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Tag Archives: Mark 9:30-37

Who *Really* Wants to Take the Kingdom of God Seriously? (Mark 9:30-37)

I want you to notice the difference between Jesus and his disciples in this text today. It begins here with Jesus and his disciples on their way through Galiliee, and Jesus “did not want anyone to know it”. Travelling incognito, unknown, quietly, without fanfare or recognition.

On the way he is teaching his disciples that he will be betrayed, killed, and will rise again. And this is the second time he’s told them this.

They get to the house in Capernaum, and the whole journey Jesus is trying not to call attention to himself, to lay low, helping them understand the role of suffering and even dying—tremendously humble and meek topics.

The disciples, meanwhile, too frightened to ask him about all this, had been arguing about which one of them is the greatest.

Humble, suffering Jesus. Frightened, boasting disciples.

Jesus deflecting attention from himself to God’s will in the world. Disciples who want recognition, deserved or not (and it’s definitely not).

Jesus: it’s all about others. Disciples: it’s all about us.

What the disciples never seem to get in Mark’s gospel is how differently God works in the world than we usually do. Jesus is continually trying to teach and show his disciples what God’s kingdom is actually like. It is so opposite of what they experience that they just can’t seem to understand it. Today’s verses shine a light on that misunderstanding.

In God’s kingdom, Jesus says, the greatest are the servants. The least in our world should be treated like Christ himself. The one who serves others has their life given to them. The one who is ignored is the one in the center.

If God had God’s way, this would be the normal way of the world. The disciples never seem to catch onto that.

When Jesus goes on about how different God’s way is, it just doesn’t click with the disciples. All this “serve others, love enemies, forgive everyone, last are first, weak is strong” business Jesus tells them may as well be “up is down, red is green, and squares are round.” It doesn’t connect with them.

As I suspect it still doesn’t with us. God’s way is soooooo different from how the world actually operates that we usually find it easier to just kind of ignore it.

Think about if everyone took Jesus seriously when he says that the greatest of all is the servant of all. That would mean that the night janitor at McDonald’s has more status than any of our current presidential candidates . . . (OK, maybe a bad example). It would mean that everyone would accept that the homeless alcoholic man with a cardboard sign at the traffic light is just as valuable in the world as the person in the Mercedes who gives him money and food. Or the totally nerdiest kid in school is elected student body president over the most popular kid.

If everyone took Jesus seriously, can you imagine how badly it would turn out if we actually did love our enemies? Makes it kind of hard to fight a war, don’t you think? Capitalism kind of falls apart.

How about Jesus taking a child, the most powerless and most vulnerable person in his society, and telling us to welcome these as if they were Christ himself? If everyone actually welcomed and embraced the most vulnerable, most powerless people in our culture, imagine the changes in immigration and how we’d deal with the Syrian refugee crisis?

Then there’s the whole suffering and dying thing Jesus talks about. Can you imagine if everyone trusted so fully in God that they would go to that extreme for the sake of others?

Hard to even imagine that, isn’t it? God’s ways are just too different. The world would turn upside down if everyone took all that stuff seriously. And let’s be honest, not everyone even wants God’s ways, much less be willing to live them.

No, not everyone will. Hardly anyone. Maybe no one.

This is where the church comes in. Jesus calls his followers to do it. We are the ones Jesus sends into the world to be last of all and servant of all. How about if we, as Lutheran Church of the Master, were willing to suffer as a congregation because showing God’s mercy and compassion for others was more important to us than our own comfort or even survival?

God is so committed to this that God keeps removing the barriers that get in the way of following Jesus. So God keeps forgiving us, coming among us, giving us gifts, equipping us, and loving us so that we can love others.

