19th September – Andrea’s Letter: Trinity Sixteen

19th September 2021

Dear All
I hope you are well.
We had a small but up lifting gathering at St Andrew’s this morning with Gordon excelling himself on the piano for the final hymn – a great tune to “Christ Triumphant” which he assures me we will have again soon!
Yesterday many of us took part in the annual Cake Walk, organised by Jane and Tim – it was a great event! We were lucky with the weather; the route was well planned, and the tea served in the garden was fabulous! But most of all was the joy of being able to be together again, socialising and meeting new friends! Thank you, Jane, Tim and all who supported this event.

A message from Tim – accommodation is required for delegates coming to the COP 26.  If anyone can offer this google COP26 Homestay network, there are various websites to register with.

This week

Tuesday 10am Prayer Group in the garden room.

Thursday Holy Communion 10am followed by coffee in Friendship House

Saturday 10am Vestry in garden room.

Trinity 16 St Andrew’s Milngavie 2021

Mark 9:30-37

James 3:13-4:3,7-8

Jeremiah 11:18-20

There has been much discussion in the media over the BBC’s Sunday night drama – Vigil. Set locally on a Royal Naval submarine patrolling the Clyde estuary and on the streets of Glasgow it does of course hold a certain appeal for us. However, it has been much criticized for its blatant continuity errors.   Apparently on Sunday the commander, captaining the boat, in one scene had three stripes on his sleeve, and in the next he was sorting four! But whatever you think about these issues the fact is it’s a great yarn with a complex plot full of twists and turns – wonderful escapism for a Sunday evening.

But the fact is we all need to escape from time to time. We need to engage our minds to something that isn’t our doing or our business away from our own challenges and concerns. And to be entertained and absorbed.

In the gospel today, I suspect that was what was happening to the disciples when they were arguing amongst themselves.  Jesus had just said to them for the second time “The son of man is to be betrayed into human hands and they will kill him, He will rise again”

It seems the disciples couldn’t cope with this, they couldn’t grasp it, they couldn’t understand.  So, they indulge in a silly conversation and discussion about themselves. It may well even have been light-hearted – we don’t know. But it was clearly preferable than discussing the facts of what Jesus was saying.

But we can’t blame the disciples. Up to this point in Mark’s gospel the focus has been on Jesus’ Galilean ministry, his teaching, his healing miracles, his building up his relationship with his apostles. It’s all been good and positive. The crowds have been drawn with wonder and amazement, so too the apostles.  But now suddenly the focus changes – it becomes more challenging.  Jesus is suddenly taking the disciples further in their understanding of the person he is. Nothing is any longer straight forward.

So, given this context its curious to know why the disciples simply didn’t ask Jesus to explain. Possibly because they didn’t want to appear as confused as they were. Or perhaps their distress at his teaching is so deep they feared addressing it. Or maybe they felt as we may sometimes do. The closer we are to Jesus, the more we feel we are supposed to know about God, about prayer, about the Bible, and we fear embarrassment if we are caught not knowing. After all none of us really wants to look uninformed, confused, or clueless. So, sometimes we too can withhold our toughest questions, often within our own churches and within Christian circle. We are tempted to put the hard questions to one side.  Even with our nearest and dearest.

Yet the deepest mysteries of life do indeed elude us. Those great questions – Why do good people suffer?
Why are humans so brutal to one another in war?
Why does evil seem often to succeed?
Why did God create a world like this?

And so, the disciples – perhaps like us are afraid to ask.  They avoid the real questions and turn to arguing with each other, squabbling among themselves over petty issues of rank and status.

I can’t help wondering how this story would be different if the disciples had asked Jesus their questions? What kind of conversation might have taken place between Jesus and the disciples?   What kind of relationship as a result might have developed?

And so, we in turn, ask how our stories would be different if we ask Jesus our questions? What kind of conversations might we pursue with Jesus? How would our life as disciples together be different as a result?

To be able to indulge in escapism is wonderful and necessary but it does need to be balanced with a degree of soul searching and realism. We need to keep asking questions.

The good news is that Jesus welcomes us even when we do not understand or do not know. This story closes with Jesus embracing a child, a small child who is the ultimate symbol of not knowing, not understanding, innocent and immature. So, let’s be assured we need not fear our questions, our misunderstandings, our confusion or our curiosity because we worship and are in the presence of Christ – our saviour – whose “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18).

As James says quite simply in his letter this morning “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you”