Weekly Reflections 9-16-15

 Texts for Sunday September 20

 Jeremiah 11:18-20
 Psalm 54
 James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
 Mark 9:30-37

You can read these texts using the Oremus Bible Browser.

Have you seen the news lately? Print, TV, internet all show pictures of refugees fleeing conflict and violence. And the cameras seem especially drawn to the children who are walking mile upon mile stoically by the adults. They look tired, confused, thirsty, and hungry. 

With those images in my mind, I was drawn to the part of the text where Jesus uses a child as his visual aid in the Gospel for Sunday. It is hard for us today to really get what Jesus meant when he set a child in front of the disciples and says “Here.”  We see children as valuable, as worthy of respect and dignity in their own right - that is what makes those images from the news so difficult to see.

The sentence that preceded this child-as-visual-aid was: Whoever wants to be first must be…servant of all. At the time of Jesus, one barely noticed the servants who were serving. In the same way, one barely noticed children. A child was a non-person, or as one commentator put it a “not-yet-person”.  Not seen and not heard… and certainly not hanging around a group of men.

Since last week’s text, our story has moved along. We’ve skipped over the first half of chapter 9, missing the laser light show called the Transfiguration about which the disciples had no clue. Jesus says “Don’t tell anybody”; not a problem since no one would believe them anyway. Then Jesus gets stopped by someone asking him for healing because his disciples had already tried and failed. The disciples had a rough time in the verses we didn’t read.

 So we pick up this week’s text with Jesus again telling them he is going to die and they don’t say anything; silence. But, the narrator reports, they were afraid to ask what he meant.  The disciples travel on and discuss among themselves who is the greatest among them. Jesus asks them what they are talking about and again, silence.  

Well, hang on, disciples. Jesus is going to throw another one of those paradoxical comments about greatness.  He has told them earlier (8:35) that to live they have to die. Now he tells them that to be great they have to be last in line. Jesus picks up a child, a non-person, and “put it among them”. It? 
Jesus embraces the child and tells them to welcome the child. And when they welcome a child, they welcome Jesus. And when they welcome Jesus, they welcome God.  

The disciples’ day hasn’t really gotten any better.

So, to be great, the disciples need to welcome, embrace those who live without status, dignity, and rights. They need to be the welcoming servants of the excluded, marginalized, and ignored. They too need to be an “it” in society.  

Hmmm. Go ahead, John, you can be greatest.

So what do you think? What does this story have to do with you living your life? 
Who are the marginalized that you can welcome? 

Check out the G.I.F.T. post for this Sunday, September 13, for more ways to reflect on these verses.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245