Weekly Bible Message in a time of HIV

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A message for the week starting on Sunday 12 September 2021

Lectionary Week: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Prescribed Texts: Proverbs 1:20-33, Psalm 19, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

Focus Text:  Psalm 19

I sense that all of today’s readings, including Isaiah 50:4,9, encompass, in one way or another, the notion of wisdom. With this in mind, I would like to tease out a few ‘wisdom’ ideas from each of the set readings.

From the get-go, the Psalmist launches into a song of praise about what he sees around him as the work of an all-wise creator (v1-6). I assign the adjective ‘all-wise’ to God as creator, for who without wisdom, could create the heavens, the skies, the sun in such a manner that no speech is even required to communicate God’s greatness? 

But the Psalmist is yet more specific as he extols the wisdom of the Word of God (v7-11). A few examples of how God’s Word is described, will suffice for our purposes. It can be seen as being ‘instructions’ which make perfect, as ‘decrees’ which make wise the simple and as ‘commandments’ which bring joy to the heart. Michael Cassidy’s book about Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “The Church Jesus prayed for”, makes much of joy as a mark not only of the individual believer, but more importantly of the church He left behind (John 17:13). He would that those of us affected by the HI virus know a deep joy in our hearts, no matter what.

The writer of Proverbs (traditionally ascribed to Solomon the Wise) eschews any and all who ignore wisdom by ‘living their own way’ (1:11a). Proverbs chapter 1 contentedly ends with a promise that ‘all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm’ (v33). How true could this be in the context of the HIV/Aids pandemic?

James 3:1-12 poses one of the sternest warnings in all of Scripture concerning the danger and complete lack of wisdom in wrong use of the tongue, ‘No one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison’ (vs 8).

In conclusion, some words from Mark’s gospel are helpful – to whom can we look in the light of so high a calling? A calling which embodies the worship of our all–wise Creator God; a deep knowledge of and obedience to God’s Word; a sharing of the comfort we have received through our own suffering and that utter determination to use our tongues for blessing, not cursing. Surely this is the only answer to Jesus’ question: ‘Who do you say I am?’ We must find ourselves looking to, and saying out loud, if that helps, ‘You, Jesus, are the Christ’.

References: Cassidy, M. 2012. The Church Jesus prayed for. Monarch Books: Oxford, UK and Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

To think about: Who do you say that I am? (Mark 8:29)

Written By: Rev Jessica McCarter, Priest of the Anglican Church and trained Churches Channel of Hope (CCoH) Facilitator