Proper 19 (Yr B) – 9/16/12

1 Sep

Proverbs 1:20-33 or Track 2 Psalm 116:1-8 & Isaiah 50:4-9a

James 3:1-12

Mark 8:27-38

 

Psalm 19

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,  O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Opening Exercise

  • What three specific questions would you ask someone to evaluate whether they have achieved a well lived life?  {Said another way, God has asked you to stand in for Saint Peter at the pearly gates and your job will be to assess the souls who are coming up for admission to Heaven – and your task is to recommend admission or exclusion to heaven.)

Appointed Passages

Proverbs 1:20-33

20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.

21 At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

23 Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you;  I will make my words known to you.

24 Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,

25 and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,

27 when panic strikes you like a   storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.

28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.

29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,

30 would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,

31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.

32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the  complacency of fools destroys them;

33 but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

  • Wisdom (v. 20) is calling us to take what action?
  • How is fear of the Lord (v.29) connected to wisdom?
  • When (and how) does complacency become a bad thing (v. 32)?

 

James 3: 1-12

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

  • If those with great knowledge have a greater responsibility to use their knowledge for some purpose, how much knowledge brings on this responsibility?
  • How do we tell when the power of speech is being used for good versus evil?

 

Mark 8:27-38

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesare’a Philip’pi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Eli’jah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

  • What is the purpose of asking “who do you say that I am? (v. 29)”
  • Assuming this is a question appropriate to ask those who are close to you,
    • How might the answers help you understand who you are?
    • What other question might be helpful in illustrating who you could become?
    • How would the discussion impact the relationships you have with those who give you feedback?
  • If you were charged to write a short summary of the value of your life,
    • What would it say?
    • If you are not satisfied with the summary, how can you change it?

 

Comment

I recall a management training session once in which the instructor directed the collected batch of type A personality attendees to form pairs – and ask each other the question “who are you?” with only a limited time for response.  Rather than stop at the first answer, we were instructed to ask the question again – perhaps the intent to drill a bit deeper or discover yet something else interesting about each other.  Several iterations later, it became obvious that this is a relatively rich question due to the layers it may probe for information.

It is a remarkably relevant question to ask ourselves periodically (certainly), but perhaps we should make it more of a routine practice to enhance our awareness of who we are in relation to others as we go about our daily routines – not just for ourselves, but in particular how the question may help our ability to get to know others.

We hear the famous quote from Jesus in today’s gospel “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”  At least to me, we are personally more likely to “lose our lives for the sake of Jesus and the gospel” when we lower our guard, drop our introspective focus.  We embrace empathy by taking the sometimes risky step of probing those close to us in order to get to know them on a deeper level.

I say it is risky, because once we know someone more, we become more empowered to help them, but also assume more responsibility for the quality of the relationship which is usually strengthened in the process.  Typically, we   have more of a responsibility to “do something” that can make a difference in their life – even as simple as being there to listen and share their mental burdens in an attempt to share their load.

But then again, shared intimacy is the richness of life.

Those pesky relationships that bring us pain, also bring life – and – like it or not, the true value of life emerges through our relationships with others.

In fact, being able to shut out the background noise of our daily lives and focus on those things that are important – our relationships – is perhaps what Jesus and the Gospel had in mind.

 

Quotes for Today:

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

Lin Yutang

 

“Wisdom is not acquired in finding answers to questions, but by developing the capacity to ask better questions.”

Mark Harbour

 

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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