Who Is Willing to Be a Servant?
Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
20 Sept. 2015 Proper 20 Year B: Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1; James 3:13-4:3,7-8a; Mark 9:30-37
Our scriptures today are the complementary bookend to our scriptures last Sunday: We hear the continuing themes of wisdom & human confusion.
We hear fear of “what if”.
We ask God in our Collect to grant us not to be anxious about earthly things & to love things heavenly while we are among things that are passing away. Some passing away things are nuts & bolts items on our property that require repair. These are the kinds of things that bring Junior Warden Ken to his knees – literally last week to repair the office desk.
The property for which we are responsible [for which we are stewards] demands attention: practical response to damage from nature such as broken tree limbs; ordinary light bulb changing; pro-active change such as upgrading our air system's energy-efficiency, which improves our stewardship of the environment & our finances.
As the Body of Christ that is St. John's, we have practical, specific work to do. We have important work in spiritual growth & maturing, in discerning the direction of our work in ministry here & beyond our red doors. Our work of ministry requires a variety of qualities & skills.
- In Proverbs we hear qualities & skills of a successful, productive person. The capable person [in this case a capable wife] is more precious than jewels. The gifts & skills God has given you are of greater value than money, than jewels. Beloved Child of God, you are precious to this Body of Christ. Your gifts, experience, skills, perspective are important.
- Notice the action verbs of the person in Proverbs: She seeks wool & flax, materials from which she makes things; sells things she makes; brings food from far away & cooks; thinks 1st then buys that field [thinks before she invests]. She makes her arms strong [sounds like she works out at the gym to keep healthy.] She ministers to the poor, speaks wisely, teaches kindly.
- And she laughs.
- Like this woman who “fears the Lord” [who relates to God with awe] & whose skills & qualities reflect well on her husband, YOUR skills & qualities – your ministries – reflect well on God.
- That's the truth we hear from our community
- beyond our red doors.
- Like this capable wife, in this Body, we trust you in our hearts. With you in this Body, we have no lack of gain. You do good to your Brothers & Sisters here & not harm.
- Why does God give you your particular personality & abilities? What are some of the skills you see among our parish leaders on your Vestry?
- One gift is the maturity of a broad perspective beyond self-interest. The disciples on the Vestry interact differently than what we hear of the disciples in our Gospel today. Jesus hears the disciples arguing & asks why. They are playing king-of-the-mountain: who of them is greatest.
- The disciples who serve on your Vestry – and you in this Body of Christ – show greater maturity. We do have the advantage of knowing Jesus AFTER his death, resurrection & ascension & the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide us. The disciples are arguing BEFORE these events; their perspective is more limited.
- Your Brothers & Sisters – your servants – on Vestry respond to differences with respect for our differences, with maturity that comes from living our Baptismal Covenant, especially the part where we say we will respect the dignity of every human being – with God's help.
- We agree to disagree & to keep working together.
- The Grace of the Holy Spirit leads your Vestry. Discussing church leadership with clergy when he met with us at St. Margaret's in Moultrie Sept. 12, Bishop Benhase emphasized that parishioners who serve on the Vestry are chosen by the Holy Spirit for this ministry.
- It is with God's help that you will elect 3 members to the Vestry next Sunday after worship. They will take office at the annual meeting in January, having 3 months to transition into their leadership roles.
- After this homily & before we say the Creed, you will have a time of silence to listen for the Holy Spirit's guidance about whom to suggest to stand for election to Vestry. As you pray & discern who are the people the Holy Spirit is calling: notice what James says in today's lesson:
- Notice who among us is wise & understanding, whose good works are done with gentleness that comes from wisdom.
- Notice who is peaceable, willing to yield, full of mercy & good fruits, who interacts without partiality or hypocrisy.
- What skills do we have need on Vestry? We need a wide range of skills & personalities. Maybe we need your skills & personality. We need variety to balance our work.
- Beloved Brothers & Sisters, I believe you have the
- courage & the wisdom to ask the hard question:
- “Is God calling me to serve on Vestry?”
- We can understand the disciples' fear of asking Jesus when they do not understand what he is saying. I wonder if they fear getting a fuller explanation from him when he is talking about what will happen to him. I think the answer to that question is scarier than answering: “Yes, I will stand for Vestry election.”
- Remember: the Holy Spirit chooses who serves.
This is a form of laying down you life for Jesus. You lay down part of your life for 3-year term. After 3 years, you can be re-elected ONLY after being off the Vestry at least 1 year. We can give thanks for the Episcopal Church's wisdom in requiring that we give leaders a break. Our built-in “term limit” gives us good stewardship of time & talent. It empowers us to hear & be guided by many voices & perspectives.Which of you is God calling to serve?
Which of you, children of God, is willing to be the servant of all that Jesus talks about in our Gospel?
Who is willing to trust Jesus like a child?
Know this: In biblical thought, a child is a symbol of vulnerability.1 We see Jesus' willing vulnerability.
We see him offer himself to our demands for his death.
How willing are you to offer yourself to Jesus
by serving on the Vestry?
Bishop Benhase says this about our Gospel today: After Jesus asks the disciples why they are arguing, [Jesus] tells “them the true purpose of all human life. It has to do with whom we serve,...not who serves us. Human life isn't about receiving honor or fame or power. So, the Bishop says, the question really can't be avoided:
Whom are we serving these days?”2
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful & kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit & we shall be created & you shall renew our Vestry.3 In Jesus' Name we ask that you guide these, your Beloved Children, as they help us discern whom you are calling to serve. Amen.
Benhase, Bishop Scott Anson. “Greatness According to Bob Dylan, Percy Bysshe Shelley, & Jesus”. eCrozier #272. September 18, 2015. http://ecrozier.georgiaepiscopal.org/. Accessed: 19 Sept. 2015.
Jolly, Marshall A. “The Path of Discipleship”. Sermons The Work. Accessed: 17 Sept. 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/09/07/the-path-of-discipleship-proper-20b/
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.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
1 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 996.
3 Based on Cursillo reunion group prayer.