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Related Bible reading(s): Mark 10.17-31

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Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

Seek wisdom

Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first (Mark 10.31).

 

Context

  • The £20 per week supplement to universal credit ended in the past week, a decision opposed by many people and criticised by many church leaders as unwise.
  • The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow begins this month (31 October).
  • The party conference season ended this week with the Conservatives meeting in Manchester; although Parliament does not return until 18 October.
  • One big story this week is the so-called Pandora papers discussed by Lucy Winkett on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day on Tuesday.

 

Reflection and ideas for a sermon, talk or conversation

  • Do political leaders in this country or elsewhere demonstrate wisdom or are they more like the man in Jesus’ story who cannot face a wise challenge (Mark 10.22), or the disciples who face hard choices (Mark 10.24)?
  • Are we challenged by this week’s Gospel passage as were the man who went away grieving, and the disciples who found Jesus’ sayings hard?
  • Our society often values skill above wisdom. The way that celebrities and sportspeople are paid is hardly reward for wisdom. Marcus Rashford has taken a stand on behalf of the dispossessed in our society but not many other celebrities seem to have joined him.
  • Given that it is the future of young people which is most threatened by climate change, how do we respond to the climate challenges from young people?
  • The Kirchentag is a huge biannual church gathering in Germany – their main website is being rebuilt, but you can still see much of this year’s virtual event. The strap line of the 2015 Kirchentag was ‘Damit wir klug werden’ (Psalm 90.12: ‘That we may become wise’, or in NRSV ‘That we may gain wise hearts’). When I showed that slogan to a congregation, a former German teacher translated it as ‘That we may become clever’. This shows how tricky translation can be – the German word ‘klug’ can mean both wise and clever – but it can also remind us that we value wisdom differently from cleverness.
  • The Gospel writers use the phrase about the first being last and the last first in different ways (Matthew 19.30 and 20.16, Mark 10.31 and Luke 13.30). Many years ago at Evensong in St George’s Windsor, under the banners of the garter knights, I heard one of those readings and wondered what the garter knights would have thought of them.

 

Questions for discussion

  • What do you think Jesus intended when he spoke of the first being last and the last first? And what is the significance of that powerful saying for Christians today?
  • Are world leaders taking the climate challenge seriously or is Greta Thunberg right to call the words of world leaders on this subject ‘blah, blah, blah’?
  • What should individual Christians be doing about climate change in the run up to COP26?

Dudley Coates is a local preacher in the Yeovil and Blackmore Vale Methodist Circuit and a former Vice President of the Methodist Conference.

 

Check-in

Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

It’s the one everyone is talking about… Most young people probably shouldn’t be watching it, judging by the content description, but they’re definitely talking about it – Squid Game.  The nine-episode Korean thriller has smoothly moved in to the number one slot for Netflix, with the hashtag ‘SquidGame’ on TikTok viewed more than 22.8 billion times and counting. The premise of the show is simple, desperate cash-strapped contestants take part in a competition based around children’s games for enormous prize money. The problem for the losers is that they don’t just get knocked out of the competition, they forfeit their lives. So far, so dystopian, and yet this show has clearly caught the imagination. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, perhaps it’s the drama of survival against the odds or the idea of an enormous prize achieved through seemingly simple tasks; whatever it is, the show resonates with young people.

And yet the story of the rich man in Mark’s gospel tells us that even when riches are possessed, when you’ve made it by all the standards of our world and when you you’ve played the game and won, it’s pretty irrelevant in God’s kingdom. In fact, the very opposite is true – the rich man is told to lose it all, to give everything he has away, in order to gain life in the kingdom. He’s only asked to do one thing: put God first and let go of everything else. The rich man is not faced with a Squid Game death if he doesn’t get rid of his wealth, but he is faced with the darkness of life without God’s light.

What are you willing to let go of in order to put God first? And how does it feel knowing that you don’t have to play the game, because your prize is freely given?

Fiona Dorman taught English in secondary school for 20 years and is currently working as Bristol Cathedral education officer and as an educational consultant.

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