Sunday 30th September 2018
19th Sunday after Pentecost

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

(Alternatives: Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29; Psalm 19:7-14)

Todayís readings connect a number of diverse and challenging realities, which are not the easiest to apply to the lives and circumstances of a contemporary congregation. So, for example, the backdrop to the story of Queen Esther involves a level of intrigue, manipulation, violence and corruption that would need to be treated with a fair degree of sensitivity. Yet this also offers a vital perspective that touches the very heart of our faith and work agenda. We may not condone or leave unchallenged such realities, but we can acknowledge that the world in which we seek to live as followers of Jesus has not rid itself of similar behaviours. For many, the world of work can be a place that exposes us to forces and structures that we can recognise as being far from Godís ideal. Yet the message of stories like Estherís is that faith can be lived out, and higher purposes achieved even amidst these realities.

The conversation between Jesus and his disciples, recorded in Markís Gospel, is a reminder that God can be at work outside of our recognised networks and structures. There is clearly a resonance between the response that Jesus makes to those who complain of strangers claiming to do his work, and the response of Moses when Joshua complains of unauthorised prophets speaking out Godís message. There is a poignant opportunity to apply this reality to the world of business and industry, recognising that work is one context where we might be surprised to discover that God is speaking through people and situations that we may not have expected or anticipated. A congregation might be invited to pause and consider this reality, applying it to their own life circumstances and praying that they may be open to discovering God at work in similar ways.

In this context, the reading from James offers some further potential connections with the world of work. Recognising that commerce and industry can sometimes be a source of harm and wrongdoing, confessing sins and recovering others from sin, could be explored not simply from the perspective of individual morality, but corporate wrongdoing. This is one aspect of what it means to be ďsaltĒ as referenced in the Gospel reading.

A theme already mentioned, that further emerges from the various readings, is a sense of Godís purposes prevailing. Psalm 124 expresses this in terms of God being on the side of his people, while Psalm 19 conveys this by recognising the authority and worth of Godís enduring word. The reading from James parallels the prayers of the believers with the activities of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. As his story unfolds in 1 Kings 17-18, it can be noted that Elijahís prayers are not simply a reflection of his personal aspirations and expectations, but a response to Godís direction. Drawing these various strands together, a congregation might further reflect on how Godís purposes can be fulfilled