Monday Morning in the Preacher’s Study
First thoughts about next Sunday’s sermon
(17th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept. 20, 2015)
Maylanne Maybee, deacon
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
The readings for this Sunday continue the theme of the daily struggle against the patterns of “empire” or domination in our interpersonal and social relationships. Those who form our communities of faith come together to learn a new way of relating where power is shared and dignity is respected in those whom the world disrespects or ignores. Taken together, the readings invite the preacher to reflect on the promise of a new community in Christ from the perspective of our intimate relationships with parents, children, and life partners.
Walking on the Way, the disciples argue among themselves about who is the greatest. Jesus holds up a child to put the their argument in perspective. I usually imagine a well-behaved child looking up at Jesus with eyes of wonder. But how often I have held a child who is squirming and bending and fussing to be let go! “Whoever welcomes such a child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” Could it be that Jesus and the One who sent him can be just as bothersome as that squirming child– refusing to fit into the agenda of the moment, distracting us from adult conversations about who and what is important?
James gets at the heart of what makes for harmonious relationships, reminding us that peace begins from within (he uses the metaphor of above). Such wisdom is “pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”
I wouldn’t ignore the passage from Proverbs about “a capable wife”, but rather point out that it can be applied to anyone, man or woman, who works willingly and creatively with the stuff of daily life – food, clothing, property; who is organized and generous; whose children call them happy; who enjoy their partner’s praise.
Whether we are single or married, gay or straight, in our teens or eighties, opportunities to resist domination and sow peace in our relationships and world present themselves to us all. The German theologian Dorothy Soelle said that her activism on behalf of Vietnam during the sixties started when she couldn’t get a picture out of her mind of a mother carrying a five-year-old child on her back as she waded across a river in terrified escape from a napalm bomb. Soelle reflected that as a mother of three children of her own, “I realized that ‘motherliness’ is indivisible; one cannot be the mother of two or three children and that’s it.”
Our roles as spouses or parents are indivisible from our roles as citizens of the world. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has uncovered the terrible abuse that took place in church-run residential schools, pointing to a catastrophic failure among Christians to extend respect for the least among us when confronted with systems of domination. Recently the image in the news of the body of a small boy, washed up on a beach in Turkey after drowning while trying to flee with his father and mother from war torn Syria is a poignant call to find ways to “welcome such a child in my name.”
Image: Sieger Koder, Jesus umringt von Kindern, Jesus surrounded by children.
Maylanne Maybee, a member of APLM Council, is a deacon serving in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land (Anglican Church of Canada). She is Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies, a national theological school based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.