Proper 18 (Year B) – 9/9/12

25 Aug

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 or Track 2  Psalm 146 & Isaiah 35:4-7a

James 2:1-10 (11-13) 14-18

Mark 7:31-37

Psalm 125

Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, 

and to those who are upright in their hearts.

Opening Question

What is the value of a good name….and do you have one?

Appointed Passages[1] (RCL)

Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23

1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.  2 The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all. 8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. 9 Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. 22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor, 0r crush the afflicted at the gate; 23 for the LORD pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.

  • What exactly is a good name and how does one get and maintain it?
  • In what ways can rich people be classified as “poor” and thus need to be fed?

James 2: 1-10 (11-13) 14-18

1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

  • We do have a tendency to judge people quickly on their external appearances.  How do we condition ourselves to look more deeply?
  • How much action is sufficient in order prove that your faith is not dead?

Mark 7: 31-37

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

  • Is everyone in need of healing in some sense?
  • What is our responsibility, as Christians, for the healing of others?

 

Comment:

Today’s lessons speak to me about moral integrity (i.e., the firm adherence to a code of values – especially moral).  The Proverbs reference to a “good name” starts the ball rolling in reminding us that who we are is an outcome of what we do.

Further, assuming our actions reflect what we believe, what we do is a reflection of our fundamental motivations.  The important challenge to each of us is to periodically review two things –

  1. The basis for our motivations – specifically, our moral codes.  In just the same way as a secure building is only possible if built on a firm foundation, our good name can only be built on a framework of sound moral principles.
  2. Are our actions truly aligned with our motivations?

I can hear you think, “that sounds good, but how do I do it?”  A few things come to mind – I suppose the most important initial state of mind is sometimes the most difficult to achieve.  That is to embrace the truth that we are all loved.  The love of God and of those who are close to us – in spite of who we are and what we may have done is a fact.  When I think about growing up, perhaps the most significant thing that my family taught me was the personal strength that comes from unconditional love.

Second is the ability to be honest with ourselves.  I think we have to not only be open to, but actively invite opinions from others who will help us see ourselves as we truly are.  Change is possible only when you know that you need it.

Third is to take risks….as the book of James reminds us, faith requires works….we have to live the results of our decisions – and be smart enough to learn from all of them – particularly the ones that were wrong.  Perhaps the most important thing is to appreciate the value of mistakes in the teaching they can provide.  In an interesting study of innovation, the Economist magazine wrote a special report remarking about how the most successful innovators were those who figured out how to pursue more opportunities and “fail faster” in order to grow their body of experiences of what did not work.

Finally, I suppose as Jesus shows by example, we all are in need of healing.  Keeping a watchful eye on those around us and reaching out with the touch of compassion – particularly those who we take for granted – is of remarkable value.

May God give us the strength to love by translating faith into action.

 

Quotes for Today: 

Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.

Barbara De Angelis

 

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

Alfred Adler

 

These days people seek knowledge, not wisdom. Knowledge is of the past, wisdom is of the future.

Vernon Cooper


[1] All NRSV

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