Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The ‘Little People’ who pay their taxes
matter most in the Kingdom of God

The North Porch, Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)
Patrick Comerford

Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin,

8 July 2015,

12.45 p.m., The Mid-Week Eucharist

Readings
(for The Fifth Sunday after Trinity): II Samuel 5: 1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48; II Corinthians 12: 2-10; Mark 6: 1-13.

May I speak to you in the name of + the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I know it’s not the done thing to have a sermon here at the mid-week Eucharist in Saint Bartholomew’s.

But I thought it was worth reflecting for just a few moments on last Sunday’s readings, which we have heard again today, looking forward to next Sunday’s readings, and trying to make connections between the two.

Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading was about David becoming king – against all the odds, an unexpected, shy, small, marginalised, overlooked young shepherd boy becomes king.

The Apostle Paul, who has a thorn in his side – whatever that may be – refuses to boast, unlike others, and relies on his own humility, yet becomes an effective missionary.

In the Gospel reading, Christ returns to his home town. He has been acclaimed throughout Galilee as a teacher, a rabbi, he has even been called Lord. But in his own home town, those who think they know better, are unwilling to acknowledge who he really is.

Instead they try to put him down, reminding him of where he comes from, who is family are, telling him he is getting above himself.

Instead of confronting the leaders of the community, he turns to those they have marginalised … the sick, the maimed, and those in need of healing.

He then goes on to warn the disciples that in their mission they are going to be marginalised and snubbed too. But they should not allow this to get them down. They should dust themselves down and move on.

And then, next Sunday, we are going to hear that rejection can have catastrophic consequences (Mark 6: 14-29). Herod hears about Jesus’ mission and preaching, has flashbacks about his capricious decision to execute Saint John the Baptist.

He thinks that although he had John executed that he has now come back to life. His treatment of someone he thought did not really matter compared to his own pleasures and lusts comes back to haunt him. He is the author of his own worst nightmares.

When we marginalise and demean people, when we only value them for the ways they are useful to us and enhance our own lifestyles, we sow the seeds of eventual disaster.

I am reminded of Leona Helmsley who once said: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes” (New York Times, 12 July 1989). Her dismissive “Only little people pay taxes” would become America’s version of “let them eat cake.”

She eventually became the author of her own misfortune, and Forbes still lists her at the top of the 10 greatest tax fraudsters in the US.

The little people matter little to the village elders in Nazareth who look down on Jesus at his homecoming; the little people matter little to those who shut their doors to the disciples or look down on little David and Saint Paul who both refuse to boast; the little people matter in the scheming that eventually proves to be the downfall of King Herod.

But there is a simple message linking last Sunday’s Gospel reading with next Sunday’s Gospel reading:

The little people matter … “for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10: 14).

And so, may all we think, say and do, be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This reflection was shared at the mid-week Eucharist in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, on Wednesday 8 July 2015.

Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
Hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Post Communion Prayer:

Holy and blessed God,
as you give us the body and blood of your Son,
guide us with your Holy Spirit,
that we may honour you not only with our lips
but also with our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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