Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 19, Year B
September 12, 2021
How many of us feel as if we are waiting for the other shoe to drop? How many of us fear that calamity and disaster will strike at any moment? In this section from Proverbs, Wisdom stands ready to help, but Wisdom does not suffer fools! Fools are those who ignore the presence and help of Wisdom. When they turn away, Wisdom laughs and takes no pity. But Wisdom is clear – those who listen and heed will live easily and have dread of nothing.
The Holy Spirit is our source of Wisdom – God’s perfect wisdom. If we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we will have no reason to fear anything. How many times can you remember to pause today, to connect with the Spirit’s wisdom within you and then proceed to live your life easily and fearlessly? But if you ignore wisdom and trust only in yourself, fear will never leave you.
This well-known Psalm has been celebrated in music by many different composers. One of my favorites is a setting by Franz Josef Haydn. I encourage you to google “The Heavens Are Telling” from Haydn’s Creation to enjoy one of these lovely performances. The Psalmist draws attention to the structure of the created world and how that structure reflects the glory, reliability and certainty of God. The rhythm of day turning into night and night turning into day, the glory of the mighty sun and its testimony without words or language – all this points to the perfection of God. God’s law is perfect, sure and just. The fear of God is clean and His judgements are true. All these things, to which the Created world attests, are to be desired more than anything. In possessing them, our fervent prayer is to be acceptable and pleasing in God’s sight.
In all the uncertainty of our lives, we can count on day dawning and night falling. The sun and the moon are not disturbed or changed by our anxiety. They assure us of God’s glory. How grateful are we for this gift of certainty?
Teachers are guides. With their words and examples they have far-reaching influence, more so than in any other profession. According to James, teachers should guard themselves with the greatest strictness, being aware that everything they say or do can influence for good or bad. James considers the human tongue. As far as body parts are concerned, the tongue is one of the smallest, but if it is not carefully guarded, it can cause vast damage. James likens the tongue in the body to a bit in a horse’s mouth or a rudder on a large ship. Both are small implements but they have the capability of moving and guiding the whole thing! Such is the tongue. With words, the human tongue can build up or destroy. It can bless or curse. But James insinuates that it cannot and should not do both at the same time. A stream of water doesn’t simultaneously produce fresh and brackish water. And a fig tree can’t produce olives or a grapevine figs. Tongues are healthier if they produce blessings.
What influence does your tongue have? Can you make a commitment today to produce only words that will bless? If your words are not intended for blessing and building up, are you able to contain them without their exploding forth?
Divine things, not human things. Jesus and his disciples are at Caesarea Philippi, the very center of pagan culture where human things reign. An ancient, Greco-Roman city located in the Golan Heights near the city of Dan, it was home to the Temple of the Greek god of Pan – a temple which sat in front of a cave that was purported to lead to the underworld. Known as the site of Hellenistic pagan worship (which often featured drunken orgies), it was a sinful place, not the kind of place where the Son of God might stand and reveal Himself as the Son of God. But Jesus does just such a thing. He starts by asking His disciples for feedback about how He is presenting in the world, about who people think He might be. He receives different answers – John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets. Then He asks His disciples directly who they say that He is. Peter, ever the impetuous one and first to speak, proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. We are tempted to think that Peter is ahead of the others in his insight but we quickly learn that Peter’s idea of a Messiah does not match the Messiah that Jesus actually is. Peter is thinking of a Messiah who will triumph most likely through earthly glory and military might. But Jesus sees His mission as one of sacrifice, loss, and ultimately death. Human ideas lead to shallow victories that don’t endure. Divine ideas are not clothed in the glory of the world, but in understated humility and self-emptying. Human things lead through a dark cave to the things of Satan, the Underworld. Divine things lead to God’s glory and the assistance of Holy Angels.
What kind of Messiah is Jesus for you? Is He One who is going to subdue all your enemies with mighty force? Or is He asking you to step forward humbly and join Him in works of sacrifice and loss for the sake of others? One way is divine and the other human. Where are your sights set?
O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.