Sunday, September 24, 2006

downward mobility

Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:30-37)

On this journey Jesus tries to hide from public view and avoid publicity. He is trying to teach his disciples something difficult, something mysterious.

For the second of three times, as they travel together, he teaches the disciples that he – the Son of Man, the Messiah, the holy one of Israel – must be betrayed, and suffer, must be killed, and rise again.

The disciples don’t get it. Instead, they argue among themselves who is the greatest.

Jesus teaches the need for humble service.
Whoever would be first must be last,
Whoever would be greatest must be least.

Whoever would find himself must lose himself, deny himself, become lost.

Jesus teaches by paradox – there is no worldly purpose to what he is saying.

Whoever receives one such child, receives me,
Whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.

Can those who are last have a deeper relationship with Jesus, who made himself last by accepting the Cross?

Indeed, Jesus himself – the Messiah, the holy one of God – has cast aside worldly greatness. In an upwardly mobile world, he seeks


For he did not clutch to himself equality with God but humbled himself and became human, became one of us, taking the form even of a servant. And he has promised us that where we have visited the sick, fed the hungry, visited the prisoner – the last, the least, the lost – there we have found him.

Receive as Christ “the last, the least, the lost” (Dean Baker’s phrase).

In the brokenness of humanity we meet him. In the brokenness of others, however unlovely, there we find him. And we find him – and he finds us – in our own most unlovely, broken places. There he is, in the midst of us: his body, broken for us, his blood, shed for us, his life, given for us.

Welcoming the discarded child within yourself is also welcoming Christ.
The child you receive may be the Christ Child.
The Christ child receives you.

Where were you? We ask God: in the midst, hungry, naked, oppressed, poor, in mourning, in Eucharist, in celebration, in the hope of the resurrection.

In assurance of eternal life given at Baptism, let us proclaim our faith and say,

We believe in God...

Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to you Richard Yale’s father, our brother Ted, who was reborn by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism. Grant that his death may recall to us your victory over death, and be an occasion for us to renew our trust in your Father’s love. Give us, we pray, the faith to follow where you have led the way; and where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. Amen.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13) And may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

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