Slideshow image

Proverbs 1:20-33 * Ps 19 * James 3:1-12 * Mark 8:27-38 (& Wisdom 7:26 – 8:1)

Before going into the notes for today’s Season of Creation Sunday, I’d like to give a shout-out to all who are, or were, teachers as a new school year begins, as well as the students of course – we send prayers and blessings for a safe, healthy & successful year. As James says at the start of our epistle: “Not many of you should become teachers … For all of us make many mistakes”. Like me in university -- despite some graffiti over a toilet paper roll in 1970 that read: “BA’s – take one” … despite that I did get a BA in History and English thinking to become a high school teacher. And then I dropped out of the education year just before student teaching began, because the supervising teacher told me I’d be teaching Russian History in two days, which I had not studied at all. Besides being terrified of the classroom because I was an off-the-wall introvert at that time, now I was supposed to teach something I knew nothing about?! So I quit, and got a job at the bank instead. James is right that not many of us have what it takes to become teachers, so I totally applaud and send best wishes to all who dare to enter this noble and challenging profession, as they start a new year in these still challenging pandemic times.

Today’s official theme from the Greek is “OIKOLOGIE: Wisdom from our Home Planet” [1]. Our first note points out that Oikos is also the root word for ecology, “the science of the relationships of organisms (including us) to each other and their surroundings”. Our Proverbs reading today is one of several from that biblical book that focus on Wisdom – on God’s Holy Spirit of Wisdom. Even in the oldest English versions like the King James Bible that Holy Spirit of Wisdom is always a ‘she’ … translated from the Hebrew Ruah meaning Breath. Wisdom is the Breath of God and was present at Creation whenever God spoke, using breath, and said ‘Let there be …’. Let there be light and darkness and seas and stars and humans made male and female in God’s image, and so on. Since God’s breath that brings creation into being is feminine, then Wisdom can be understood as the Divine Feminine, or the feminine part of God. Another section of Proverbs (8:22-31) especially speaks eloquently of Wisdom’s presence at Creation as God’s partner in all that God made. Wisdom can also refer to the pre-incarnate Christ, or the Logos we read about in the prologue of John’s gospel. Richard Rohr therefore sees Jesus as having a male body and a female soul.

Wisdom is clearly from God and is “accessed both through the study of nature/ God’s world … and of scripture/God’s word. Psalm 19 beautifully outlines God’s ‘two books’: nature (vs.1-6) and scripture (vs. 7-11). How can we ensure that we gain wisdom by studying both of these means of God’s self-revelation?” That question is from the Season of Creation notes and I think St. Paul gives a good answer in Roman 1:20: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”

The next note for today’s readings looks at Proverbs 1:26-30 – “about how disaster (often ecological) will overtake those who ignore God’s Wisdom” and asks us how does this speak to our situation today, or to our current context? When we looked at lines like this during Bible study last week, we thought of the anti-vaxxers: “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer” says God, “they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and … would have none of my counsel … For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them” (vs 28-32 passim).

Next the notes of the day turn to our epistle from James and asks this provocative question: “In James 3:7-12 vivid imagery contrasts the untamable human tongue with other aspects of nature. Is there a sense in which humanity’s increasing separation from nature leads us to speaking and behaving in more unnatural, and harmful, ways?” These verses speak of how every beast and bird can be tamed – although I’d ask in our context why should they be tamed – “but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison” says James, who’s never shy about being dramatically outspoken with his opinions. James goes on to point out that we use our tongues to praise and bless the Creator, but also to curse those who are made in the likeness of God. And of course all people are made in the image and likeness of God, says the first chapter of the Bible. So how on earth American slaveowners, for example, decided that their black slaves were only 3/5 human is totally beyond me.

And then the Season of Creation notes turn to the gospel, first pointing to Jesus’ request that we take up our cross and follow him, and asks us this: “How can we ‘take up our cross’ and follow Christ as Lord of Creation in an era of ecological trauma?” Many answers to this question are possible, but one that comes immediately to mind is the fact that when we are crusaders for the health of the environment, we often get a lot of criticism and pushback for necessarily implying the need for change, and for personal sacrifice. In many parts of the world, people continue to be persecuted or killed for “challenging powerful vested interests that are destroying God’s world.”

Before turning to our last Creation note, let’s pause and reflect on some intriguing aspects of this well-known gospel story of Jesus asking the disciples who they say he is. First he asks them ‘who do people say I am?’ And they answer saying “John the Baptist; and others Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” There you have it folks: Christian reincarnation. How could Jesus be any of these dead people unless he was seen as a reincarnation of them, especially the ones long dead. And yet Jesus does not ask them that, and he does not say – how could that be since there’s no reincarnation? So, whoever decided that Christians supposedly don’t believe in reincarnation – clearly did not think about this familiar story that exists in most or all of the gospels. Then Jesus asks: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter’s answer that “You are the Messiah” is greeted with great praise from Jesus, lifting Peter high for his brilliance, faith and insight – although Mark doesn’t write that part down. Four verses later Jesus calls Peter Satan, telling him to “Get behind me, Satan!” So there we see that in the blink of an eye, we can go from being A+ students of Jesus’ teachings, to a big fat F!! Life is like that, at times – we always need to be cautious when we think we’ve figured out who God is and what God is like … an actually impossible task since our puny human brains are too small to contain all that God is.

The last Creation note looks at the gospel verses 36-37 where Jesus asks what good is it to gain the whole world but forfeit our souls. And the notes ask us: “Is this question calling us to focus only on the ‘spiritual’ gospel, or is it rather a challenge to the materialism that hardens our hearts against God, and against true Wisdom?” And so Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as we go forth into this next week of our lives, may we consider all the ways that we’re meant to carry the gospel message into our world and activities, rather than just ponder it as a Sunday spiritual message. We live in a world where materialism hardens the hearts of many against God and against true Wisdom. May Wisdom open and speak to the ‘ears’ of our hearts and minds … as to how we can help turn the world towards healing, instead of further destruction, Amen.

[1] All quotations that are not otherwise sourced, come from this website.