Welcome to the Cathedral Church of Saints Peter & Paul, Clifton.
 

Sunday 23rd September 2018
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20     James 3:16 - 4:3     Mark 9: 30-37

The Christian Doormat.

Trying to be a Christian can sometimes be a confusing business. We can do our best to love God, to follow Christ and to practise our religion, but there can be niggling doubts about whether we are always doing the right thing. Two small children summed it up beautifully. When one took the larger slice of cake from the plate, the other said that he would have left the larger and taken the smaller piece out of good manners. “That’s okay then,” said the first child, “because I’ve got it anyway.”

How do you draw the line between being Christian and being walked over? Should there be a limit to how ‘Christian’ you should try and be? Does it mean that because you always put others first, you should end up with nothing? Are Christianity and ambition compatible? You wouldn’t be the person first to wonder about these sort of questions. The Book of Wisdom represents the pinnacle of practical thought in the Old Testament, and right at the start it tackles these issues. Let’s test believers, it says, to find out what will happen to them. Let’s play all kinds of tricks on them, and see if God takes care of them. Of course, this is exactly what was going to happen to Jesus.

But how do we react to this situation? It can often seem that ordinary good people lose out to those who are unscrupulous. Sometimes it looks as though crime does pay. The rich get richer on the backs of the poor and the defenceless. Everything seems tilted so that the most ruthless get to the top whilst the meek carry all the burdens. Shouldn’t we just join in? Christians don’t have to sit back and let themselves be exploited. But they do have to act upon values which the street-wise consider to be foolish.

Whilst ensuring that all receive what is rightfully theirs, the Christian is called to a set of values which turn conventional wisdom on its head: justice through love. Christians have ambition but not cut-throat ambition, desires but not greed, aspirations but not jealousy. St James reminds us that if we are not at peace inwardly, then we’re ready to get what we want at any cost.

And when Jesus praises the virtues of the little child, he’s not inviting us to remain childish but childlike. Maybe he’s saying that as adults we have to have the best qualities of the child. A tiny child does not know how to sin, but an adult Christian chooses not to sin. A tiny child is harmless through innocence, but an adult Christian chooses not to go on the attack through virtue. Christian wisdom means not so much that we are incapable of getting one over on everyone else, but rather that we are unwilling to do so.

 

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Scripture Reflections (below) © Peter J Harrison 2018