Sunday, September 12, 2021

Year B Proper 19 2021 You Remind Me of Someone

 Year B Proper 19, 12 September 2021

St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA

“You Remind Me of Someone”

Collect: 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.

Wisdom 7:26–8:1

For wisdom is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;

in every generation she passes into holy souls

and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful than the sun,

and excels every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light she is found to be superior,

for it is succeeded by the night,

but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,

and she orders all things well.

Mark 8:27-38

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “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. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus asks about what people are saying. He was getting a gauge on the rumors floating. He was doing amazing, remarkable things. And he wanted to know where people were compartmentalizing what was taking place.

“Who do people say that I am?” 

And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 

He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” 

Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

There are times and places when we resemble someone. People can project onto us all sorts of things that are untrue or unreal. Somewhere deep down, a trigger gets pulled and then who knows what will come out? 

Jesus got John the Baptizer who had just been martyred for the Truth. Jesus got Elijah, mighty prophet of God, who had worked miracles and called down justice from the heavens. Some people were claiming him a prophet in his own right.  But then Peter has the strength of character to name the thing that they all were thinking. The thing that they had been awaiting for generation upon generation. “You are the Messiah.” God’s Anointed and Chosen One. He said it, and once it was out there it cannot be taken back.

Jesus ordered silence, Mark’s repeated Messianic Secret. The Gospel of Mark never makes clear why Jesus maintains this. Most think so that the process can be complete and he is not sidetracked by hero worship. He was not aiming for a political Israel, his eyes were set and his end goal was establishing the Kingdom of God, here on earth and continuing forever in Heaven.

Jesus was who he was. Though people were projecting onto him, soon they would see him for who he was.

The world would be a better place if people saw us for who we are. That is a rare and unique thing. 

I do not know why, but often people say to me that I look like someone. I never know who they are speaking of, but I try to be polite. I sometimes, not so much recently but ten years ago, was accused of looking like Garrison Keillor, host of A Prairie Home Companion. The storyteller in me appreciates that. If someone is not so nice, they say I look like Peter Griffin on the cartoon Family Guy. I can honestly say that I have never seen an episode, but from the advertisements I have seen it is not the most flattering.

But I love how I can see the similarities in folks who have been together a long, long time. Their mannerisms, if not their looks, begin to repeat. They cannot help it. As Bernard of Clairvaux put it, “What we love we shall grow to resemble.”

As we grow into our fullness in Christ, we reflect the Son, and the Son reflects the Father. The transitive axiom of equality fits here. A=B, and B=C, therefore A=C.

We are called to have faith like a child, but also to come to maturity in Christ. We say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. And a healthy respect and sense of awe is a great starting point, but God does not wish for sniveling sycophants. That is what the Monty Python boys mocked whenever they portrayed people of faith. 

God wants us to come to our faith like responsible participants, co-creators in the Kingdom of God, the Beloved Community of all God’s Children. And the only way we can do that is to begin the long and arduous process of becoming like God, full of Wisdom and Truth.

From our reading in Wisdom today: 

Wisdom is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

...God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. 

[From our Wisdom reading]

Friends, knowing who we are and what we choose to be like is a lifelong task. Thomas Merton, whose wonderful prayer I recently shared, says this: “Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God.”

We move into the depths of our spirituality, yes, so we can be like Jesus. Loving, giving, Christlike. Yes! But think on this. Jesus was who he was, and maybe that is the call of God on each and every one of us.  Perhaps the greatest way we can say thank you to God is to be who God made us to be. Exactly that. No more. No less. He wants me to be who he made me to be. He wants you to be who he made you to be. As they said in the 1970s, “God don’t make no junk.”

You are not the prototype, the beta version, or the mock-up. You are the only you who ever was and ever will be. God made you for a purpose and a role. You hold the key to a lock that only you can open. It may be revelatory to your family, this town, this country, or the world. But finding who we are in Christ is the Wisdom we seek. It is the chance of a lifetime, it is the final piece of the puzzle.

