Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
13 Sept. 2015 Proper 19 Year B: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
One of these containers holds tap water from the kitchen.
The other has water from our backyard fish pond.
Which should I drink?
The clear one or the amber color?
Our scriptures point us to those murky times in our relationships with God & each other, times that seem to involve contradictions in our behavior, in our choices, contradictions between wise & foolish actions. James asks us: “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh & brackish [salty] water?”
We know it doesn't. We know the truth of what James tells us in our lesson today: the tongue [is] a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord & Father, & with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God...”
Human speech sets us apart from other animals' forms of communication. Yet we know how confusing our communications can be. We hear our human confusion when Peter speaks in our Gospel today: “You are the Messiah.” Almost immediately, when Jesus says life is going to get tough, Peter rebukes Jesus.
Notice the contrast between how Jesus & Peter speak.
When Peter says “You are the Messiah” Jesus orders the disciples not to tell anyone. Jesus needs real followers, who will grow in grace rather than crowds impressed by the wow-factor of miracles that increase Jesus' crowd-appeal.
As Jesus' followers, we must be in this holy relationship for the long-haul, in the hard times as well as in the delightful times.
Jesus “quite openly” tells people life is going to get tough, his popularity is going to go downhill, leaders will reject him, he will be killed & rise after 3 days.
Peter takes Jesus aside for his “parking lot talk” to rebuke Jesus. Jesus rebukes Peter. The word for rebuke, as one Bible commentary says1, is the same word used when Jesus casts out demons.
Notice: Jesus calls Peter Satan. Remember, “Satan means adversary.”2 Faithful Peter suddenly turns into an adversary.
It can be hard to judge by appearances.
Not everything is as clear as it may appear.
[Sip of non-clear water.] The murky looking water is tap water that I treated with tablets that purify dubious water.
We do not always see clearly. Like Peter, we do not always immediately grasp the truth of God's wide love for all people. Last Sunday we addressed one sin that results from our limited understanding: in our special evening worship we confessed the sin of racism.
I received an email about it from a man, who lives in another city. He writes:
“...(A)s a person of color, I admire...your congregation for holding this evening service of
Confession, Repentance, Commitment to End Racism.
I am hopeful when I see the church engage in the work of anti-racism.”
I was surprised by his saying he is a person of color. I had not realized that. I just know him as a fellow Christian, who is dedicated to following Jesus.
His statement has taken me back to my 1st year as a high school teacher – the year integration had worked its way from elementary grades to high school. Periodically, we teachers were required to list our students by race. I had to stop & double check: I simply could not remember who was which race. I could remember students' skills required to succeed in our classes. Their color had no bearing on our learning goals. Having to identify race seemed counter to the goal of treating students without regard to race.
Racism remains an issue. It makes the news: middle eastern extremists, a racist who kills people during Bible study. Names & places change. The cost of our discipleship remains high.
We have to choose whether we will declare with Peter: Jesus is the Messiah, our Lord & Savior. Are we willing to deny self-interest, security & comfort or do we respond like Peter's 2nd statement & make a mess of things? Are we so stuck in human perspective that we forget to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to wisdom, to lead us through our challenges?
Jesus says clearly: “those who lose their life for my sake, & for the sake of the gospel, will save it...what will it profit them to gain the whole world & forfeit their life?”
What does it look like to give our life
for Jesus' sake,
for the sake of the Gospel?
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
1 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. Pp. 994-995.