Do you think we’ll do this perfectly? Nope, not gonna happen. But we can serve someone today. Then stand up for someone else tomorrow. Then show love to an undeserving person the next day. Sometimes it will cost us. Sometimes it will be hard. Sometimes we won’t benefit ourselves at all. But God is seen. Jesus is lifted up. God’s kingdom is exposed. Maybe without fanfare or recognition. Usually with humility and meekness. Not everyone wants it. May we be among those who do.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Sermon

 

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Caitlin Trussel at LCM, 18 Pentecost (B)

Mark 9:30-37

How many of us have ever had the experience of saying something that we wished we hadn’t?  That moment where your whole inside goes, “Ugh…”  So much so, that you can feel it in the pit of your stomach.  Yup, I’m pretty sure that this is an almost universal experience.  For me, because I tend toward the chatty side, it happens with frustrating regularity.  And it’s just here in our text today that the disciples do the opposite – they stay silent; not once, but twice!  First they are silent because they were afraid to ask Jesus to clear up their lack of understanding and then they stay silent because Jesus names their humanity when he calls them on their arguing.  Their “Ugh” moment doesn’t even get to include speaking.  It just sits there in the pit of their stomach probably getting heavier as they walk along – falling back a bit to begin that arguing with one another.

They begin their arguing right after Jesus makes this big speech about what’s going to happen to him.  He talks about being betrayed, his murder and resurrection.  I picture the disciples listening attentively, perhaps even giving a nod or two to show they are paying attention and following along.  And then, they drop back a bit, and what do they do as they follow Jesus?  Argue.  They don’t even argue about what Jesus might have meant by his predication.  They argue about being the greatest.  Maybe they really don’t get it, perhaps arguing about the greatest as they wonder who will take over the leadership when Jesus goes down.  And Jesus, well, because he’s Jesus, knows exactly what they are doing.

I like to think Jesus knows what they are doing because it is simply what we, as people, do.  We follow along behind Jesus, not really sure what to make of these big faith claims in Jesus’ predication and very often afraid or uncomfortable to ask about what Jesus’ death and resurrection might mean in our own lives.  So we turn to each other and we argue.  We argue about all kinds of things but often the subtext, the argument beneath the argument, is about who is the greatest.

One of the ways in which we argue about being the greatest has to do with money.  There are obvious ways we do this in American culture, especially in a political year when we argue about taxes and government spending.  But there are more subtle ways we argue about being the greatest when it comes to money.  This can be so subtle for us we don’t tend to think about it as part of the argument we’re having.  It takes shape in whispers as we move through the world in our designated social class based on our income.  But it includes all the ways in which we look to money to tell us who we are and what we’re about.  Not as a conscious thought, but we look nonetheless.

And, suddenly, like the disciples in Mark, we are following behind Jesus but not looking at Jesus.  We begin looking to each other as we come up with our arguments.  One of the classic arguments begins with a deep suspicion of the connection between money and the church.  You hear this in comments all the time, maybe even in your own comments, that sound like, “All the church wants in my money.”  And this suspicion has real roots.

We were joking the other night at this congregation’s church Council meeting about how fun it might be to hold a tongue-in-cheek ‘Indulgence’ sale.  Indulgences, you may recall, were a 16th century church innovation that cashed in on people’s fear for their loved ones’ eternal doom so that church buildings could be completed.  Indulgences were sold with the marketing line, “When a coin in the coffer sings, a soul from purgatory springs.”  Indulgences were a key fuel in the fury of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, his arguments against the corruption in the church.  So, even as we had fun with the idea, someone made the comment about taking extreme care with such an attempt.  Because even, and maybe especially, we as the church can just as easily as anyone else find ourselves following behind Jesus, confessing him Lord, while arguing amongst ourselves about the greatest.

This gets me back to thinking about the disciples’ silence when they don’t understand.  To my mind, the silence when people want to ask a question but don’t becomes a pregnant silence.  So, because we’d be here all day if people started shooting out questions, I’m asking that everyone take a slip of paper out of the seatback of the chair in front of you.  And for about a minute, think about what you would ask Jesus about money if you could ask absolutely anything, and write it down on the piece of paper.  This question is purely for you – no group sharing or hand raising will be requested.  This means you can send that editor that lives in your head out for a coffee break.  Okay, ready, set, think and write… … … … …

I invite you to consider your question to Jesus that you just wrote down as a prayer this week.  You can simply add it to your prayers.  Or you may discuss it with people.  Or think of the question from time-to-time during the week.  See what comes up for you either as possible answers or perhaps yet another question.

