Monday, September 7, 2015

Preacher’s Study – Year B Proper 19 (24) 2015

Monday Morning in the Preacher’s Study

First thoughts about next Sunday’s sermon
(16th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept. 13, 2015)

Maylanne Maybee, deacon

Living our Baptismal Promise in Word and Action

Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

Today’s readings invite us to ponder the relationship of word and action.  Peter confesses with his lips that Jesus is the Messiah, but cannot accept that the Messiah must suffer and die.  He rebukes Jesus, tries to put him in the place he thinks should be occupied by the Messiah – a place of political leadership where power and domination and even violence are justified.  Jesus will have none of it, and rebukes Peter in turn, just as he did Satan in the wilderness.  Jesus uses their confrontation as a teaching moment for others: “If any want to become my followers, they must take up their cross and follow me.” 

There are all sorts of ways this passage has been interpreted, but I like Reginald Fuller’s suggestion that here “the cross” refers to the sign of the tau (T) or chi (X), the sign of ownership with which cattle were branded, just as we were “branded” as Christ’s own at baptism. The call to be followers of Christ is a solemn reminder that the road to fullness of life may require risking life itself in order to resist the deadly agenda of empire.

The teaching is hard to apply to our daily life as North Americans.  Most of us don’t live in a world where good and evil are in stark contrast, where choices are clear, or where danger to life and limb is imminent. 

Which is why I find the readings from Proverbs, the Psalm and the Epistle of James an important complement to the passage from Mark.  Jesus’ invitation to LIFE may lead to far less dramatic choices than risking bodily death. 

In Proverbs Wisdom is personified as one who stands in the streets and entrances of our cities.  She is there in the midst of daily life to be seen and heard.  Those who are branded as God’s own will open their ears and hearts to the Spirit of Wisdom.

Likewise, Psalm 19 is an invitation to learn “the law of the Lord”, the ways of the heart that make our eyes clear and satisfy our desires more deeply than the shallow enticements of our age.

And the Epistle of James echoes the Wisdom tradition, focusing today on wise speech.   If we are to use our ears to hear and our minds to learn, let us also use our mouths and tongues to teach and speak as ones who are “perfect”, whose faith has been made complete by our actions.  Yet how can we heed the voice of Wisdom in the midst of the barrage of words and propaganda that assault us in our daily exposure to the Internet and other media?  How can we tame our words, not only the ones we speak, but especially those we write and text and blog and email? 

I understand our diakonia to be the way of these daily, ordinary choices – whether we use our voice and words for good or for ill, whether we choose the path of integrity or the lesser path of self interest, whether we strive to align our heart and our mind and our actions with “the fear of the Lord.”

As a preacher today, I would ask how we can become communities of the baptized who choose the way of life, a way that is paradoxically signified by the cross.  How do our small choices in community lead us to become life-giving signs of peace and justice and integrity over and against the death-dealing values of empire that surround us?

Maylanne Maybee, a member of APLM Council, is a deacon serving in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land (Anglican Church of Canada).  She is Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies, a national theological school based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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