Church of England Diocese of Exeter Thelbridge

An homily for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

19 Sep 2021, 7:45 a.m.

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity James 3.13-4:3,7-8a Mark 9: 30-37

How often have people said, “It is wise to be correct after the event”. It is always better to be ‘in the wise’. But in these cases wisdom is achieved through experience. Often, before the event takes place one is in the dark, quite literally for what is about to take place has not yet happened and its process is unknown.

Jesus was having problems with his disciples. He tried, time and time again, to explain to them what was to happen to him when they reached Jerusalem. But each time the disciples misunderstood what he was saying. Their minds were set on earthly matters. Jesus was trying to explain to them using heavenly terminology but it did not fit in with their understanding. They were too fixed in earthly understanding. They understood power and leadership in relationship with kings and governments, rulers and statesmen. The thought that Jesus was making his way to the Cross they could not understand. Even so, they, deep down, knew that there was something not quite right. Yet, when Jesus asked them about this they remained silent. It has been described as a silence of shame.

They argued about who was to be the greatest in the coming kingdom. Earthly qualities came to the fore. Yet, as long as Jesus did not see them arguing it did not matter. But, as soon as they were approached by Jesus it all seemed to be so worthless.

But, after the event – here we go again – things begin to fall into place. When looking back at words that had been said, things that had happened, understanding began to form. Wisdom grows. Success is measured in earthly terms and wisdoms aims are worldly aims. This is to be expected as all of our experiences are earthly based.

Heavenly based wisdom is so different in so many ways. To begin with only true wisdom can come from above, it is a gift of God. It is described in the Wisdom of Solomon as a pure influence flowing from the glory of God. All of the Jewish sages agreed that wisdom came to men from God.

Coming from God this wisdom is pure and brings with it peace. There is another quality more difficult to translate from the Greek. It is best described as ‘going one step beyond’. Knowing when it is actually wrong to apply the strict letter of the law. Here is where wisdom comes forward. It tempers justice with mercy. It knows that there are other things besides rules and regulations.

James, in his Epistle writes a great truth. “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”. Here we have the relationship between man and man. A rich harvest can only be achieved in a place with right relationships. If we ask ourselves, “could I go on talking like this if Jesus was listening to me? There would be many things that would not take place or be said.

Collect for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear the prayers

of your people who call upon you;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.