Proverbs 31:10-31 and Psalm 1 OR Wisdom 1:16-2:1, 12-22 or Jeremiah 11:18-20 and Psalm 54; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37
COLLECTFor the Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time ....
Blessed be your name, O Lord our God, in heaven and on earth. Blessed be the wisdom you wish to impart and to entrust to us. We have so many expectations that grow out of our desires and passions which we allow to reign in our hearts unchecked. We get off balance by our emphasis on material things. We get prideful and forget that we are called to serve. Help us to long for and cultivate the virtues that would invite wisdom from above to dwell with us. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
THOUGHTSEngraved inside our wedding bands, Richard's and mine, are the Hebrew letters for the Jewish word and wedding toast, L'Chaim! - To Life! It is a reminder to us of the choice we have each day to choose life - to choose life in our marriage relationship and to choose life in every other aspect of our lives. This simple reminder has been a bountiful blessing to us over the years. It HAS reminded us. It is something precious that we share with each other and it has been a gift to share with other couples. It has allowed us to talk about our faith in an interesting way. As we have sought to choose life we have learned to be gentle, peaceable, kind, merciful, forgiving and the list goes on. Forever and a day our God calls us to choose. I pray that you and yours will choose life.
It is my contention and has been my observation over my lifetime that the woman, the mother, the "good wife" is the heart of the home. When it came time to pick out the scriptures for my mother's funeral, we chose Proverbs 31:10-31. It was my privilege to read them in tribute to my mother. For us, her children and her spouse of 48 years, these words spoke a little about who this woman was to us. She was the essence of what we considered our family to be. She was the centre, the heart of our home. In a way, despite her absence from us, she still is. One of the images my father holds of my mother was that of her 'little hands.' She had tiny hands. With them, she cooked and sowed and gardened and patted and touched and held. To this day, my father rises up and calls her blessed.
My mother, however, was not perfect. She was a real woman who struggled with all the changes and challenges her life threw at her. Sometimes she goofed. The Proverbs passage, as much as some see in it an impossible ideal, is not about perfection either. It is about an attitude, about a choice. The woman of this passage made a choice. She chose to take up the role her society called for her to perform and to follow where it led her in all godliness and righteousness and that she did. The woman of Proverbs 31 demonstrates a competence that flows out of her attitude towards life, an exuberance and a practicality that says, 'this must get done' and goes ahead and sees that it is done. It has been my privilege to have known several Proverbs 31 women in my life: Myrtle, Elizabeth, Mary, Alma, Mabel, Anita, Helen, Jean ....
Psalm 1 is illustrative of the choices, the two ways, which lie before us in our life's journey. Reminiscent of the exhortation to "Choose life!" in Deuteronomy 30:11-20, the "way of life and the way of death" in Jeremiah 21:8 and the "choose this day whom you will serve" of Joshua 24:15, Psalm 1 presents us with the two ways, the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. It is, in its own way, a creedal statement, a statement of belief. Those who make up their minds to follow God and God's righteous ways choose life. They make solid their choice by delighting in studying and meditating on the Law. Like trees planted by the streams, they drink deeply of the refreshing waters of life and will not be caught short in times of difficulty. Their way of life yields good fruit in season.
Not so those who make "death" their choice, who sow the seeds of wickedness.
Wisdom 1:16-2:1, 12-22
This section of the Wisdom of Solomon is a 'speech' of the wicked, who, by their evil words and deeds, invite death. Their opening words reveal the scoffing pessimism that underlies their hedonism. It is a hedonism that is nihilistic. It denies life. Certainly it denies life for the weak and the poor. 'Might is right. Weakness is useless.' (See verses 2:2-11.) One can see in these intervening verses the basis for mistrusting the righteous person, for despising the holy one. Whatever there is of a conscience in these wicked stands accused by a moral life. The thriving wickedness is threatened quietly by the life lived as a testimony to God and God's righteousness.
"He is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions." His life is an unspoken reproach. In this Wisdom passage are echoes of the Suffering Servant found in Isaiah. (See Ordinary 24 - Year B - "Walking In The Presence".) Where in our world today do you see examples of the Wicked and the Righteous? When has your living witness made others uncomfortable?
