This Homily was given at 10AM Holy Eucharisty Rite II on September 16, 2018 by The Rev. Liz Golub, Supply Priest
Provergs 1:20-33 - Wisdom 7:26-8:1 - James 3:1-12 - Mark 8:27-38
There’s a torrential storm brewing around us – and I don’t mean Hurricane Florence. Rather, it’s the pouring down of words: Accusations, Denials, Diatribes and downright lies. We are being pummeled from multiple directions: the government, the leadership of the Roman Catholic church, sports and entertainment; local issues like mold in our schools and of course, the media. The impact of words: smacking us around, and rising up like a flood so that we can hardly breathe. And then there is the impact of our own words: what comes out of our mouths.
In our New Testament reading James continues the assault. The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. (Jam 3:5 NRS) For such a little body part it plays a very big role in our lives. We can live without a lung or a kidney but for most of us not being able to speak would a much greater hardship. Yet James says that the tongue can corrupt the whole person. With our tongues we praise and we curse. We could do a whole sermon on just this one verse. But like our readings 2 weeks ago we really need to be mindful of what comes out of our mouths. And pay attention to what comes out of the mouths of others. The impact of words.
This leads us into the gospel. Jesus and the disciples have been together for well over 2 years. They have gotten to know one another way beyond the superficial relationships most people have. Slowly the disciples have started to buy into Jesus’ vision of the world and Peter is finally able to say yes Jesus I know who you really are. You are the Christ the one the prophets told us about. Peter’s act of faith was a very big deal, but look what follows.
In almost the next breath Peter pulls Jesus aside and says “You can’t talk like this – telling us about your rejection, suffering and DEATH! His words seem to say: this is not what we signed up for.
This is not what we signed up for… How many of us have said pretty much the same thing from time to time, especially when our faith is on the line: when the things we believe are challenged; when we are persecuted for daring to speak the truth; and when our words are twisted and thrown back in our faces. This is not what we signed up for
Jesus does not let Peter get the last word but continues to challenge the disciples and the crowd. "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 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. (Mar 8:34-35 NRS)
As the impact of Jesus’ words sunk in I imagine that more than a few people began to slip away. They were happy to listen to the words of the Beatitudes or the words of healing, but the word of the cross was very hard to hear. Think about all the crosses you’ve been asked to carry. Why is it that Jesus is so insistent about his followers, his disciples and yes, us as well – carrying the cross? Because he knows that if we accept the cross, then our suffering brings us a little closer to him; and brings Jesus a little closer to us.
It isn’t enough to say, like Peter: Jesus is Lord. We can’t just tlalk the talk; we have to walk the walk. When we pick up the cross we have to put down the other stuff, like pride, anger, entitlement and resentment. We have to become the suffering servant, believing and trusting that Jesus will always be there to get us through. And that’s the Good News.
We can’t change the words we hear all around us but we can change the way we listen. We can ask Holy Spirit to help us sift out the truth and then to speak up where we can. Just like Jesus. I think that this is one small way that we carry his cross
The Good News… we don’t carry the cross alone. Jesus never asks you to pick up the cross and carry it by yourself. He comes and stands by you and says: I've done this already...let me help you. The impact of his words lighten our burden. God gives us Holy Spirit wisdom to know how to carry it: when to step back and when to move forward.
In the week ahead I invite you to pay attention to your words. Do you really mean what you say? During the next 9 weeks the small groups will be studying the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. This week it is all about Love. Think about YOUR words…are they spoken in love?
The wisdom is the grace: God’s gift of insight, understanding, patience, supernatural strength or self-control – whatever we need – so that we CAN carry the cross. Because, the cross is our lifeline. And that IS the Good News.