A New Beginning: A New Life
Proverbs 31:10-31,Mark 9:30-37
You know, I have to wonder if Jesus had a sore forehead because it had to be sore from all the palm slaps he kept inflicting on it. They just don’t seem to get it at all do they? Last week Peter showed how it looked like he had it all figured out. He correctly answered the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter named Jesus as Messiah. Good job! You win the prize! And a grand prize it is!
After this event Jesus has been transfigured on the mountaintop where he was a brilliant white and met with Moses and Elijah. This was witnessed by Peter, James and John. Then Jesus cures a young boy who has been possessed by a demon, which the disciples had been trying unsuccessfully to cast out.
Since Peter made his great declaration, Jesus told them if anyone wants to follow him they should take up their cross and follow him. They have also witnessed two more amazing miracles and they still argue about who is the best disciple. They just can’t seem to get it figured out.
So Jesus sits everyone down and explains… again.
Much of it we can relate to what we read last week. If you want to be the first, you need to be last and a servant to all.
You need to live a new life, a servants life.
Then Jesus brings a little child among them and takes it in his arms. “Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
A beautiful image for sure. Jesus embracing this child, showing love and care. Think for a moment about children of those days. Children, unless it was the first male child of the family, had little to no rights. Often treated as possessions. For Jesus to teach that we are to welcome children as part of God’s plan, this would turn the world upside down.
When we interact with children, how do they best respond? Do they respond well to the way we treat each other? Handshakes, talking about the weather, business matters. Does this work with children at all? Of course not! When we talk with children, and if we want to engage them, we need to connect with them. We ask them about school, or the games they play, the things that get them excited. More often than not we look like idiots when we talk to children. Our voices get all funny, we make faces, we try to tickle them. Imagine acting like this in our workplaces.
Walk into the office tomorrow and see what happens when you walk up to your boss and try to tickle him or her while talking in a high-pitched voice.
We look like idiots because children have a way with us. They make us forget all the worries of the world and we just want to be like them: carefree.
They also have this great ability to bring us back to the earth when we find ourselves feeling a little over-inflated, don’t they? We may feel like we just conquered the world, but all it takes is a child to remind us just how like everyone else we are.
I came home this spring, carrying my brand new Master of Divinity degree. My first act when I got home? Change a dirty diaper.
Children have this ability to make us humble. They make us real. There’s no sense in puffing ourselves up to be something greater than we really are because kids don’t care! You can be an astronaut or a garbage collector. To them both are the greatest jobs in the world.
Jesus wants us to humble ourselves. To not try and be someone we’re not. We are a child of God, so we might as well act like it. Jesus, God’s son, shows us the way. Shows us how even the greatest man to ever live, the Lord of all creation, was a servant to everyone.
The Bible is full of passages which speak to this message. Philippians 2:3-5 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”
Can you imagine if people really acted this way? “In humility, regard others as better than yourselves.” Wow. We are all children of God, we are all equal in God’s sight. The potential for doing good works is no better in me than anyone else in the world. We all have greatness within us when we let Jesus Christ into our hearts.
Our reading from Proverbs this week has the heading “The virtuous woman” some people call it “the ideal wife”. It’s an interesting little passage. First of all, each of the 22 verses begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. You see this sometimes in the Psalms as well. This is a poetic piece describing “the virtuous woman.”
She is described as having the full trust of her husband, she works hard to provide for her family, she reaches out to people in need, she teaches and educates, and she raises her children to be outstanding members of society. For this she receives abundant praise from her husband and community, and she receives promises from God of life eternal. She is the perfect wife.
How are the ladies feeling right about now? Exhausted from just hearing the list of things are virtuous woman is to do, on top of everything else you do?
I want to make a connection. I want to read from you from the book of Revelation. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure’— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8 NRSV)
Did you see it? The bride has made herself ready. Ready? For what? Jesus Christ is coming back to be reunited with his bride. His bride is the church. Are we ready? Have we acted as Proverbs has described the perfect wife?
Are we caring for one another, are we reaching out to those in need? Do we teach and raise up the children of God in a righteous manner?
Last week I asked the question, “What can the church do?” I’ve heard from a couple of you about some ideas you may have. I’ve talked with school principals and parents in our community. The concerns I’ve heard about the children in our communities, and everyone mentioned it, is the children of broken homes. The homes which struggle with substance abuse, the homes where single parents struggle to provide for their children, the homes where parents parent from Alberta, the parents who don’t know how to parent, because they themselves were a product of poor parenting.
So what have I heard for suggestions? They cover a variety of answers. Ideas from allowing a day care to operate from our building to drop-in times for youth after school to participating in school chaplaincy and other yet unknown outreach projects.
I had a chat with a mother from St. Matthew’s-Wesley the other night. They have been awarded a grant to do some youth outreach on the Northside, but they have no idea where to start. She came to me seeking ideas they could explore.
The possibilities are endless. Really, they are. I gave her some ideas and told her to talk to parents and youth about what ideas might best attract youth to the programmes they hope to put on.
What have you heard this week? Have you noticed anything?
I really do believe God is ready to move in this area. I can sense it as I talk to people. As I went into the schools and talked to staff, as I talk to parents, they are excited about a potential partnership with the church.
I confess I didn’t expect it, I expected them to be a little less open than they were. Imagine my surprise when one of them asked me if I was interested in being part of a chaplaincy office, should they get one off the ground.
We are surrounded by leaders and parents who are passionate about our kids and want the very best for them. But more than that, they are passionate about our community. They want it to be safe, they want it to be clean, they want it to be a close family.
God is moving around us. Can you feel it?
We as humble followers of Jesus Christ are being prepared to do his work.
“Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me…”