Jeremiah the Prophet's own personal plight echoes the plight of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:11. The sense of his own self-proclaimed innocence is heightened by the line: "like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter." Despite the harshness of his persecution and the nastiness of betrayal, and in the face of possible destruction, Jeremiah clings to his commitment to God. God knows him. God will take care of him.
Psalm 54 is a confession of confidence in God. "Surely God is my helper, saviour, vindicator.... I will praise and thank him." In a parallelism, the psalmist speaks of two ways that God uses: His name (God's divine character) and His might (manifest power and greatness). In gratitude, the writer of the psalm, delivered from his troubles, will give an "over and above" offering to the upholder of his life. Perhaps one of the most important 'unspoken' messages here is that, in the face of adversity, resort to prayer. The dialogue, the communication, the conversation, with God will carry you through.
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
The Book of James, more and more, appears to me to be the 'wisdom' book of the New Testament. There are passages in other NT books that relate to wisdom but James seems to have it all.
The "who is wise?" man of verse 13 harkens back to the teacher in verse 1. One needs wisdom to teach others. One demonstrates wisdom by one's words and deeds and the wisdom that is needed is the wisdom from above, the heavenly wisdom. One might well ask what is heavenly wisdom. James sees it expressed in a "good life," evidenced by "works done with gentleness," and exhibiting order. Verse 17 says it very well: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, full of good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy!
Don't be "false to the truth" says James. Don't be false to the Gospel teaching. Don't be false to the Good news! Act as a person who has heard the Good News and believed it and put it into practice! Be gentle. Seek peace. Act with mercy. Do good. Show your wisdom by your deeds. Move from theory to practice. Remember that righteousness does produce a crop. Sow in peace and in gentleness and remember that peace has to be created - by us!
Don't forget where conflicts come from - the unchecked cravings and the unbridled passions you entertain. You do not have peace because you do not ask. Your prayer life is a mockery. Submit to God in order that you may receive grace. The grace you need to live. Resist the temptations of your passions and they will dissipate. Draw near to God, the God who has been calling you and who has, in Jesus Christ made you a kingdom of priests privileged to approach the Lord (See Exodus 19:22 and Ezekiel 44:4-14), and God will draw nigh to you.
Jesus has moved into a more intense teaching mode with the disciples. In the time remaining he appears to have devoted to a more intense preparation for when he is gone from them - though they don't appear to have understood this. And why should they? Jesus has turned so many things upside down. Just trying to keep pace with him mentally and emotionally must have been both exhilarating and exhausting.
This passage contains the second prediction of Christ's Passion. You are wondering why Jesus is saying it over again and why the disciples were afraid to ask him about this. If you know anything about death and dying and grief and loss work then you will know about the normal reactions to bad news - denial. Jesus talking about his passion and death would have been, in the short-sighted human view of the disciples and ourselves no doubt if we'd been there, bad news! The disciples have an argument on the way to Capernaum. Some commentators speculate that the argument perhaps arises out of the Transfiguration experience a bit earlier (Mark 9:2-8) with Peter, James and John being the privileged few. They suggest that high spiritual experieces can lead to pride. It is as good a guess as any, especially in view of the later request by James and John (Mark 10:35-45). The disciples remain silent when Jesus asks them what they were arguing about. Some think that this was because the disciples are embarrassed. Perhaps. But, given the fact that wealth and position were considered marks of God's favour at the time it is highly likely that Jesus' question left them more embarrassed about arguing than about the topic of their argument.
But Jesus sees in this an opportunity to teach about greatness. Children were a symbol of the 'anawim' - the poor, the lowly of whom Jesus speaks in the Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount - "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:2-12). Jesus talks about the greatness of serving. Then he calls a child to him. His words are about how one should receive, how one should treat "one such child" or one "like this child."
Ordinary ThoughtsComfort food. I'm not sure what that will conjure up for you but for me there are a few things that fit the bill. Recently I added a new dish called Beans and Macaroni. If you're interested in the recipe please write to me with COMFORT RECIPE in the subject line. The other things I like are homemade biscuits and soups, chili over rice, tea and toast and jam. Autumn comes tomorrow - Saturday - and I always begin to think of hearty comfort foods.
May the freshening breezes in the crisp fall air in the northern hemisphere or the gentle rains and noisy nights of a warming spring down under be a blessing to you. And don't forget to look up.
copyright - Charlene E. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
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