Proverbs 1: 20-33; Psalm 19: 1-14; James 3: 1-12; Mark 8: 27-38

Over the summer holidays many of us get up to a different routine from the norm and maybe this helps to keep our sanity. I hope that was true for you over the last couple of months of amazing weather and that you had time to stare at ceiling or the clouds or the stars a little bit more than you might otherwise. That there was time to appreciate family and friends and beauty and wonder a little bit more than you might otherwise. That there was a time to think about priorities and God’s presence in your life and to think about your calling in life. We don’t always like to think about or name our own calling; that is for the religious types like clergy or seminary students and the like but it is an important word to consider.

The summer time is important in my own annual cycle to consider all these things and a number of others. One of the things that I find is that I actually have a bit more time to read the newspaper instead of just letting them pile up or forgotten on the Ipad. So this is one thing I find energizing. If there really is time I may even look at the crossword puzzle and try to puzzle out a few of the clues. I am terrible at crosswords. I love to look at the cryptic crosswords but I rarely can answer any of these but I love to try. They are just such strange clues that seemingly have no connection with a linear thought process. A few years ago I heard on Peter Gzowski on the CBC for those of you who remember him, an interview about cryptic crosswords. The guest offered the most difficult clue as voted by a group of cryptic crossword aficionados. It was the one letter clue E. That was it, just the letter E. The answer had 13 letters. E… 13 letters. Well I wouldn’t know where to start. The answer is senselessness. Sense… less… ness. Take the letters of sense and take out the letters of ness from that and you are left with, that’s right E. Well that is just crazy. Who would even think of that? Well presumably a few people did.

Cryptic clues seem to abound in the Bible and the readings we heard this morning were no exception. For we heard: Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?” Now I ask you do you hear this voice of wisdom crying out in such a way in your neighbourhood? Is this cryptic question even able to be answered?

Or from James: Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

Or from the gospel of Mark, Jesus asked his followers: “Who do people say that I am?” And they seem to struggle with how to answer that until Peter blurts out, “You are the Messiah.” And then for some strange reason Jesus orders them not to tell anyone.

All of this seems to add to the confusion of this life of faith I think. It is hard to find the one and true message of our faith hidden amongst cryptic clues and this is a problem. We read the Bible expecting it all to t be laid out and it isn’t really. Some read the Bible and see a message that we should be excluding certain people: foreigners, slaves, homosexuals, even women, even children. Some read the Bible and hear a message supporting violence and division between other faiths and other groups. Some read the Bible and hear a message that there is only one way to know God and it is their way and no other way exists. Some read the Bible and find it so confusing they turn away and feel it has no relevance to life lived in 2015; it has no connection to a world where a child refugee drowns fleeing towards a new life or a world where bombs are dropped in hopes of bringing about peace or where election rhetoric from many different angles seems to be ramping up more and more. Where is the truth to be found? Where is the voice of God, the voice of wisdom, the movement of the Holy Spirit known? Well we discover that not in cryptic clues offering a very hidden message but instead in the world all around us. Not actually hidden but right before us.

This past summer I had the pleasure of spending some time in Iceland. Now who would go to Iceland in the summer is a question you might want to ponder another time but Iceland is a fascinating country. The topography, geology and geography are mesmerizingly beautiful. Filled with rolling hills, fjords, waterfalls, glaciers and geothermal pools it is a wonder to behold. There were many things that struck me but one was seeing the Cathedral in Reykjavik towering above the city clearly making a statement in its presence. And on the street leading up to the Cathedral were rainbow stripes of the Gay Pride festivities still clearly shown. The country embraces justice and fair treatment of all people with all its might. They hold firm to the feeling, the hope that all people should be treated kindly and equitably and with respect. They hold firm that, in my words, they see the image of God in all people. They see the messiah in all people. They see the Holy Spirit moving amongst them in all people. I was mesmerized by this sentiment in this country. It seemed so obvious to them. But we seem to get so caught up in reasons why this cannot be so. We get caught up in debates about why this would be too expensive to do this or why our faith tells us differently or why the rules will not allow. They seem to just get on with it and find a way forward.

Jesus said to his followers: If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? These are not idle words. These are not easily ignored. This following Christ is not a simple thing. It is not hidden cryptically behind clouded words in our holy book. It demands our all. It demands that we think about what God is hoping of us. It demands that we seek a new world where Jesus the Messiah is known amongst us not because we have the only answer to God amongst us but because we have his answer to God amongst us. And that stirs us off of our comfortable place and challenges us to live a life that reflects our faith, our hope, our compassion.

And so when we see that picture of the young Syrian child lying dead on the beach what does that say to us? When we hear politicians arguing about the number of refugees we might take in what does that say to you? When we hear that there are too many foreigners trying to get into our country what does that say to you? When we hear that some First Nations people here at home live in conditions very similar to refugee camps what does that say to you? When we hear that people are judged solely on their sexual orientation or skin colour or educational background or level of understanding English and not their soul what does that say to you? When we hear that the pope is calling all parishes in Europe to sponsor a refugee family, what does that say to you? When we hear that Jesus is saying to us, to you and to me, “Yes but who do YOU say that I am? What does that say to you?

It says to me that our faith is not one of grand buildings alone or beautiful music alone or carefully crafted prayers or sermons alone. No our faith is one that says to Jesus that you are the Messiah, the Christ, the one who is calling us to go against the flow and seek not only what is best for our own life but for all people. That we are called to rejig our priorities centred on a faith in the love of God that surrounds us and blesses us and all people… and our living is in response to that.

I heard recently that people in Iceland and petitioning their government to greatly increase the number of Syrian refugees they could sponsor in their country. The original target was 50 refugees, which for a country with a population of 300,000 that made some sense. Now they are asking their government to make it 5,000 refugees that they will house, support, and help in any way possible. One quote from Iceland described the arrival of refugees in this way: “Future spouses, best friends, our next soul mate.”

Jesus is calling us to life. Not life hidden cryptically from us and others as to what we should do. No it is a wisdom of God that we hear cried out in the street and at the busiest corner and at the entrance of the city gates. A message that indeed God is near and inviting us to recognize that presence. May we be blessed as we examine how we respond to this gospel all the days of this week.