Our Gospel reading is complicated today, jam packed with incidents and side commentary and vignettes. Our Gospel opens with Jesus, Peter, James and John coming down from the mountain on which Jesus has just been "transfigured." And upon their arrival: Jesus heals an individual with epilepsy; he scolds for lack of faith; there is astonishment by everyone; Jesus tells his disciples, yet again, that he will be betrayed; the disciples don't understand and are afraid to ask; the disciples, instead of asking, argue among themselves about who is the greatest; Jesus brings a little child into their midst and points saying, welcome a child like this and you are welcoming God into your lives, and proving that the least among you are the most important; and our selection ends with John telling Jesus they tried to stop an individual who was doing work in Jesus' name because that individual wasn't part of their group, and Jesus says, Don't do that, whoever isn't against us is one of us.
Where to start....besides taking a deep breath and saying, Oh my. Each different piece of this selection could be the basis for sermon fodder. What strikes me from this passage is that despite the internal arguments, despite the lack of faith, without any real perceptive understanding, despite the attempts to be exclusionary, God's efforts to bring the kingdom to light are still perceptible and are achieved.
In Holy Women, Holy Men today, we remember and honor Pope John XXIII. We learn in his brief bio provided, that he was bishop-missionary-to-troubled-places throughout his career. It wasn't until he was 72 that he was given a home base (Venice) from which to work. That only lasted five years as he was elected Pope at age 77. People thought (including most likely the electors) that he was going to be short-lived with little to no impact on the church. Within the first year of holding his office, he called for The Second Vatican Council, from which so much changed. Despite the human efforts to control, to hold-in-place, God worked a major retooling of how many churches worship and operate in the world.
In our own individual lives, our lack of faithfulness, our doubts and concerns and troubles, our inability to trust in prayer and God's hand in the world, cannot stop the movement of the Spirit, of God's work in the world. Despite our best efforts at times, when we may think we have won, God always has the last word.
Despite ourselves, God still loves us. Always has. Always will.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo, SW Waterfront, 2008, jfd+