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23rd September 2012 Trinity 16 Bishop Dušan Hejbal


Sermon (Click Link to Listen)  In Czech with English translation by Květoslav Tomáš Krejčí

Bible Readings:Psalm 54; James 3. 13-4. 3 & 7-8a; Mark 9. 30-37.



Bishop Dušan Hejbal from the Old-Catholic Church in the Czech Republic preaching at St. Clements.

Bishop Dušan Hejbal from the Old-Catholic Church in the Czech Republic preaching at St. Clements.

When talking of the disciples, one would almost say that they had behaved like idiots. In the face of death, Jesus spoke of the coming event, of his death, as an exit point from this world. The disciples did not understand, but what’s worse, they pretended to, and then, on their way back, they had a lively discussion about which of them was the single most important.

Who hasn’t experienced something like that? I certainly have, and on more than one occasion. There is one story that always comes to mind:

It was at the end of the 1970s, when I attended a two-month course for people wanting to become tram drivers. One of the instructors was trying to explain, in great detail, the technical secrets of a tramway car, and we were expected to grasp this mystery in order to understand how it all worked. The course was full of terms like engine generator, line contactor, thyristor, and so on. There were about twenty of us, if I recall: workers, technicians wanting to make a quick crown with the Prague Transport Company, a female teacher, a salesperson, who was fired for some cash having gone missing, a senior lecturer from a university, who had signed some papers against the government, a musician, who had failed a politically required exam, and myself, who was representing the omnipresent estate of the clergy. My understanding was absolute zero. It was worse than if the instructor had been trying to speak Hebrew. When he asked us whether we had understood, my eyes wandered around the room, and I concluded that I was the only one who had not. So I kept my head down and didn’t ask a single question. My first question came during a cigarette break, and I discovered that I was by no means the only one who had failed to understand. We just didn’t want to look like idiots – we all agreed.

There are simply moments in life when we don’t want to look stupid – and that attitude makes us even more so.

The disciples were most likely afraid of admitting in front of one another that all Jesus’ talk of death was beyond them, and that they did not understand it. So, they instead preferred to chat about which of them would be the greatest. This became a common practice of sorts within the Church, and so today we do not fight about which of us will serve these people in need or those people in need, but about who has or who doesn’t have jurisdiction of some sort, or who may or who may not represent God’s mercy. Self-serving pamphlets are being drawn up about who stands for the true Church, who stands for the still-a-little-bit-true Church, and who is no Church at all. Simply put, people like to look up, and the Lord looks down, into the abyss. The Lord descends, but his servants climb up and up. The disciples had no notion of what it is to be a Dean, a Canon, a Bishop or a Cardinal, and so they were probably thinking that they would be governmental ministers of sorts in the Messiah’s future cabinet, or they were arguing about who would become the first Pope – and Peter won.

Then Jesus brought them down to earth with his question: What were you discussing while on the way? And because he is the One to whom one cannot tell a lie, they remained silent. And he answered himself: He who wishes to be first, let him be last.

From the point of view of the world in which we live, the great one is the one who is successful, happy, and wealthy. From this point of view, Jesus indeed lost against the powers of this world. He asserted his kingly power at a moment when it seemed ridiculous, his reign commencing on the Cross, and his rule only over those who wish to accept him. He does not impose himself, and yet he is the Lord, and in his kingdom are other laws, other positions, other values, and other people, too.

In the times of Jesus, a child was someone who was ignored to a large extent. Nobody was particularly interested. And in this embarrassing situation, Jesus suddenly takes the hand of a child, puts the child before his ambitious disciples, and embraces it. This is, in fact, a caressing touch for all of us who fail to understand so many things about God, but in the same way that a child depends on adults, we are dependent on God and his love. We are not self-sufficient, and yet we are still the object of Divine love.

To be like a child is not easy. It requires us to descend from the heights of our egos and to acknowledge the fact that there are so many things that we fail to understand or that we fail to manage, that we do need God, as well as other people around us, and that we are not self-sufficient, despite the fact that we often pretend to be. Yes, we do indeed need a great deal of Divine love to live our lives. Amen.

More Photos from the service, click for larger versions. All images © starokatolici.cz and used with permission. More photos of the event can be found >>>here<<< on the website of the Old Catholic Church in the Czech Republic!: