I can almost hear the disciples come screaming into the circle surrounding Jesus with the seemingly earth shattering revelation that someone else is doing ministry and it’s not them or anyone they know. This must be some huge scandal because we are the chosen, is how I would read between the lines. Not at all unlike last weeks’ argument about who is the greatest.
Jesus, who is still holding on to the little child that he picked up in the previous verses of Mark, read last week, and with a roll of his eyes, says, “really, you interrupted me for that! I’m trying to make a point here and your point isn’t my point.” To calm them down Jesus says look if they are doing something in my name and they are sincere about it, if they do it with faith in God, what business is it of yours.
Now, let’s get back to this little child. If you put a block into this child’s path that is a big problem. When you make it about yourselves and not about the innocent, well it simply won’t go well.
It is easy to see a strong corollary in this weeks’ fiasco in the American Senate around the potential appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme court. As Republicans and Democrats gleefully waged a political circus which from both sides had just one focus, to win, to claim power, to be in charge, a brave woman, Christine Blasey Ford, opened her heart and told publicly of one of the darkest days of her life. I can think nothing else but that Jesus would have stopped the political nonsense, cleared the room, and embraced Blasey Ford while listening intently to her story. And I have little doubt that he would then have gone and sat down with Brett Kavanaugh to hear how what most likely has been a long time dream for him, was perhaps being wrestled away by the same political tom foolery. The Jesus we see with a child on his knee in today’s Gospel could do nothing else, but care about the people while thumbing His nose at those who would use the characters for pomp and power.
It’s not always on such a serious note that we are caught up short. The British Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes recounts a story from his days as a Curate, arriving at church one day to find someone parked in his spot. He walked up to the driver and asked him to move the car. When the response was, “Who are you?” he responded, “I’m the minister and I own this spot and this church.” And
immediately he recognized what he had said and what he had done.
A wise Lay Pastor last week pointed us to the understanding that we will never get it right, but we can be in relationship with the One who does get it right and we can learn sitting in the circle with Jesus, with a child perched on his knee, you might even be that child, but if you brag about being chosen to sit on Jesus’ knee –you miss the point.
The longer I do this, the more I am convinced of the intentional dichotomy that Jesus projects. He tells us to be strong and protective and in the next breath to be timid and pastoral. He clears the temple with great force and seeming anger but also consoles a woman with no status without judgment or even a trace of condescension.
The upshot, this isn’t supposed to be easy! We aren’t supposed to know the right answers all the time. There is no right way to approach Jesus. You can come to Him as a powerful and vibrant leader with plans to change the world and you can creep forward broken, ashamed and feeling worthless. In both states he will inquire about you, about your motives, your issues, your life, how you will help others, how you will heal but mostly how will you love.
In just three weeks time, we hold a Special Vestry meeting to plot a vision for St. James Westminster. I will suggest the agenda is simple, yet entirely complex. Where are we now? Where should be go? How should we get there? I pray that you will see the dichotomy in play. How do we separate what we want, from what God calls us to? How do we grow in faith and understanding, while encouraging others to do the same? In terms of today’s Gospel reading, will we come charging into the circle where Jesus is holding a small child to report the terror that someone else is getting all the attention for the ministry they are doing or will we enter the circle quietly and hear what Jesus is saying?
Let’s be honest, as human beings we’ll probably do some of each. The important thing is for us to recognize which is which! Even at that we will most likely succeed and fail at the same time. The beauty is that, if we let Him, Jesus will prop us up on His knee and tell us everything we need to know. And they we will do some of that and some of what we want and leave out most of the things that scare us and continue to repeat the cycle. That’s how we learn, that’s how we love, that’s how we understand God and people and maybe even learn a little bit about ourselves.
Rev. Can. Keith Netherly