Tri-Saints Lutheran Parish
Dwelling in the Word
Mark 9:30-37 (New Revised Standard Version)
30[Jesus and the disciples went on] and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it;31for 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.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
- What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
I believe that this section of the story of Jesus is challenging because of the culture that we live in. I have been in the market for workout clothes lately, and it seems to me that every piece that I see has some sort of message about being the best, or the hardest-working, or the one who wins. We are taught win. We are expected to win. We believe that any cost is worth it, as long as we are first. Does it surprise you to know that the disciples two thousand years ago worried about this, too? It might be even more surprising to learn that this goal is not interesting to Jesus. He says, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” What does this mean in today’s world? How can we, broken humans, ever hope to abandon our goal of “best” for the goal of “servant”?
- What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?
I love that Jesus uses the example of welcoming a child to show what the kingdom of God looks like. Welcoming children is not always easy. They come with many wants, and needs, and disruptions. They need a lot of time and attention and love. They are noisy, and wiggly, and full of hard questions. What does it mean to us to welcome the children in our midst? Several years back, I had a young lady who discovered how much “music” she could make standing on a wooden pew with her hard-soled shoes on. She loved to dance, and did not hesitate to “make a joyful noise” during our time of worship. It was driving her mother crazy! She wanted to be in worship with her child, and knew what might happen if she tried to make her sit still for an entire service, but was so worried about the noise she was making that she could no longer worship God, and instead just endured her obligatory Sunday morning hour of torture. When she brought this concern to me, we decided that the answer might actually be simple: worship shoes. Instead of hard-soled patent leather Mary Janes, we decided to try special ballet slippers that her daughter would only be allowed to wear in worship. She could still dance and move without driving her mother crazy. And it worked! On the first Sunday that she had them, the little girl showed them off to me, saying, “Look at my special worship shoes! Now I can show God how much I love him, and still hear you talk!” We also got a mini-recital that day, and I was delighted. How might we welcome that children that we have in our midst right now? Do you think that Jesus only refers to children of a certain age, or are there other “children of God” who are more challenging to welcome, and yet important to make space for? How can we work together to do this?
- What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life?
This summer, my husband and I visited a small, rural church to worship on a Sunday morning. They were so surprised to see visitors that they weren’t sure what to do. We were greeted, “You are?” to which we replied, “Here to worship.” “Oh!” they said, “Let’s turn the light on for you!” Are we out of practice at welcoming the child, the widow, the orphan, the stranger? What does it mean to be welcoming? How can we minister even more fully to the children of God in our midst, whether week after week, or by pleasant surprise?
- What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?
I believe that God is calling us to give up our pursuit of greatness for the pursuit of him. I believe that God is calling us to open our hearts and eyes to see those who need to be welcomed as children. I believe that this church has a place for me, and that there is always more room at the table.
I am looking forward to Dwelling in this Word with you over the course of the month; may our conversation be fruitful, indeed!
In Christ, Pastor Breen Marie Sipes