Signpost for Sunday 13th September 2015: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38.
There’s at least one advantage to an inter-regnum period. It gives us an opportunity to experience a variety of styles, emphases, new thoughts, new learning – and life is never dull. The present Priest-in-charge at Christ Church is a Cathedral man. This week he turns aside from the Continuous Lectionary and Ordinary Time green in favour of Monday’s Holy Cross Day and liturgical red.
Holy Cross Day comes fresh to me, and to many other ordinary lay people – in fact all the others to whom I have spoken, except our Parish Administrator who is Roman Catholic and totally familiar with the Exaltation of the Cross. Googling it brings a legend of St Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother, finding the actual cross at Jerusalem in 326 C.E., which is a lovely story.Google also tells of the Church’s beautification over the years in liturgy, music and art of a rough wooden cross, symbol of cruelty and degradation, hardly to be revered by the early Church to whom it would have been an abhorrent common sight.
The day’s readings are Jesus’ use of the metaphor of Moses lifting up a bronze serpent so that the suffering Israelites could look on it and be healed to parallel his own lifting up on the cross for the healing of mankind. It is not the serpent that heals, nor the cross, but God himself.
Back to Sunday’s Gospel reading, and here’s Peter in trouble again. His sublime utterance, “You are the Messiah,” is a mixture of glorious realisation and complete misunderstanding. Jesus instructs his disciples in plain words that his way in a sinful world will be a way of suffering, and Peter has the arrogance to “rebuke” him. Peter himself then receives the most stunning rebuke given by Jesus to anyone in the whole gospel tradition – not the Pharisees, not the Sadducees, not Caiaphas, not Pilate – no-one save the first of the disciples is ever called “Satan”. Then comes the call to the disciples, to the crowd, and to us today, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Our cross may sometimes be a hideous, sweaty, blood-stained piece of wood, sometimes a jewel-encrusted golden work of art, but we take it up and follow.
And as an afterthought, Psalm 19! I haven’t much talent for music or poetry, but Psalm 19 has everything. Well, maybe it doesn’t rhyme .