A Child Among Us - Reflections 9-16-2021


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

This photo has been on my desk all through this COVID exile, keeping my heart warm. It was taken sometime before exile began… Gloria Dei’s children and youth gathered together in one room without masks.

Public schools started the new year with in-person learning. I have been getting ready as if we would also have in-person Sunday School. We’ve got small class sizes, great air exchange system, and everyone would wear masks. We are in a county in which the population that is 12 is older is 75% vaccinated. Most of those not vaccinated yet are those who can’t yet be vaccinated: children. We could mitigate ourselves to safety.

Have you seen the news lately? A variant is loosed that is negating the assumptions we had about mitigation and keeping safe. Yesterday I Zoomed on a very discouraging event by a well know epidemiologist. The event was sponsored by the wider church. The bottom line is that the Delta variant is not something to be dismissed. This thing is tenacious and it is with us for a while yet.

With all that 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.

We start 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. That when they welcome a child, they welcome Jesus. And when they welcome Jesus, they welcome God.

"Ummm. Go ahead, Thaddeus, you can be greatest.”

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.“

So, what do you think?

Right now, we are called to keep children safe. Our "welcome" of them starts by recognizing the new risk that is out there. By doing all we can, like getting a vaccine and still wearing masks. There is a whole community of children that need us to do our part.

Where else does this story touch your life?
Who else are the marginalized that you can welcome?

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245