Sermon – September 13th 2015
16th Sunday after Pentecost
By Roland Legge
Hebrew Scripture: Proverbs 1:20-33
Epistle: James 3:1-12
Gospel: Mark 8:27-38
What does wisdom mean for you? Today we read about Wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is personified as female energy. Wisdom comes to us through the Spirit within us. Wisdom is about equality. Wisdom is about resolving conflict non-violently. Wisdom calls upon us to listen to our hearts. Wisdom calls upon us to think carefully. Wisdom calls upon us to treat each other as we would treat ourselves. Wisdom is always calling upon us to listen with our wholes selves.
We would all be better off if we would pay more attention to Mother Wisdom. James expresses in his epistle, that same desire, to call upon the Christian Community to live more peacefully with each other. James is calling upon people to be careful what they say. James is calling upon his people to only speak in ways that build up rather than tear down. James new that words can hurt. Words can destroy people, churches, communities, and nations. We too can learn from James because I believe there is just as much negative and destructive behaviour in our churches and communities today as there was in Jesus day.
Jesus had a very strong relationship with Mother Wisdom. Through his deep encounter with the Spirit, throughout his life, he was able to see a path to restoring the world to the way that God had intended. Jesus was trying to explain his mission to his disciples in today’s passage.
This was to be a mission that would transform the world from its ugly ways of violence, manipulation and the abuse of power to one of love, respect and justice for all. Peter couldn’t believe his ears, because he knew that this non-violent path could have Jesus killed and maybe him too. So Peter rebukes him! But Jesus does not give up. He knows that his followers were looking for a great king, like David, who would bring them a great military victory. Jesus new his ways were revolutionary!
Jesus new he was a very different leader that comes from a very different premise of strength through vulnerability. The cross became the symbol of strength through vulnerability. This is still a radical idea for our day. We still think we can solve the world’s problems through our armies. But history shows that wars are far from perfect. They usually don’t resolve the conflict in the long run.
For us Christians the cross has become a very powerful symbol. However, most of us have forgot what the cross was really about. This is a symbol of suffering. Dying on a cross was one of the worst ways to die. It would be extremely painful! Jesus new that in order to reclaim the world for God would require suffering. He knew that the old ways of being that gave power to the few would not change easily. If we are to follow Jesus we must be open to some form of suffering.
Jesus is not saying that God wants us to suffer. But God knows that if we are to transform the hearts of the most greedy and violent people we must be willing to make sacrifices. Some people might say that we must be willing to bear our cross. For some it will be an early death, but for the majority of us it will come through harassment, shaming, abuse, embarrassment, and other forms of demeaning.
No one can force us to bear our cross. Bearing our cross is always a choice. Bearing our cross is about transforming the world. So suffering that comes from parts of our life we cannot control such as domestic abuse is not bearing our cross. Here is one story of women choosing to bear their cross. Bill D Strayhorn shares this story:
Some women who live near Washington D.C. wanted to show God’s love to a special group of people. They heard about a group of babies who were rarely held and destined to live and die in hospitals because they had A.I.D.S. The babies didn’t get much attention, so they began to cry silently. No one had responded to their crying out loud so they stopped doing it. But they still shed tears.
Even though these children would die by their second birthdays, the women took a number of the A.I.D.S. babies’ home. The women would respond to the silent tears by holding and rocking the babies. Soon these unloved, cast-off A.I.D.S. babies began to cry out loud again. They had been spoken to in the only way they could understand. They had been spoken to in the language of love by women willing to deny themselves and take up their cross.
Billy D. Strayhorn Ministry Matters
The Good News is that when we say yes to the cross we don’t have to do this alone.
This is why for me why our faith communities are so important. We need each other to do the work of the Creator. We need to support and encourage each other. We need each other to hold each of us accountable e.g. are we following through on our work. We need each other to ensure that we all take care of ourselves so we have the good health to keep doing this important ministry. We need each other to worship and play so as to keep the spirit alive in each of us.
As James keeps reminding us that faith without good works is useless. So what cross do you choose to bear? How are you trying to make the world a healthier and just place for all of Creation? How are you trying to love those on the fringes who are often ignored or taken advantage of? How are you trying to love your neighbour? How are you working on this with your congregation and community?
This is not to say we should not enjoy life. Jesus loved to have a good time. Remember when he changed water into wine at a wedding. Celebrating life together help us to recharge our batteries. The wonder is that when we are able to experience hopelessness then we can truly appreciate joy.
I invite us all to reflect on why you call yourself a Christian. For you what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? How would you answer James when he asks you how you are living out your faith in the world? What crosses have you chosen to bear? What crosses are you being called to bear in the future?