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Pastoral Principles: ignorance and power

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 19 September 2021: Trinity 16
James 3:13-4:3,7-8a / Mark 9:30-37

May I speak in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Amen

If you have followed the last two week’s sermons, you will know we are focussing on the Pastoral Principles that help us determine to live and learn well together.

Today we are asked to consider the use – or rather the misuse of – IGNORANCE and POWER

Ignorance and power are direct opposites of the wisdom and humility in today’s readings. Ignorance and power need to be replaced by wisdom and humility, for when we serve others in Jesus’ name wisdom and humility are gifts we are called to offer. Let us explore that a little more:

The disciples were not ignorant [as in being stupid] they simply did not understand what would happen in Jerusalem. Did that matter? Surely what mattered most was their willingness to put arguments about greatness aside, place their confidence and hope in Jesus, and remain near to him. They were ignorant of the truth that we know and declare in the Creed. Perhaps, if we had been in their shoes, we too would have been afraid to ask Jesus what he meant.

In the first sermon of this preaching series Linda spoke of prejudice and fear and there is no doubt that fear and ignorance also walk hand-in-hand. Have you ever noticed that the letters of the word ‘fear’ F.E.A.R provide two choices?

Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise’

Jesus diverted the disciples’ attention away from where they had come from to where they were going. Free to forget all they had experienced with him and return to past lifestyles they chose to face the future and whatever lay ahead. Do we choose to live in ignorance – stay fixed in the past instead of embracing where Jesus leads?

Adopting wilful ignorance as a means of power can often lead to avoiding particular circumstances and choices. In disassociating ourselves – refusing to discuss the people and situations we do not understand – we act in ignorance. Power is misused when a sense of superiority over-rules a desire to rise above the conflicts and disputes that embitter our hearts.

Jesus taught us to serve others. To welcome the most vulnerable, the marginalised, those who are often rejected and ignored: not only by society but sadly in some situations by the church. In welcoming all in Jesus’ name we draw nearer to God, the very God who calls each and every one of us – in all our diversity – to be members of the living, serving, loving, faithful body of Christ. Ignorance and wrongful, misplaced, power are opposites to the wisdom, humility and service that God calls us to live by and share. Jesus’ command is not to seek to be great but to care for the most vulnerable and misunderstood. The Holy Spirit leads us when we pray that we may lay aside our prejudices, anxieties and fears.

In giving up to God all that leads to envy and selfish ambition – accepting the wisdom that is sent down through his Word – we can begin to live in ways of mercy and peace. Through striving to eradicate every trace of partiality or self-centred righteousness from our own lives we can truly begin to discover the compassion of Christ and, God willing through his grace, find ways to live that will produce a harvest of good deeds free from prejudice and hypocrisy.

Shortly we will sing the beautiful hymn ‘Brother, sister let me serve you’ that speaks of being alongside others in times of fear, joy and sorrow, a hymn that is also a prayer for the humility and grace to be not only a servant to others but to put self aside and let others serve us too.

It is when we put selfish ambition aside, exchange status and power and instead proclaim God’s love, compassion, care, justice and forgiveness that we mirror Jesus’ way – begin to example true discipleship – show the world that each and every person is precious in the sight of God – by serving each other we forge bonds of peace. Are we ready to be peacemakers and live in love and faith with all?

If you have not already done so, I invite you to sign up to join the forthcoming sessions when we will consider how we can be fully inclusive in the care and welcome we offer to each and every person. Please be assured that opinions will be respected and listened to so that together we can develop a true understanding of each other’s feelings and sensitivities. As true servants of Christ, let us commit to abolishing fear of difference. Through prayer, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, may we seek an end to selfish ambition. With God’s strength, let us live in the hope that we may come to trust all who walk by faith.

God desires us to be as one. Jesus calls us to lay aside all that separates us from each other. The power of the Holy Spirit can inspire us to be more attentive to those different from ourselves. We can in confidence invite God to draw near knowing he is already aware of our fears, the conflicts and arguments that beset us, and understands how ignorance challenges our desire to know each other better. Jesus calls us to put aside earthly wisdom and by his mercy and grace from above to follow his will and build reciprocal relationships of love. By listening more attentively – speaking more bravely and taking care how we handle power – we can truly celebrate our faith with joy and develop a life of companionship together in the Son. Empowered by the free gift of the Holy Spirit, let us truly pray that the day will come when all can live in love, striving to be present to one another and present to the One Lord who is the God of our past, is with us every intimate moment of the present and promises to be with us even to eternity.

Let us pray: Lord God, fount of all wisdom, grant us courage to live in love and faith, for you span the void, calling us to dare to follow the example of bold humility and courageous servanthood of Your blessed Son. By the power of Your Holy Spirit may we be radiant in our love for each other and in mission to the wider community, for we know that the very love that raised Jesus from death is for the whole world, especially the vulnerable and misunderstood. Give us the courage to overcome our fears and to seek the unity which is your gift and your will, In Jesus’ name: Amen