“WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT”
Pentecost 17 2021 Year B Mark 9:30-37
“Power, competitiveness, personal ambition, and the fight to get to the top of the pile”.
It is burnt into our nature. It is as primitive as the rejection of the runt in the pigsty and the pecking order of the chickens in the fowl house.
It is the underlying philosophy behind all sport. It is the script for every game show and it is the driving force in every brand of politics.
All of our lives we have been witness to one form or another of power grabbing. In education the philosophy of competition is promoted.
It’s in every organization, at every level of government, every business enterprise and corporation. I witnessed the shameless grab for power during my time in the ADF and the QPS.
Over the years I have known many, many, driven, ambitious, power hungry individuals who have clawed their way to the top of the pile.
Many of them would have gladly stepped on their grandmother’s eyeball in their stilettos to get up another rung of the corporate ladder.
It may come as a revelation but I have also seen this display of ambition in the church. Anyone who has had anything to do with the power games at Synod will know exactly what I mean.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for us to discover that this competitiveness and lust for power was among the disciples of Jesus.
We’re told that on their journey to Capernaum, Jesus overheard his disciples bickering over which one among them was the most important.
Reading between the lines it is clear that the disciples must have been a little embarrassed.
Reading between the lines it is clear that the disciples must have been a little ashamed of the substance and content of their discussion.
Because when Jesus hear asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” the disciples remained silent.
Once again it is clear that Jesus knew more about his disciples, than they knew about him.
Rather than directly admonishing the disciples or entering into a lengthy explanation on the inappropriateness of their squabbling for power and position he chose to act out a parable.
He sat down and called the disciples. He took a child and placed the child among them. Then lifting up the child into his arms, he tells his disciples, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name also welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
You may wonder how this could possibly teach them a lesson on humility and power.
To fully appreciate what Jesus did we first need to understand the role and the status of children in the ancient world.
In the time of Christ, the primary feature of children was their lack of status and legal rights.
A Roman parent could with legal impunity abandon their child on a snow-covered hillside to perish or be eaten by wolves and dogs.
One of the marks of the early Church was that Christians were known to go out at night and rescue these children and give them a home.
Until it could walk, a child had no real status and a girl child even less – they were nobodies.
Jesus’ act of picking up and embracing a child was a twofold declaration.
It was a declaration that children were important and had status in the eyes of God.
It was also a declaration that he saw himself on the same level as the child with no rights.
“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name also welcomes me –“.
In placing a child in their midst, Jesus reminds his disciples that his mission is to the powerless and to the marginalized.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to set our hearts and minds on things divine and not on human things.
To be a true disciple of Jesus is to set our hearts and minds on values which are divine and not on human values which are bottom-shelf.
The gospel reading for today is about re-setting our values regarding what we deem to be important. Pray God, that we get it right. AMEN.