First Thoughts From The Rev. Canon David Smith: 

Most weeks Fr. David sends out an e-mail with his first thoughts on the upcoming Sunday readings. These reflections are designed to encourage people to consider the readings before they come to worship which we hope will enrich Sunday worship. People are invited to respond to David with their own thoughts and sometimes interesting ideas and conversations occur that end up in the sermon. If you would like to receive these weekly e-mails e-mail David at dsmith@ontario.anglican.ca  . 

Reflections for Sunday, September 28, 2014

Posted by Emily Sanderson on Sunday, September 28, 2014 Under: Weekly Reflections
Readings: Exodus 17: 1-7 Psalm 78: 1-4, 12 - 16, Philippians: 1-13, Matthew
21: 23- 32

For me the very first thing that came to mind as I read our readings was
attitude.  Perhaps this is because our epistle reading actually says "let
the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" or as the NIV translates
it, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus". To have this
attitude is such a tremendous challenge and honour for us and primarily our
Epistle reading suggests that this attitude is one of humility (a good
sermon could explore what humility actually is) and not self-interest but
rather an attitude of service for others. Paul also focuses on unity and
love within the Philippian church.

For Paul the model for humility and service is based on our Lord's humility
and service. Even though he was in the form of God he emptied himself
becoming human and dying on a cross. For those of us who listen to this
reading every Good Friday it does not surprise us but if I am correct no one
thought of humility especially this kind of humility as a virtue or attitude
to emulate in their lives. It was a sign of weakness. I am fairly certain
that Christianity introduced humility as a virtue in the western world.

So a sermon on humility would be very appropriate. It also might be helpful
to ask the question, in what ways are we to follow Jesus' example and in
what ways was our Lord's life and ministry unique to him as the Messiah?

But I am tempted to look at the theme of joy. Joy is certainly a major theme
of Philippians. It is sometimes called the epistle of joy and Paul in our
reading for Sunday invites his readers to have the same mind as Christ so
that his joy may be complete.  Joy is such a wonderful and often forgotten
or lost attitude of a disciple so this would be a good direction for a
sermon to go. Plus it is true that Paul speaks of our Lord's suffering but
he ends by describing our Lord's glory and glorious resurrection which of
course is our ultimate source of joy.

Speaking of joy there was not a whole lot of that in our Old Testament and
Gospel readings.

For example the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land were
complaining and quarrelling bitterly.  In a way I can't blame them. I think
I would have been complaining too if I was dying of thirst.  They were in
real trouble and they complained to Moses. They looked to Moses not God.
Perhaps when we are disappointed because we cannot seem to solve problems on
our own strength or are disappointed that the leaders we voted for or the
products we purchased fail to solve all of our problems we can be reminded
by this story that ultimately God's sovereignty is the real source of
healing and life.

Now of course it would be ridiculous to conclude that we should be passive
and not try to work hard to solve problems. We should expect those in
leadership positions to work towards justice and to care for the needs of
people. We should rejoice when a human product such as a drug that cures a
disease is invented and distributed. Perhaps this is why God insists that
Moses strike the rock. But still God is portrayed as the one behind the gift
of life giving water. As Walter Bruegggemann notes, "The narrator is clear
on the main point: Only God can give the resources for life, but God will do
so through the work of Moses" (The New Interpreters Bible Vol. 1 pg. 817).

The verses we read from Psalm 78 pick up on this theme and have an attitude
of praise and recognition for  it is God who provides abundantly. He split
rocks open in the wilderness, and gave them drink abundantly as from the
deep" For us as Christians the O.T. reading and the Psalm remind us that we
trust  Jesus came to give us abundant life.

However, the O. T. reading itself ends with a teaching statement on the
Israelites poor attitude not  on a note of praise. Bruegggemann argues that
the Israelites were treating God like a dispensing machine. You put your
money in and out comes what you paid for.  Since things were not going their
way they figured God was absent. A lesson we can learn from this story
therefore is to not have a utilitarian view of our faith and God.

In our gospel reading we see the Chief Priests and elders being portrayed as
having an adversarial attitude towards Jesus. They seem to be jealous and
want to trap Jesus. It is a debate on authority and they do not acknowledge
that Jesus has authority from God or over them at all. Their attitude has
nothing to do with discovering the truth but with protecting themselves and
their authority.  If they really were interested in discovering the truth
they would have tried to answer our Lord's question to them. But instead
they answered, we do not know if John the Baptist's baptism was of a human
or from heaven. They avoided any meaningful engagement with Jesus because
they were not open to His teaching and they could not accept that Jesus like
john the Baptist had authority from above. In contrast Jesus points out that
the prostitutes and tax collectors recognized John's authority and their
lives changed. To get back to the O.T. reading they discovered life giving
water from the deep.

Anyway these are my first thoughts. I obviously was intrigued by the theme
of attitude but I would be curious if you saw another theme. Or were you
drawn to one of the readings in particular? What would you want to preach on
this Sunday?

Blessings

In : Weekly Reflections 


Tags: humility; joy; trust