Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20

Track 1: Whoever Wants to Be First 

Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

How wonderful it is to observe little children who have been loved by their parents? They seem so humble, joyful, playful, trusting, eager to learn, and living in the moment of the day. This was not the way we could describe the disciples as they approached Capernaum.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus talks about the example of children:

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)

In a latter chapter of Mark we read a deeper perspective of Jesus’ thoughts about little childtren:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.   (Mark 10:13-16)

The disciples were not humble. They were arguing who was the greatest. They had totally missed Jesus teaching about his death and resurrection. The Book of James warns against bitter envy and selfish ambition:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.   (James 3:13-18)

How do we guard against selfish thinking and spiritual pride? Follow the example of humility set by children. We cannot accomplish anything on our own. We need to reject earthly wisdom and pray for heavenly wisdom. To do so we must humble ourselves before God. Then he will reorder our thinking and our lives.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 14:17)

Peace and joy do not come without righteousness. Our righteousness only comes by the cross of Jesus Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Gone our our selfish ambition and high position. Jesus was lifted up high on the cross to pay the price for our salvation. There is no one higher than him, Do ew know him? Have we surrendered ourselves to him? And are we ready to carry our own cross? If so, we will become like children of God.

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22
or Jeremiah 11:18-20
Psalm 54
James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Jesus speaks about little children, saying that we should be like them:

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)

In the Wisdom of Solomon we are given a warning about calling oneself a child of God:

He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”   ()

A true child of God is like Jesus, but also is targeted by Satan. Nominal Christians are not a threat to him. Perhaps Satan sees some of them as assets.

We need eo pray for and stay under God’s care and protection.

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Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

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