When we settle the into that idea, it appears selfish and egocentric from the outside. But you are the best gift that you can give to the world. You were made to be here, now, and only you can play that role. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” (Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7) This play we find ourselves in is incomplete without you playing your part.

For us to follow wisdom, it is that long obedience in the same direction. 

in every generation [Wisdom] passes into holy souls

and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

“What we love we shall grow to resemble.” ― Bernard of Clairvaux

I agree. When need to love God so much, that people thank God and think of God when they see us. We need to love Christ so much, that people think we are a little Christ, for that is what the word Christian means. We need to love ourself enough to put away the distractions and impediments of being our best, our truest selves. May each and every one of us praise God with our lives, and when people think of us may they say, “They were One of Kind.”

With all the remembrances for the 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks, I am sure you have heard the many stories, some familiar, some not. I will always remember that day. I was serving at a church just a mile and change from the Pentagon as the Associate Pastor, and I was also an interim head of our daycare for 200 children. The anxiety of that day is still palpable, and thankfully we lost no parents.

I heard a story that still resonates, that of Welles Crowther, also known as the Man in the Red Bandana in the South Tower. I listened to an interview with his mother, and she talked about how he had always told her that he was going to be a part of something big, he just knew it. And when the day arrived, he was ready.

From his Wikipedia article:

On September 11, 2001, nine minutes after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower between floors 77 and 85 at 9:03 a.m., Crowther called his mother from his office at 9:12 a.m., leaving the message, "Mom, this is Welles. I wanted you to know that I'm OK." Crowther made his way to the 78th-floor sky lobby, where he encountered a group of survivors, including a badly burned Ling Young, who worked on the 86th floor in New York's Department of Taxation and Finance. Young had been one of about 200 people waiting at a bank of elevators to evacuate when the plane hit the tower and was one of the few survivors. Crowther, carrying a young woman on his back, directed them to the one working stairway. The survivors followed him 17 floors down, where he dropped off the woman he was carrying before heading back upstairs to assist others. By the time he returned to the 78th floor, he had a bandana around his nose and mouth to protect him from smoke and haze. He found another group of survivors, which included AON Corp. employee Judy Wein, who worked on the 103rd floor and was in pain from a broken arm, cracked ribs and a punctured lung. According to Wein, Crowther assisted in putting out fires and administering first aid. He then announced to that group, "Everyone who can stand, stand now. If you can help others, do so." He directed this group downstairs as well. As occupants of the Tower headed for the street, Crowther returned up the stairs to help others. He was last seen doing so with members of the FDNY before the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m.

Crowther's body was found in March 2002, alongside several firefighters and emergency workers bunched in a suspected command post in the South Tower lobby. The New York medical examiner's office said his body was found intact, with no signs of burns, and that authorities speculated that he was aiding the rescue effort as a civilian usher when the building collapsed. Crowther's family was unaware of the details of his activities between his last phone call to his mother and his death, until Allison Crowther read Judy Wein's firsthand account in The New York Times of being saved by a man in a red bandana, which led to Allison meeting with the people Welles had saved, including Wein and Young. They confirmed from photographs the identity of the man who aided them. A mostly completed New York City Firefighter application was discovered in his home after his death. According to survivor accounts, Crowther saved as many as 18 people following the attacks.

That red bandana had been a gift to Welles by his father on his 6th birthday. It was his hallmark all his short life. That symbol lives on to this day with a foundation named in his honor. He knew who he was. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to be. He was working in high level finance, but deep down he knew who he was. He gave that gift back to the world. With the exception of more time, what parent could ask for more? What better way to bring glory to God? 

The world would be a better place if people saw us for who we are. But first, we find who we are in God and who God made us to be, and give back that gift each and every chance we get. That is true Wisdom.  

Wisdom is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

...God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. 


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Blessings, Rock