Friday, September 18, 2015

Pentecost 17 - Proper 20

Proper 20
Mark 9:30-37
20 September 2015

Collect for Proper 20O God, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, grant us humility and childlike faith that we may please You in both will and deed; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord, break our fear of death by reminding us that You have died, never to die again. Today, open our frightened hearts with the resurrection's promise; one day, open our closed eyes with the resurrection's power.  Forgive us for our battles over greatness. Remind us that You alone are great, for You have served the least among us.

Lord, Thank you for Your work through the lives of others. Lead me to welcome those miracles and mercies that You show through every one of Your people.

Jesus shatters our hopes and dreams...

Jesus goes to Jerusalem. To face His oppressors. Jesus again announces His approaching passion. And teaches the disciples the meaning of greatness. 

Jesus announces a second time. That He is going there. To suffer. Die. And rise on the third day. Jesus repeats the prophecy of His passion and resurrection while the disciples listen in frightened silence. Death is frightening and confusing. When we cannot see the promised resurrection. Yet, Jesus bears our fears.  And carries our sins to the cross.  In order to deliver us. To avoid being detained.  He travels incognito. He did not want, will, wish, or desire for any to know where they were - because He was teaching them... He was continually teaching His disciples, the whole Gospel/salvation story. He will be betrayed into the hands of men.  And after three days, He shall rise.

The disciples were ignorant of what Jesus meant. And afraid of the subject matter...Afraid even to engage Jesus in the discussion. They shut up about it. They do not understand it. And they are afraid to ask Him the meaning of it.

Confused by Jesus' prediction of His death.  The disciples return to a subject they know well. Their own greatness. Jesus shows them that true importance is found in serving those whom God values.

When the group reaches Capernaum. Jesus asked them. What they were discussing.  During their walk.

They were too embarrassed to answer. For they had discussed who would be first in the coming Kingdom. He asked them, "what were you talking about on the road?” He brings up the subject. They were silent...they shut they were debating, "who’s the greatest?"  Literally, they were asking, "who is greater?”

When you are tempted.  To debate who is the greatest. Look to where the Master hangs. There, on the cross. He represents you before the Father.  In order to redeem you.  And He leads you by the cross.  Into a new life.

Sitting down. He called the twelve...sitting is the prophetic posture for teaching. He's not here to teach them how to be great. His words go deeper.  If any would be first.  He must be deacon.  He becomes first by serving...taking a "little one" He embraced him and said, “whoever receives one of these little children in My name and receives them receives Me and whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me.  

Jesus taught that the one to be first must be last.  A servant. To illustrate. He takes a child in His arms.  For in that day.  Women and children were considered second-class citizens. Jesus makes the point. The greatest will minister to one like a child in His name.  And when He does. He serves both Christ and God.

Consider Jesus’ clear and definitive response.

To be great.  According to Jesus. You first must be least. You must become the servant of all. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last, and the servant of all.” {v. 35}

Jesus’ definition of greatness differs from the ways of this world.  The world defines greatness in a number of smart yet catchy phrases. “The one with the most toys wins!”  “I’ll meet you at the top!” “Luck is when preparation and opportunity collide.” Power. Control.  And a stockpile of cash.  Are just some of the parts that make up the whole that determine the world’s definition of greatness.  

Jesus’ understanding of greatness is summed up in one small yet powerful word -to be a servant. Jesus said, “For the Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” {Matthew 20:28}

Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

Jesus became the servant of all. In His cross and suffering. There. At the cross. He took the sins of the entire world.  And carried them. “A lamb goes uncomplaining forth the guilt of all men bearing. And laden with the sins of earth, none else the burden sharing…” 

Stricken, smitten and afflicted, see Him dying on the tree”  He hangs there. For you and for me.
Taking the sins of the entire world unto Himself. He suffered. That you might receive the forgiveness. Life. And salvation.  Because He suffered. There is now, “peace on earth, good will toward men.” “ Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled”  - In Jesus Christ all sin is forgiven – period!

So says the apostle Paul, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a -servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” {Philippians 2: 5-8}

Jesus was rich toward God.  In every respect. He was the perfect. Holy. Son of God.  But in that great exchange. He took your sin to Himself.

He became poor for you. That you might be rich toward God. He became a slave. That you might be called an heir. No one can be too low for Jesus.  Because He sank to the lowest, point possible.  That you might be lifted up. He was the “true light.” Yet, He allowed Himself to experience “outer darkness.” He was forsaken by God and by men. That you might never have to sink that low.

Jesus became a servant. In His humiliation.  Suffering.  Passion. And death. He calls you to recognize Him. And acknowledge those who He determines to be great among us.

To be great in the Savior’s eyes. Means you acknowledge Him. By recognizing those who He places before you as great in His kingdom.  Listen to the Savior’s words, “Whoever welcomes one of these little ones in My name welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, does not welcome Me, but the One who sent Me.” (v. 37)

Jesus’ words are simple. “Whoever welcomes one of these babies in My name welcomes Me.”

The true mark of faith.  Is to acknowledge Christ. As both God and Lord. As the Father draws you. You acknowledge Jesus as your true and one Redeemer.

Baptism is your entry point. This is your new birth. Your second birth.  And you’re welcome into the family of Christ. Should we deny a child entry into the kingdom? Certainly not! They are to be welcomed. They are to be recognized.  As great in the kingdom. Whenever you witness a baptism. 

Whenever you remember your own baptism. You are not only acknowledging God’s wonderful goodness.  You are witnessing those that He considers great in the kingdom.

In Baptism. You witness a great and mighty wonder. A mystery. A miracle. All who are baptized.  Are ushered into the kingdom. Placed front and center. Acknowledged as great in the Father’s kingdom. This is Grace.

When Princes Diana gave birth to her first son William. The world took notice. The heir to the British throne had been born.  When you witness a baptism, an heir to an eternal kingdom is born. And placed before us!  No wonder Jesus says they are the greatest in the kingdom! Remember your baptism! Remember you are a child of the King. An heir to His eternal kingdom! 

Jesus is explicit.  When we welcome a child in baptism. We welcome Him. When we welcome Him. We welcome the Father.

We welcome the Father. When Jesus and His activity are placed first in our lives.  When we witness a baptism. And you remember your own baptism. A crown of everlasting life is given. Which will not tarnish. This cannot be snatched away by the enemy!

The old song sings, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.  Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”  That’s not child’s play. That’s your reality.  That’s what it means to be great in the Kingdom. In baptism, you are declared a child of the King. You are an heir. You and the entire baptized are great in the Kingdom!

Father welcomes all His children
To His family through His Son.
Father giving His salvation,
Life forever has been won. 

Words – 1,650
Passive Sentences –3%
Readability –83.4%

Reading Level –4.3

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