Sunday 19th September 2021
17th Sunday after Pentecost

Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37

(Alternatives: Jeremiah 11:18-20; Psalm 54)

There are a number of themes in today’s readings which, although somewhat unrelated, could be pursued and applied to our engagement with the world of work. The reading from Proverbs is not without its difficulties as it is rooted in a culture where gender roles were much more limited and defined than is the case for our own context. However the overarching principle is worthy of attention, giving value both to caring professions in general, but also highlighting what is often called the “hidden economy” of those who are not in contractual employment but provide a vital resource in our society. The final sentence in the Gospel reading further underlines the value of caring for the dependant and vulnerable in our society.

Our present context recognises these roles as valuable for what they are, not in terms of our relationship with another person. There is opportunity here to celebrate the contribution that carers, homemakers and volunteers make in our society, and also to recognise that work is more than simply economic necessity, but an expression of our human identity – working together to care for God’s creation.

The reading from James gives focus to a theme that resonates throughout - contrasting “envy and selfish ambition” with “wisdom from above”. This can be applied in several contexts, not least by considering the values that prevail in the world of corporate business, recognising again that commerce itself is not intrinsically evil, but can become so when driven by “envy and selfish ambition” rather than “wisdom from above.”

In so doing it is important to remember that the Biblical context from which these phrases emerge are behaviours among God’s people – a group of disciples arguing over status, and a congregation challenged by James to review and reform their behaviour. Considering this more generally, a contemporary congregation might reflect on the Church’s calling to act as an example to society, modelling the behaviours that should prevail in every aspect of our shared and public life.

In 2018, this Sunday is Peace Sunday. You can click here for a reflection on Mark 9:30-37 written by ICF Chair, Phil Jump, originally written for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Peace Sunday service resource.