A reflection for the 5th September 2021
Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 2021
from the Revd. Stephen French

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Offered for Sunday 5th September 2021


or from Bishop Donald (Peterborough)
Sermon 29th August - Trinity 13 Mark 7. 1-23


Stephen Donald>

Reflections Script

from Stephen

'Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 2021'

Compiled 4th September 2021


It became fashionable in Christian circles, some years ago,
to wear a plastic bracelet with the initials "W.W.J.D." printed on them.
The letters stood for "What Would Jesus Do?" Offering the wearer an
opportunity, in any circumstance, to consider their actions in the light
of that question. This was a popular and well meaning question;
prompting Christians to think of Jesus when engaging with any sort of
ethical dilemma; but it had obvious limitations.
The most honest answer to the question
"What would Jesus do?" is "We really don't know."
Jesus had a capacity for shocking his followers and onlookers, and for
doing and saying what was unexpected. In addition, the situations
in which we find ourselves in the 21stCentury bear very scant resemblance
to those in which we see Jesus in the scriptures; so we have little
to guide us. The basic idea behind asking "W.W.J.D." is a good one,
but the carrying out of it is trickier.



Let us Pray


Lord, make the doorways of our homes,
wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship;
narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife.
Make our thresholds smooth enough not to be a stumbling block
to children, or a barrier to the elderly and disabled.
Let our doors be rugged and strong to turn back
the tempter's power, but open and inviting to those
who are your guests:
God, make our homes the doorway to your eternal Kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.



Address


It was Mahatma Gandhi who said; "the greatness of a nation
and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated".
Working with Gandhi's thoughts, how those with power treat those
over whom they have power is also a good indicator of the moral state
of any nation or culture.

We can extend this to our own time and look at how nations,
including our own, treat those who are powerless.
Sometimes it can be hard to hear their voices above those of those
who shout the loudest for their own causes, and who fight hardest
for their own rights. Gandhi had a way of listening to and speaking up
for those with faint voices.

Civil rights campaigners like Martin Luther King Jr. likewise?
spoke for those who went unheard.
In our day, we have environmentalist pressure groups who speak for
the natural world, homeless charities speaking up for those
with no home, and refugee organisations to represent and support
those who have arrived in our midst fleeing injustice or war.

It often seems to take a long time of hard campaigning for the
rest of us to notice, to care and to act for those who are powerless.
Perhaps our society, our nation, can rightly be judged to be
morally weak for its reluctance to listen and take action.

Jesus' action with the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7: 24 to 37 and
her sick child points to God's deep involvement with those
who aren't heard. The mother is female, foreign, of another religion
and needy.
Even Jesus seemingly tries to put her off at first, with the dismissive
image of "dogs". No doubt, as a woman of her time, she doesn't expect
much help from a man to whom she is not related, but her desperation
drives her on.

She responds to his reference to dogs with humour, softening it
by referring to pet dogs living in the house. Humour has helped her
to be heard, and Jesus tells her that her daughter is freed from
what binds her.

So too the man who has no voice and can't hear anyone else's voice
is brought to Jesus, who hears his need and restores him to the
community of those whose voices are heard.

The reading from Mark ends with people crying out loudly;
"he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak".
Those things are signs the kingdom of God is present.

One of the Old Testament readings for today is from Isaiah 35
which paints a vivid image of the kingdom:
"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the
deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue
of the speechless sing for joy."

When these things are part of our experience, then we know the
kingdom of God has come among us.
Being a nation, a community, that pays close attention to how those
who are powerless are treated is deep seated in today's reading f
rom the epistle of James.

They are words that can be applied to any church.
How do our churches, our worshipping communities, treat those who
are less powerful, less knowledgeable, or less well off?
How are old people, disabled people, the noisy young, the ones with
dementia or a different way of life, or no money, or no clean clothes,
greeted and included? Our faith in the God who hears the need of
those who are voiceless is shown by how we act, how we include everyone,
how we learn from everyone.

Proverbs 22 teases us further by saying; "Those who are generous
are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor."
That is, the blessing comes from eating together with those who
have little. Those who are poor are the source of the blessing.

It's not our generosity that blesses us, but connecting with those
who know their need of God because there is no one else on whom they?
can rely. That turns the whole thing upside down.

So to return to Gandhi the greatness of a nation or community
can be judged by how it treats its powerless ones, and that
blessing for all creation; human, animal, land; is to be found
among the powerless ones, where God the Father,
God the Son and Spirit is.



To Summarise

Gandhi implies it's in its treatment of those
who are powerless a nation or community can be judged.
Jesus pays close attention to the Syrophoenician woman and
the mute man, even though they would remain unheard
in their communities
Proverbs and the epistle of James call us to cross divides
to find blessing.
The kingdom of God is in our midst when those who are usually
voiceless are heard, greeted and included.



Our Blessing


May the God of love give us the courage to
cross boundaries
And the confidence to step out in faith.
And may the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you and all whom you meet
now and always. Amen.


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