Sunday 2nd September 2018
15th Sunday after Pentecost

Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

(Alternatives: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9; Psalm 15)

Words have a prominent place in today’s readings. There are reminders of how words impact many aspects of our lives. The reader is introduced to a conversation between two lovers; an orator poised with the “tongue of a ready writer”; the virtues and values of a "tongue without guile" and the texts and drafts of a nation’s lawbook. The New Testament readings speak particularly of the futility of words that are not put into action and the shallowness of lip-service that is not reflected in the lives and attitudes of those who speak.

These provide clear opportunity to reflect on the place that words have in today’s society, and pray for wordsmiths, authors, poets, journalists and all whose words permeate and shape our society. Prayers might be offered for those in a congregation or community whose words bear influence or whose responsibilities might require them to say difficult or unwelcome things.

Psalm 45 shifts between an oration expressing the glory of God, to one in praise of the king. This makes sense when the over-arching theology is recognised – the king is called to be the embodiment of God’s reign and rule. A congregation might be invited to consider how Christians are called to be “ambassadors of Christ” and what practical implications this has for them from Monday to Saturday. Psalm 15 celebrates honesty and blamelessness – as well as considering this on a personal level, there is opportunity to recognise how these values have become easily lost in some aspects of the world on business and finance, and to recognise the need for them to be maintained and reclaimed.

Song of Solomon can be difficult book to preach – many simply resort to allegory, presenting the interaction of human lovers as representing our relationship with a loving God. But perhaps this misses the opportunity to explore with a congregation why a book of this nature is included in the Biblical canon. It serves to graphically suggest that God is interested in every aspect of our lives, offering a clear opportunity to include within that, the world of work .

The New Testament readings are a reminder that we are called to put the words of our faith into action both by pursuing the agendas of God’s kingdom and by reflecting God’s nature in our own speech. An opportunity exists to invite a congregation to consider the places and contexts they will be in during the forthcoming working week and what it would mean for them to live out the challenges of these verses. This might be further underlined when using the Deuteronomy reading by recognising the breadth and scope of the “statutes and ordinances” that are referenced, and how many impact the nation’s organisation and participation in the world of work.