My husband and I woke up at 4:30am this morning because we heard a thud of some kind. Chris sleepily got out of bed to check it out, saw nothing wrong in the house and came back to bed. When I got up later in the morning, I saw that my neighbor’s garbage can had been hit and garbage was all over the street. The next door neighbor had called the police to alert them. Another neighbor came with a shovel and her own garbage can to clean it up. Chris went out to help. By then, the woman who owned the garbage can had woken up and was standing in her bathrobe…shaking her head at why someone would do such a thing. By the time I had gotten ready for the day, everything was cleaned up and no one would have known anything had happened (except for the crushed can that needs replacing).
I was struck by how everyone came together to help a neighbor, even when she was still asleep. I was struck by how much we need each other.
Desmond Tutu, who is most known for his anti-apartheid work, talks about ubuntu. The African idea that we belong to one another. That we must identify so much with each other that we see you as me and I as you. We are one. He describes it better than I can:
My hope is that we can apply this to who we are as church. I see so many empty seats lately. Sometimes I even think of being an empty seat myself. But we need each other. God made us to need each other. It’s a reflection of our need for God. So despite the ills – and I know they are grave – I’ve got to keep coming. Because I need you. And I need God, more than ever. Church helps me feel more connected to all that. Ubuntu.
This prayer is a beautiful Ubuntu prayer:
I am because you are…you are because I am
I am the ancestor and the unborn
You are the ancestor and the unborn
When I fail, you fail…When you fail, I fail
When I thrive, you thrive…When you thrive, I thrive
Wherever I go, I carry you
Wherever you go, you carry me
I am the ancestor and unborn
You are the ancestor and the unborn
I recognize the God in me, just as I recognize the God in you
I am because we are…you are because I am
I love you because I am you…AMEN
So let’s go pick up the trash together and be church. Hope to see you there. Ubuntu.
1st Reading: Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
The Book of Wisdom is known only in Greek and may be the last book of the Old Testament to be written. The main interest of the author is to reassure the Jewish community living in Egypt that keeping their faith is worthwhile despite the hardships in a pagan land (Aren’t we still?). Prophets Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah draw from the insights in this book, so it deserves healthy attention (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, p. 488-489).
Gandhi was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, in particular the emphasis on love for everyone, even one’s enemies, and the need to strive for justice. He also took from Hinduism the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success; the Hindu text Bhagavad-Gita says, “On action alone be thy interest, / Never on its fruits / Abiding in discipline perform actions, / Abandoning attachment / Being indifferent to success or failure” (Wolpert, India 71).
For Gandhi, ahimsa was the expression of the deepest love for all humans, including one’s opponents; this non-violence therefore included not only a lack of physical harm to them, but also a lack of hatred or ill-will towards them. Gandhi rejected the traditional dichotomy between one’s own side and the “enemy;” he believed in the need to convince opponents of their injustice, not to punish them, and in this way one could win their friendship and one’s own freedom. If need be, one might need to suffer or die in order that they may be converted to love (http://www.socialchangenow.ca/mypages/gandhi.htm).
In South Africa, the words “I am” also mean “you are.” I am because you are! This concept, known as ubuntu, emerged in the 19th century and developed as a world view for South Africans when apartheid was legislated in the early 1950s. It literally stands for human-ness or humanity toward others. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said ubuntu means “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Nelson Mandela wrote “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?” Ubuntu then is a philosophy of interdependence (from recent blog of https://richardsvosko.wordpress.com/). How does this fit in setting the “wicked” as being someone else? Are we all to learn and be blessed by one another?
2nd reading: James 3:16-4:3
James questions what we still question today…why is there war? Why can we hold on to our own self interests? He begs his listeners to be seekers of peace…to be pure, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. Where do you find peace in your life? How does this help you in times of conflict?
From Seeking Peace, Johann Christoph Arnold:
“You will always find reasons to grumble. If you want to find peace, you must be willing to give them up. I beg you: stop concentrating on your desire to be loved. It is the opposite of Christianity.”
“…the inside must become like the outside (and the other way around)…a consistent battle in favor of all that is life-bringing and good…”
“Joy and peace are found in loving and nowhere else.” – John Stott
Gospel: Mark 9:30-37
Not only is Jesus predicting his Passion and death a second time (remember last week’s Gospel?), but he is teaching his disciples the meaning of servant. We are all servants of Christ and servants in his household. (Birmingham, W&W, 653) How do we become servants of Christ? It’s all about the love! J We will be unable to endure the cross Christ asks of us if we do not grow in the love he gives us. When we follow the way of the Lord and the will of God in love, we live in the perfection of justice we seek in our prayer. Only then will we understand and live the life of a true servant of Christ (654).
Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges developed the Lead Like Jesus movement. Like Sigmund Freud, ego has a lot to do with it. We have a tendency to Edge God Out by putting ourselves in the center (like the disciples in this Gospel story). We let pride and fear get in the way. We need to have a tendency for Exalting God Only, where we have a spirit of humility and confidence in God’s purpose. It is a lifelong struggle (Phelps, The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus, 58-63).
Did you notice that Jesus and the disciples are in constant motion? They are constantly on the way to somewhere, on a journey. This is like our lives now! We are challenged to be present with Jesus in our constant motion too.
The word for servant (talya) is interchangeable with child. The word receives is the same word for welcomes in 6:11. It means taking care of the weaker members of the community – those who are in most need of being served. Children were at the bottom of society’s social ladder. Childhood was a time of great danger. 30% of live births ended in death. Disease and lack of hygiene caused 60% of children to die by the age of 16 (Birmingham, W&W, 656). Jesus turns everything upside down for us. We are supposed to be more like children (or servants) to receive Him. How do we do this? Again, it is all about the love…