We must be open toward God, and open towards others, otherwise the power we need can not be produced. A simple idea really, but one that is at the root of both the gospel and epistle reading today. The gospel says, in verses 30 to 34, that Jesus and his disciples were travelling through Galilee, and Jesus was teaching his disciples about how the Son of Man was going to be betrayed into the hands of men, and be killed, and then on the third day rise; but that the disciples did not understand what he meant – and were afraid to ask him about it. Instead, they were arguing, and we hear that when they arrived at Capernaum Jesus asked them about it, saying: “what were you arguing about on the road”?
But the disciples were silent because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest among them. A silly argument really – one that I am sure that no one here would ever get into. I mean imagine it – trying to decide who is more important… What measuring stick would we use? Those who farm – are they the greatest – because they produce the milk and food we need to eat? Are the teachers among us the most important – because they train people in the various jobs they must do and provide them with the tools they need to learn new things with? Or is it doctors – because without them most diseases would be fatal? Or how about janitors and garbage men – for without them we would choke in our own waste products? It is an endless argument once you get into it, and one the disciples did well to remain silent about when confronted by the master.
Why this quest to determine who is most important? Why this quest to be number one? I mean, why bother with the whole question? why bother wondering who is greatest? why this quest to be better or more powerful than other people? why this desire to Lord it over our brothers and sisters as if that was somehow important to do? Surely there is a different way of looking at life? A more helpful way – a way that totally avoids the question of greatness, the question of who should be first and instead looks at quality of life, at what James, in verse 18 of the epistle reading, calls the harvest of righteousness. Jesus speaks of a different way of living and of thinking when after asking his disciples about what they were arguing about, calls all twelve of them together and says to them: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” And then taking a little child and having him stand among them, he takes the child in his arms and says to them: Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, does not welcome me, but the one who sent me. I have always liked that, both as an image, and as a teaching. Jesus calls the twelve – and he calls us – away from our arguments about who is greatest, and who deserves more and who should call the shots and turns our mind instead to the question of our attitude and how willing we are to humble ourselves and to serve one another. Children were not valued at the time of Jesus in the way they are today. They had no rights. There were no United Nations declarations about how they should be treated, and what it is that they deserve out of life. Children were not the most important persons in their families, nor were they considered to be the greatest members of their society. Who are the children today — who are those people who are not highly regarded? who are those without a place of their own? those without a leg to stand on? those whose voices are heard not because they have a right to be heard, but only because the more powerful indulge them from time to time?
There is poem about the attitude that Jesus calls those who bear his name to have. It goes like this: When I say…”I am a Christian” I’m not shouting “I am saved” I’m whispering “I was lost” That is why I chose this way. When I say …”I am a Christian” I don’t speak of this with pride. I’m confessing that I stumble and need someone to be my guide. When I say…”I am a Christian” I’m not trying to be strong I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on. When I say…”I am a Christian” I’m not bragging of success. I’m admitting I have failed and cannot ever pay the debt. When I say…”I am a Christian” I’m not claiming to be perfect, My flaws are too visible But, God believes I’m worth it. When I say…”I am a Christian” I still feel the sting of pain I have my share of heartaches Which is why I speak His name. When I say…”I am a Christian” I do not wish to judge. I have no authority. I only know I’m loved.
What is it that you want out of life? What is it you want from God? I think that most of us looking for a better life for ourselves and our families and our world. We would like to feel more at peace, We would like to have more joy and happiness, We would like to see an end to the world’s problems We would like to see our children, and our children’s children be able to grow up with enough to eat, and the ability to do what they want when they want to, and we hope that what they will want will be good for them and for those that they meet. This can only come to us when we give up the world’s standards of success as they are measured by power, status, and money – and turn as humble children to our Father in Heaven and learn from him.
Blessed be God, who shows us the way in Christ Jesus, day by day, day by day. Amen.
copyright – Rev. Richard J. Fairchild