Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Proper 20, Year B
September 19, 2021
As parents, we want our children to grow up to be happy, healthy and independent. We desire companions for them in their adult life who will help them to achieve these things. It is natural to want to offer advice on how to find a spouse. In this section of Wisdom literature from Proverbs, we find advice for how to find a good wife. Notably absent, of course, is equal advice about how to find a good husband. Times were different then, as women did not have the freedom of choice that they enjoy today. Nevertheless, much good counsel can be found from this reading about what makes a desirable companion and in fact a desirable person. Even if all we are looking for is a friend, a person such as is described in Proverbs, is what we should seek. If we desire to be a friend, we should be one like the wife who is described here. We should be attentive to the needs of those whom God has entrusted to our care. We should be focused on the tasks that are put before us to do and not on our own interests or on activities that are frivolous and wasteful of time. We should be compassionate to the poor and those less fortunate. We should trust that God will care for us and for those whom we love.
A good friend (or wife, or husband, or companion or partner) is one who puts the needs of others first and seeks to be a servant. How many friends like that do you have in your life? For how many people do you seek to be such a friend?
Our Collect today bids us not to be anxious about earthly things but to focus on things heavenly. Psalm 1 counsels us to focus on the Law of God and not to take counsel, or even company, with sinners. To focus on the law of God, we should meditate upon it day and night. In that way, we will be like trees planted by water with roots going deep to the source of all life. In contrast, those who seek the counsel of the wicked will be like chaff that is blown away with no roots into the source of life. Making God’s commandments our constant company will lead us into all righteousness.
The study of Scripture and time spent in daily prayer will help us to meditate upon God’s law. Such focus will keep us daily in the sight of God and in knowledge of His will for us. What practices do you have in place to keep your focus on what God is calling you to do?
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
James gives us some good advice here on how to resist the “wickedness of every kind” and to stay in “gentleness born of wisdom.” He reminds us that if we are focused on our own selfish interests, then disorder and chaos will be found. But if we seek God’s wisdom (through meditation upon His commandments and relationship with Him), then we will yield peaceable fruits of righteousness. James exhorts us to do three things in order to receive this peaceable wisdom from God: 1) Submit ourselves to God. 2) Resist the devil which will cause the devil to flee from us. 3) Draw near to God and He will draw near to us.
Part of our daily prayers every morning (and often throughout the day) is to pray for deliverance from our own selfish interests and self-absorption. We want so desperately to be in control that we forget to ask for God’s guidance and wisdom. Submitting to God, resisting the devil and drawing near to God takes practice. It’s not a “one and done” effort. We have to practice submitting, resisting and drawing near constantly. Have you remembered to ask God today to guide you away from self-absorption and into consideration of others? Do you constantly remind yourself to draw near to God’s presence?
Unfortunately, as human beings, we are not naturally inclined to live for the sake of others. Our natural inclination is to fend for ourselves and be absorbed with our own interests. The disciples love Jesus and want to do His will, but they can’t help themselves. They can’t help being preoccupied in their own thoughts and in their discussions with each other as to who is the best. Like Peter, from our Gospel lesson last week, they are focusing on human things and not divine things. They continue these arguments even as Jesus is trying to teach them that His kingdom is predicated upon self-sacrifice and giving. He puts a child in their midst and indicates that child-like innocence and humility are the keys that open the door to being “the best.” Instead of always wanting to be first, disciples of Jesus must stand at the end of the line. They must always look for ways to be the servant.
What guides your daily actions – self-seeking or the interests of others? Do you seek to be the servant or do you seek to be served? How can you stand last today and put the needs of others before you?
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.