Blue Mountains Franciscan Church
Preached by Br. Simeon at Winmalee on Sunday 20th September 2015:
Gospel: Mark 9: 30-37
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all . . . “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
What is the one human quality that drives us to success while causing all sorts of problems at the same time? It is ambition. Ambition is one of the driving forces in our lives. It propels us to excel in our jobs. It pushes us to reach our goals. It can give us a reason for living. Ambition is one of the tools that the world uses to measure success.
There is another way to measure success-one that is not of this world-and that is the topic of the Gospel reading from Mark 9:30-37. We sometimes think that we can measure success the way the world does. We mistakenly believe that if God receives glory for what we do, then it should be glorious for us also. We must remember God’s faithful servants from the Bible, and we must remember that their situations were far from easy or glamorous.
A sombre Jesus speaks cryptically of the death and resurrection awaiting him in Jerusalem, while those closest to him argue about their own greatness and status in the Messiah’s reign (that must have been quite a conversation to elicit the strong reaction it did from Jesus!). The disciples, long resigned to their people’s humiliation and subjugation, dream of a kingdom of power and influence in which ambition is exalted; Jesus explains to them (yet again) that the Messiah’s reign will be a kingdom of spirit and conversion in which humble service to others is exalted.
Jesus outlines here the great paradox of discipleship: Do you wish to be first? Then become last. Do you seek to attain greatness? Then become small. Do you want to be masters? Then become the servants of those you wish to rule.
To emphasise the point, Jesus picks up a little child and places the child in the midst of these would-be rulers and influence peddlers. A child has no influence in the affairs of society nor offers anything to adults in terms of career advancement or prestige enhancement; just the opposite is true: a child needs everything. To be “great” in the reign of God, Jesus says, one must become the “servant” of the “child,” the poor, the needy, the lost.
To put another’s hopes and dreams ahead of one’s own, to bring forth and affirm the gifts of others for no other reason than the common good, to seek reconciliation at all
costs is to be the “servant” Christ speaks of in today’s Gospel.
In their simple joy and wonder of the world they are constantly discovering, in their ready acceptance of our love, in their total dependence on us for their nurturing and growth, children are the ideal teachers of the Spirit of humble servanthood and constant thanksgiving that Jesus asks of those who would be his followers.
The poorest and neediest, the forgotten and the rejected, the “least” and the “lowliest” – represented by the child in today’s Gospel – are signs of God’s grace in our midst.
“Child-like faith” is never dissuaded or discouraged, never becomes cynical or jaded, never ceases to be amazed and grateful for the many ways God reveals his presence in our lives. The power of such “simple faith” is its ability to overcome every rationalisation, fear, complication and agenda in order to mirror the selflessness of Christ Jesus.