A reflection for the 26th September 2021
Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity 2021
from the Revd. Stephen French
Offered for Sunday 26th September 2021
or from Bishop Donald (Peterborough)
Sermon 19th September - Trinity 16 Mark 9. 30-37
'Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity 2021'
Compiled 25th September 2021
Back in the early 1970's song writer and vocalist in the group Bread; David Gates;
was told by a family friend, "Your dad was so proud of what you were doing."
In response David wrote the song "Everything I Own"; recorded by Bread in 1972.
The song speaks of a longing to have a loved one back, no matter what the cost.
Perhaps we've lost someone special and have regrets about our relationship with them.
We might long for one chance to say "sorry", "thank you" or a simple "I love you."
Our longing might cause us to say, "I would give everything I own just to
have you back again."
By contrast, the Jewish rabbi and writer Harold Kushner once said,
"No one ever said on their death bed 'I wish I'd spent more time at the office.'"
Sometimes there are moments when we need to rethink our priorities, decide
what's really important to us and reflect on how we want to live whatever time
we have left to us.
In Mark 9: 38 to the end Jesus challenges us to think about how seriously we take
his urgent proclamation that "the kingdom of God has come near".
He asks if we would give everything we own, our lives, our hearts, our homes,
just to be with him in God's eternal kingdom of love.
He invites us to think about what prevents us from living kingdom-centred lives
and to decide what to do about these obstacles.
Let us Pray
Fill us with your love,
so we may gladly speak for you,
work for you,
and live our whole life for you,
not putting obstacles in the way of
your kingdom being revealed,
until all people on earth
join with us in endless praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ambition can draw out the best in us as we are challenged to go beyond our own
assumed boundaries. However, it can also expose less noble tendencies towards
competitiveness and exclusivity.
This is evident in John's question to Jesus.
John seems indignant, someone apart from Jesus' chosen twelve disciples'
is casting out demons in Jesus' name.
Yet Jesus himself is not threatened:
the mans actions express an acknowledgement of 'Christ's Lordship'
at some level, and Jesus will not have the disciples getting in the way.
Jesus uses the opportunity to speak even more directly about the
importance of not putting obstacles across another's journey of faith,
however modest a person may be.
It's a serious matter.
The vivid passion of Jesus' language highlights; issues of spiritual
life and death are at stake.
At first glance, Jesus' words about dealing with sin seem like harsh
orders for self-mutilation. However, in the context of the rest of
his teaching, Jesus is clearly not asking us literally to wield a knife
Rather, we are being commanded to submit to radical spiritual surgery
for the sake of his kingdom.
Our bodies act under the direction of our hearts; the centre of our
personality's intentions and choices. We may use our hands to reach out
in loving welcome to others, or to push people back;
as Jesus implies is the case with the disciples' hostile attitude
towards the man doing miracles in his name.
We can direct our feet to follow where Christ is leading;
or take the opposite direction. We can choose what we look at.
Indeed, it is sometimes said; we will ultimately be shaped by whatever
becomes the focus of our gaze.
The full implications of Jesus' words go wider still.
Hands, feet and eyes are part of God's gift to us of our created bodies.
In themselves they are good, yet they may not always serve our
Christian discipleship means setting aside whatever hinders our
personal growth in Christ, even if it is something good in and of itself;
whether job, ministry, hobby, possession or relationship.
Setting aside good things, especially when we have become attached
to them, can be painful. It may even feel as though a part of us
is being cut away.
Yet Jesus declares such sacrifice is more than worth it.
Our inheritance of eternal life is so rich, we dare not risk losing out
by allowing even God's good gifts to divert us from loyalty to the giver.
The qualities of a mature Christian character, as distinctive and
life-preserving as salt, reach their fullest flavour through being
purified by the fires of testing challenges to our obedience.
Jesus indicates Christian discipleship will always involve personal
cost along the way.?
It can be easy for Christians to pay more attention to maintaining
the status in their particular church;
than having God's inclusive heart for all who seek him.
How willing are we to be generous to those whose honouring of Jesus
may be expressed in ways less familiar to us?
Will we reject or rejoice when we see God at work in those outside
our own circles?
We can redirect our aspirations to be close to Christ from preserving
our position to bringing ourselves under the divine spotlight.
We need to be ready to let go of any aspect of our lives that
threatens to lead us into sin and cloud our relationship with the Saviour.
Even if the thing we are asked to surrender is in itself good,
but has become a spiritual obstacle to us,
we must be prepared to give it to the Lord.
Jesus welcomes all
who are willing to honour his name.
We are to take care not to obstruct
another's faith journey towards Jesus.
Christian discipleship calls for
uncompromising obedience to our Lord.
Even God's good gifts may need to be given up
for the sake of the kingdom.
Such faithfulness is vital to the growth
of a mature Christian character.
May God the Father
give you a clear vision of the kingdom.
May God the Son befriend and guide you
as you seek to live in the kingdom here on earth.
May God the Holy Spirit strengthen and
sustain you and inspire you
to walk in truth and love.
And the blessing of God almighty....