Scripture for this Sunday: Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1; James 3:13-4:3, 7, 8a; Mark 9:30-37
I have discovered that to learn to speak Spanish means being willing to take a risk: to ask questions that might be perceived as silly; to make mistakes and have to be corrected. To speak up and ask for clarification, to speak up and to be prepared to make a mistake, are learning opportunities
The same applies to discipleship. We learn the most by risking and learning from mistakes. The disciples were learning and inclined to choose silence at times, but Jesus was very discerning. When his followers were debating greatness, Jesus did not rebuke them for having ambition, but challenged them to channel it into a kind of service that was revolutionary: to welcome the most vulnerable and superficially worthless, and to become the servant of all – even the homeless, the rejected, the penniless, the stateless.
Modern followers of Christ have often fallen prey to the temptation to base the judgement of greatness and worth on the prevailing standards of the surrounding culture. Instead, the wisdom of Christ is measured against the standard of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. This wisdom is what is needed to shape and regulate our desires for greatness.
The epistle of James clarifies this: our violent and belligerent nations have their origins in conflicting desires within us. Conflict, like charity, begins at home.
When it comes to greatness, we are all valuable to God. What could be greater than that?
Jesus spoke to his disciples about welcoming children – those of least worth in the eyes of their world. God welcomes us as though we are the other helpless child, the Son of Man. We just have to do the same for others. It ought to be simple. It isn’t.
But if we try, we immerse ourselves in the true work of the church and draw near to God – and God draws near to us. Members of the church, disciples of Christ, have two lessons to learn from this.
First, we do not understand everything, and while ambition can be healthy, it needs to be directed appropriately.
Secondly, if we remain silent through lack of understanding, or timidity, we effectively allow our voices to be joined to those who do speak.
When Christ challenges us with a question, it is our duty to try to find an answer.
When Christ challenges us with an invitation, it is our duty to find a response.
When Christ challenges us to speak up, it is our duty to be heard.
When Christ challenges us to take a risk, it is our duty to step forward.
We might make mistakes, but we can learn from them. We learn little by being silent – certainly if we want to be followers, disciples of Christ.