The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings – Proverbs 31: 10-31; Psalm 1; James 3: 13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9: 30-37
The beginning of our proper collect for today is – “Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things”. My Grandmother Donecker used to tell us, “This, too will pass”. Yes, “we are placed among things that are passing away”, yet how difficult it is, not to be anxious. Movies, TV, advertisements, even the 6 o’clock news, all fuel our anxiety. Facebook recently posted this note, that we are to put our car keys next to our bed at night so that if we hear strange noises, we can hit the alarm button on our key. I have to be careful, anxiety drives me to snack, to snack foods, and that is not good for me.
Again, to the proper collect – “love things heavenly”, “hold fast to those [things] that shall endure”. Love the eternal; hold on to the eternal. Invest yourself in the eternal; dedicate yourself to the eternal.
When I was a bit younger, a lot younger, I enjoyed hiking, especially in the forests of Pennsylvania. Even then there were signs posted – “Leave no trace” and “Pack in, Pack-out”. Other than your footprints, your trek was to be invisible to those who came behind you. “Leave no trace.” This is an important guideline for hikers, but not a great guideline for people of faith. We need to make our mark; we need to leave a legacy. Today I will note four ways to make our mark, four ways to leave a legacy.
First, from the Letter to James, “resist the devil”. Resist. In our baptismal service (p. 302) we find these words –
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God? There are many forces of wickedness.
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God? All creatures.
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God? Any desire that pulls you away from God is sinful.
Step one is not easy, to resist. Sometimes that is all we are able to do. Resist.
Yet there is a second step, we can proclaim, we can point to the Light, to the Messiah we know in Jesus of Nazareth. We can point to Jesus as the Way, as the Truth, and as the Life. He is the one who came into the world to save us and to save all creation from spiritual forces of wickedness, from evil powers that corrupt and destroy, from sinful desires that pull us away from God. Step two is to point away from ourselves to God.
Step three goes beyond pointing to the Light, step three is when we invite others, call others, to join us following the Light. We do this well at All Saints, we embrace others and we invite them to join with us around the Light of Christ.
Yet there is still a step four that the author of the Letter to James names— “Show by your good life [and by] your works”. Let the Light of God shine through your own person and through your good works. It is easy to find an example in these COVID times. Getting vaccinated is for your own health, but it is also for those you love, for your neighbors, for those standing in the checkout with you. In this way you let your light shine. In our Gospel according to St. Mark Jesus calls this step four being the “servant of all”. Of course, Jesus was the great light to come into the world. In following his lead, we, too, can also be lights in our own way.
Jesus put his flesh on the line; Jesus had “skin” in the game. At our baptism, we are commissioned to put our flesh, our “skin” in the game, too. We live in some pretty dark times, in some pretty wild times.
To resist is good, but we can do more.
To point to God is good, but we can do more.
To invite and include others is good, but we can do more.
To be lights in the wild and in the dark is where we are most needed. We are to leave a mark, we are to leave a legacy, we are to be servants of all, beacons of light. We are to be angels of change living the spirit of the Messiah, living the spirit of Jesus.
Jesus has flesh in the game. What do I say as the communion is shared, “The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven”? May his offering, may his flesh in the game continue to transform us, so that in these times we are able to increase our beam of light so that we brighten the path of those who follow.