Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
18 Oct. 2015 Proper 24 Year B: Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45
Debates are making headlines
as candidates run for president.
I wonder if the disciples, angry with James & John, have been debating who should get the top spots
in the new administration Jesus will lead.
The current debates in our news, with each person vying to be the single winner, are different from the team debates my husband & I know from our college days. What if you were asked to be in a college debate? Would you want to be on a renowned team such as Harvard's, or West Point's or the University of Vermont's nationally ranked team?
OR would you want to be on a team with convicted felons who are in a maximum-security prison for crimes such as manslaughter?
Before you choose your team, know this: To be on the convicts' team, you will face a challenge to research information for potential debate questions. The convicts have no internet for research, & their requests for books & news articles must be approved by prison administrators, & that can take weeks.1
What kind of answers to debate questions can prisoners give? We might expect answers like Job's answers to God's questions. God asks: Where were you when I laid earth's foundation? Can you send lightning on a mission & have it answer you “I am ready”?2 What about giving the mind understanding?Job can only answer: “I don't know. No, I can't. No, I haven't.”3
Is that who you want as a debate team partner?
What does your inner wisdom tell you? Harvard or prison? Before you decide, know this: The prisoners have to argue in favor of an idea they totally oppose, the idea to deny public education to undocumented students. Which team do you choose?
Harvard or prison?
News media tell us: the convict team defeated Harvard in its debate a few weeks ago [in September].4 The convict team had its first debate in 2014, winning over the U.S. Military Academy & then won against the University of Vermont's nationally ranked team. [I commend to your reading the articles on this from the Wall Street Journal & from the New York Daily News.]
The prisoners' perspective so surprised the Harvard team that it was unable to respond fully. Prisoner Alex Hall, who was convicted of manslaughter,5 says: "We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted [as the Harvard students], but we work really had."
"They caught us off guard," says a Harvard team member.
The disciples in our Gospel are caught off-guard by what they hear James & John say in their bid for power & prestige. James & John do not catch Jesus off-guard. Look at Jesus' wise response to their question: Jesus answers a question with a question.
Those of us who have been teachers – & the rest of us – should be wise enough not to say “Yes, I'll do what you ask” BEFORE we know the question. We are wise to wait before answering, to gather information in order to make an informed response even though our impatient culture challenges us in the art of delay.6
We live in a world rushing through life, fraught with different opinions. In this noisy, busy world, our impatient culture shoves a microphone in our face demanding an answer, often to catch us off guard. May we have the grace of the prison team to respond wisely, even in situations with which we do not agree.
- Waiting helps us be good stewards of our time & energy.
- Waiting allows us to focus on the idea rather than the personality of the person presenting the idea.
- Waiting helps in our stewardship of relationships, our being servant of all.
- Waiting requires the wisdom of delay to refocus our perspective like Jesus shows us in our Gospel.
When we balance working with God and waiting with God, we gain insight for what’s next in our ministry.7
Hard as it is to hold opposites in balance,8 without balance, we are more likely to act from confusion, fear or self-interest [like James & John]
& less likely to act as Jesus calls us to act
as servant of all.9
Brody, Leslie. “Prison vs. u in an Unlikely Debate”. The Wall Street Journal. Accessed: 8 Oct. 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/an-unlikely-debate-prison-vs-harvard-1442616928
Burt,Sharelle M. Burt. :Harvard College debate team defeated by New York prison team .” New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/new-york-prison-debate-team-defeats-harvard-college-team-article-1.2387666 Accessed: 8 Oct. 2015.
De Waal, Esther. Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing. 1989.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
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.
Maynard, Dennis R. Preventing a Sheep Attack! Rancho Mirage, CA: Dionysus Publications. 2013.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Oxford Annontated Bible With Apochrypha. Eds: Herbert G. May. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.
Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. New York: Public Affairs (Perseus Book Group). 2012.
1 Brody, Leslie. “Prison vs. Harvard in an Unlikely Debate”. The Wall Street to be. Accessed: 8 Oct. 2015.
2 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 1555.
3 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. P. 430.
4 Ibid. Brody. And Burt, Sharelle M. Burt. :Harvard College debate team defeated by New York prison team .” New York Daily News.
5 Ibid. Burt.
6 Idea from Partnoy, Frank. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay.
7 De Waal, Esther. Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality. P. 107.
8 Ibid. P. 107.
9 Note: Based on Ibid. P. 108.