Trinity 2: Politics Matter!

1 Samuel 8:4-11,16-20
Mark 3:20-35

This last week has been politically fascinating; has it not? There have been elections in a number of countries around the world, the D-Day commemorations in the UK and France, the political debates in this country. You might not be interested and/or avoid the news right now. Regardless of feelings and even opinion; politics and particularly leadership matters very much to everyone.

The readings from 1 Samuel and Mark show us leadership from God’s perspective and the difficulty Jesus faced from his own family. Leadership is not an easy road to travel; never has been and likely never will.

I like the Old Testament. A lot. I am by no means an expert, it does take some time and energy to get one’s head around it and when you do there is beauty and story to be discovered. If I had to nut shell the Old Testament it is this: it is a story of a people who messed up and the God who loved them anyway. These people, Israel, had been chosen by God to be his people (unsure why them). As the ‘chosen ones’ they had to follow some rules; the Chema (love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. Super easy!) Israel had to care for the neighbours, the widows and orphans and above love God.

Yet, they could not/would not do it. They focused on what they did not have, they worshipped other gods, nothing was quite good enough, they wanted what the neighbours had. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?

In 1 Samuel, this all comes to a head as Israel demands a human king to look after them. Just like all the neighbours had. The Israelites thought this was a better option than obeying God. At this point, Samuel was an old man whose sons had chosen their own paths, disregarding their faith. Samuel would not be leading them for much longer.

Israel has reached a critical moment in their history, two ways to go here. The way of God or the way of themselves. This is the choice that every nation, people and we individuals still have.

Samuel gets a warning from God which he passes on about how awful the ways of a human king are going to be. A human king will turn their sons into war labourers, daughters will be put to work; he will take the best of their flocks, fields and vineyards for his friends, and then a 10% cut on top of that for his own personal use. This is grossly unfair.

However, the people will not listen and continue their demands, they are actively rejecting God for their own agenda. God’s response, despite the warning, is to give the people what they want. There are consequences, the Lord will not answer when they cry out because of the king. God did not do this because he is uncaring or gave up on his chosen people. He wanted to show them that His way is the better one, following him leads to life and not death.

If God is not at the centre of life and we choose to go our own way, there are consequences. It is foolish to think that free will comes without responsibilities.

Stay tuned as the first human king of Israel will be appointed in next week’s edition!

Mark’s Gospel

We are now in the early days of Jesus’ ministry and things are hotting up. Jesus is travelling, healing, teaching and gaining attention. He is quickly becoming a threat and irritant to the religious establishment by healing people on the Sabbath and declaring forgiveness of sins. This attention is likely causing some pressure on his family.

We do not know very much about Jesus’ family life. There are two incidents in Mark 3 that would indicate Jesus’ family life was not easy! His family certainly does not come across well. Mary and the brothers go to restrain him as public opinion was that ‘he had gone out of his mind’. Some of us may know what it is to have awkward/difficult/odd family members.

However, what Jesus is saying is lucid and makes sense. Jesus is pushing the disciples and the religious to look not just at the theory of God but the reality of God.

Everything Jesus was doing was good.

Everywhere Jesus went people were being restored to God, evil and sickness were banished, demons were exercised. The root of the problem was that the power Jesus was displaying could only come from two sources: God or the devil.

Jesus is not only proclaiming the word of God but performs it in action. If we read God’s word, then we should be able to see it in action. Evil simply cannot work against itself. His pushing was making his family and the religious leaders uncomfortable. His family was risking a bad reputation. The religious leaders could lose control of the population and they were willing to lie and deny the consequences of what Jesus was saying and doing was true.

We should be able to see the politics in action. The demands of the Israelites for a human king and rejection of God. The denial of what Jesus was teaching by those who were close to him and the false accusations by the establishment.

What can we do? How can we navigate the politics of the coming weeks and months? My suggestion is to put Jesus at the centre; read and listen to his word. Consider it in light of what we read or watch.

How do we keep God at the centre as a parish and as His beloved children? From the examples of 1 Samuel; choose God’s kingship over that of other imperfect and fallible humans. Care less about what the neighbours have and what you do not. God is faithful and he will give us what we ask for sometimes; be careful of what you are demanding and why. You just might get it!

From Mark, look to the love and goodness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Living a God-centred life is not always easy. The temptation to lie and deny can be strong at times. Fixating on what other people think has a powerful influence on us; tuning it out to follow truth and conscience is never easy.

Good and saintly people of Charlwood and Sidlow Bridge, we will face consequences if we do not stay together. We cannot become divided over politics, opinion, preferences and all the myriad of things that can cause difficulties in churches.

We need to be united with God and with each. With God at the centre of our lives and churches there is a bright and hopeful future ahead of us.

Author: Sue Lepp

I am currently the Lead Chaplain of Gatwick Airport and the Priest-in-Charge of Charlwood St Nicholas and Sidlow Bridge Emmanuel in the Diocese of Southwark. I served my curacy in the Parish of Langley Marish and trained at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Former Nurse in both Canada and the UK. Specialised in Palliative Care, Gynaecology-Oncology and a bit of Orthopaedics (just to keep me travelling). Worked as a MacMillan Nurse Specialist in a few specialities in London.

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