Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost 2015
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost | Mark 9: 30-37
Over the last couple months we have learned that Jesus is powerful.
He can cast out demons, and make deaf men speak.
He can walk on the water, calm down storms, and feed 5,000 people.
It seems that Jesus can really do anything.
So how strange it is that He who is Master of all, comes to be the servant of all.
To be betrayed and abandoned by His best friends,
And then to suffer and die at the hands of His enemies, for your sins and for mine.
This is a troubling teaching for the disciples, and for all of us.
To hear that Jesus’ “Follow Me” eventually leads to death,
And that there will be so many bumps and bruises along the way,
All of that is frightening.
And that’s ok. We all know that fear will be there in our lives;
But, then what?
Today the fear of suffering with Jesus leads the disciples away.
Today fear takes them to a dark place,
far away from the Light of the World who has been walking with them.
There, in the darkness, away from Jesus,
the disciples end up trying to deal with their fears by force.
They deal with their fears and anxieties by asking the power question:
“Who is the greatest of us?”
You’ve asked it yourself, in your own way.
Maybe even on the way here this morning.
And that is the wrong question.
It is the question that makes you push others down, so you can be raised up.
Because that is the only way force works.
In the Epistle today, James encourages us toward another way:
The way of weakness:
Follow the Wisdom come down from heaven.
That Wisdom, Jesus Christ, born of Mary,
is meek, and pure, peaceful, gentle, and merciful.
But good goes bad when you and I become fearful and suspicious of that.
Then we fall back, away from Jesus, into the darkness, where Satan has his way
Where he gets to take the life Jesus has given you, and flip it upside down.
That darkness, James writes, is jealousy, and selfish ambition –
It is your boasts, your pride, and all your lies
Your insistence on having things your own way, the way that suits you best.
It is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
That kind of chaos, that kind of disorder means the flip has already happened,
And our worlds are upside-down.
When that happens, when our lives are upside down,
Our only hope is a morning like this morning,
when Jesus comes and flips things right-side-up.
When Jesus comes and make wrongs right.
It starts with a simple question.
“What were you discussing along the way?”
With that question, Jesus engages them –
He pulls them back, and begins to scatter the darkness.
That question is Jesus beckoning them home, and showing them the Way
The way back to His forgiveness, back to His love
Back to His death, and on to His resurrection.
And to make it clear Jesus offers a lesson so simple, we just can’t miss it.
“If you welcome this little one in My Name, you welcome me and my Father in heaven.”
So, what do you know about children?
Kids so often come last.
They’re not clever enough to hide.
They’re not strong enough to fight.
They get frightened if left behind.
But for all their weaknesses, kids believe what you tell them.
That is Jesus’ lesson.
Kids believe what you tell them.
Tell them they are smart and they grow up believing and becoming smart.
Tell them they are wonderful, and they will thrive.
Tell them they are beautiful, and watch them beam with confidence.
Tell them that Jesus loves them, and they will live in that love.
And then, you should not be surprised to see them love Jesus back.
I’ve seen a grandmother soak up the I Love You’s of her three-year old grand-daughter, only to see that same woman deny that little girl baptism, because, after all, she can’t love Jesus until she’s a more mature age.
It’s the pride of our generation to think that our own little children can love us, whose care them is so lacking,
but that they don’t have the capacity to love Jesus, whose love bids them near;
Jesus who speaks lovingly to them, and who grabs them up into His arms, whose Word touches them and changes them.
You can search the Scriptures all you like, but no one ever gets as close to Jesus as that little child in today’s reading.
Jesus picks him up and puts him in his arms, He wraps the child in His embrace
And then He tells us that whoever receives this child in His Name
Receives Him and His Father in Heaven.
So what does it mean to receive a child in the Name of Jesus?
It means bringing them to Jesus, so that He will grab them up,
And put His Name on them and in them.
That He would pull them in His watery embrace, there in the font.
That’s why at every baptism we cry out:
“Amen, we welcome you in the Name of the Lord”
Because Jesus chooses to dwell in the least, lowest, and last.
And we come back here every week to be the little children He has made us.
To be a child is to believe what Jesus tells you.
That can be tough when our sin is so great.
And yet, no matter what it was, Jesus forgives you.
Today at Holy Absolution, everyone got a fresh start.
That forgiveness means that your sins no longer soil you,
But you all get that fresh, new baby smell that is so irresistible.
All of you know that your kids look at what you do, and they imitate.
So being a child means not only believing what Jesus says,
But it means to say and do what Jesus says and does
Even when doing things the Jesus way seems
Painful, unnatural, and crazy,
Even when doing things Jesus’ way
seems like a losing proposition, or upside down
To be like a child is to know that Jesus is in our next steps,
And that he will land us in a forgiving and resurrected place, beyond our fears.
When Jesus flips us right-side-up, and draws us near, and bids us be weak, kind, and light, and servants to one another,
then the only proper response is to welcome that,
knowing there is always resurrection and life on the far side of His cross.