; it comes from the verb to be. The Bible translates it as I am who I am, or I will be what I will be. In contemporary language it means, I’m going to be what I want to be, and I’m going to do what I want to do. In other words God is a God of action and activity. God makes things. God makes beauty and truth and trust and love and sacrifice and mercy. God makes a world where we may grow and become strong and understand the depths of being alive. God does things - and among all the things God does, God goes about fingering the texture of our human relationships. Long before Ezibuy thought of it, God had the capacity to zoomify - to see and know if what we did to each other was honest, true, fair, just, righteous. [The story of Naboth’s vineyard is a classic, famous and known in every generation because it exposes the selfishness and greed, the abuse of power that is as widespread in our time as it was in Elijah’s. And this is a classic story because it has a sting in its tail - if God is going to zoomify on Ahab and Jezebel, will not God also feel the texture of our own relationships?]
[And if God zoomifies on the relationships that we humans have with each other,] the relationships we have in the church are not excluded from his activity. This is what the gospel is about. They are having a meal together, people on the family of God. Simon is the Pharisee who invites Jesus but doesn’t look after him; an unidentified woman is the one who actually cares for Jesus and demonstrates that he matters. Simon excludes Jesus; the woman includes him. This, like so many of the gospel stories, is a story of inclusion. You see, to be included in the family of God you have to include others. That’s the texture of relationships in the church. Jesus said that she had shown great love: therefore her sins which were many have been forgiven. To be included in the family of God you have to include others. How can you have fellowship at the table of the Lord if you deny others the right to be there? God fingers the texture of our relationships in the church to feel that inclusiveness. Earlier this year the worldwide Anglican Communion held a meeting of Primates to see if bridges could be built between the American bishops who accept the ministry of gay men and women, and certain African bishops who are strongly opposed. As the Consultation came to an end they shared in the Eucharist together; five African bishops stayed away. Some might say it could have been worse, but in the light of the gospel it is sad. Forgiving, including people in, is costly and often painful. But unless we include others how can we be included? I have seen the beautiful altar covering prepared for Christchurch Cathedral to use at Pentecost - which was rejected by some in that Diocese. On it are the words and prayers of many tongues that get caught up by the Spirit at Pentecost in one voice and one word.: Lord, have mercy! Unto you, O Lord, is the power and the greatness and the glory. When our neighbour prays that, or washes the feet of Jesus, shall we say, Go away? God’s fingers still feel the texture of our relationships in the church.
It’s only another small step to recognise that God’s fingers feel the texture of our relationship with him. Galatians is one of the earliest letters of Paul and in it his passionate Christianity gets to the stage where it is right in your face. Galatians is blunt. Paul is adamant we are justified by faith and not by law. What gives the aggressive, full in your face tone to Galatians is another example of inclusion and exclusion. Paul’s great vision is that Jesus is given to the world, that is to gentiles as well as Jews. He makes this point to the apostles in Jerusalem and demonstrates it with gentile Christians. He carries the day and Peter and others accept the place of Gentiles in the church, and they start to include Gentiles at their table fellowship or Eucharist. But one day in Antioch some came from Jerusalem who told Peter he was doing it wrong, whereupon Peter separated himself from the Gentile Christians. That made Paul mad; he calls Peter a hypocrite, and he burst out into the words of our reading: we are saved by faith and not by the works of the law. In other words our relationship with God is not a formal one based on background, tradition, habit, custom, expediency. It is based on faith, which means it has a personal element to it. It is not getting our relationship with God right that matters, so that we pass with an A; it’s in getting our relationship personal so that we reach out simply from our own heart with longing and hope like the woman in the gospel who so gently and tenderly bathed the feet of Jesus. Out of the depths we cry unto you. Lord have mercy! Unto you, O Lord is the power and the greatness and the glory.
No, not despairingly come I to Thee; No, not distrustingly bend I the knee. Sin has gone over me, Yet is this still my plea: Jesus has died. The texture God feels for in our relationship with him is faith.
It’s very likely that God also gets the Ezibuy catalogue, I expect there are clothes in heaven for we would hardly be naked there. But whether God does or not you can be certain that God zoomifies, feeling every texture of our lives for integrity with each other, inclusiveness within the church, and faith with him.