I invite you into this time of asking questions because Jesus has made all of us free to ‘fire away.”  Sitting here, with the whole Bible at our fingertips, we know how the story plays out.  And it is in his death and resurrection that we are made free from the fear that would stop our questions from pouring out.  So that when there are incomprehensible ideas and tension, such as disciples experience, we turn to following Jesus only to find that, with scarcely a glace from us, Jesus is already there.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Sermon

 

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Sermon at “Peace in Christ Episcopal/Lutheran Ministry,” Elizabaeth, CO

Mark 9:30-37

Greetings from the Office of the Bishop, Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA. I need, first of all, to express appreciation for the partnership we share, not only with the other 164 congregations of the RMS and the 10,400 other congregations of the ELCA, but additionally for the special witness you bring to the unity we share as Episcopalians and Lutherans together. You reveal to the broader community the unity Christ brings which overcomes any differences we can create. Thank you for that very visible reminder.

And thank you for the support you provide to both the Colorado Episcopal Diocese and the RMS. By your generosity others are able to be fed, housed, treated, comforted, educated, and have good news proclaimed. You are a reminder than none of us are in this alone. We share this ministry, led by the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus.

I vowed up until a couple of months ago that if I ever spoke on behalf of the Office of the Bishop I wouldn’t bore a congregation with an introduction like that. But I’m seeing things differently these days. I see the difference you make in the wider church. I watch people’s eyes light up when I share your story—what you’re doing here in Elizabeth, how Christ is proclaimed to an entire community through the Holy Spirit active in this small Episcopal/Lutheran ministry. There’s cooperation with youth, food bank, homes built for veterans, community meals, and more.

All this from a very small congregation. Being sent from a very small building. In a very small town.

There are some in our world that would look at the size of this place and attempt to disregard what you do. Others may see your budget and immediately feel superior because they have a more dollars. Does it ever come up in conversation, when you tell people you’re affiliated with Peace in Christ, that the other person says, “Oh, and how many members do you have?” They’re ready to either apologize for their own smallness or brag about being larger.

In our culture, success is automatically measured in size of bank accounts, number of clients, higher income, more expansive acreage, increased sales, higher bushels per acre, and the like.

Even the size of people matters. Adults’ viewpoints often are taken more seriously than childrens’. We still live a little by the old dictum, “Children Should be Seen and not Heard.” They’re just too small to have a valid opinion. We’re better in our attitudes toward children today, but not fully there yet. We have a high school student that serves on the ELCA churchwide council. Because he is “only” in high school, he has voice, but no vote on that council. Hmmm. Really??

In Jesus’ day, children were almost completely disregarded because they were so small. They were weak, a liability, and had no rights. They had to be fed but couldn’t do enough work to compensate. They were completely vulnerable with no power at all. They were simply too little to matter to most people. Have you ever felt that way? Too insignificant to make a difference, to really matter?

Jesus sees things differently than the rest of the world. In God’s eyes, power isn’t revealed by size, but by the Savior of the World scooping up an impoverished child, holding her close, and telling everyone that when we welcome her, we are exhibiting real importance. When we love her, value her, respect her, walk with her get to know her, that’s power as God defines it. Not in spite of the fact that she doesn’t have a lot to offer, but because what this little one has to offer right now matter—it is important, it is significant, and—perhaps even more than big people—what she has to offer is what God values.

Peace in Christ will get bigger—you’re simply too compelling not to. But please never forget these day of being small. As a congregation will get larger, you will sooner or later need to do things differently as a result. Your budget will increase and an already effective ministry will expand. That won’t make Peace in Christ more important, more powerful, or more loved and respected by Jesus.

As a congregation, you are valuable right now. And in the same way, you reveal to the littlest, the weakest, the most vulnerable in Elizabeth and  Elbert County, that they too are valuable, loved, and respected right now. Not is spite of their vulnerability, but because they reveal God’s love and priorities right now. When you help build a home for a veteran, when you stock a food bank for someone who’s hit on hard times, when you have a spaghetti dinner and welcome those outside this congregation, you are Christ, taking a child in his arms. “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

On behalf of the RMS, ELCA (and may I dare to speak for the Colorado Episcopal Diocese of the Episcopal Church), thank you, Peace in Christ. Thank you for your partnership, your witness, and your ministry. It is, in fact, beyond valuable. In Christ’s name. Amen.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Sermon

 

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