#MasterClass is the podcast for September 23, 2018. What pumps you up? Drugs? Sex? Rock concert sized crowds? Whatever it is, is it drawing too much of your attention? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark9 #Mark #RecreationalSex #Alcohol #Drugs #Crowds #Discipleship #Children
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/23/2018 The 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 9:30-37.
Presbyterian minister, author, and pastor, Eugene Peterson is quoted in his memoir entitled Pastor: a Memoir,
Classically, there are three ways in which humans try to find transcendence–religious meaning–apart from God as revealed through the cross of Jesus: through the ecstasy of alcohol and drugs, through the ecstasy of recreational sex, and through the ecstasy of crowds. Church leaders frequently warn against the drugs and the sex, but at least, in America, almost never against the crowds.
Church leaders almost never warn against crowds, because that is what they want more than anything. They want crowds to prove their ministry is valid. They want crowds to prove they are good preachers, great men and women, and that their parish is solvent. Most of all, they want large crowds to prove that they are better than their peers. I have never really known there to be an open church that had the most parishioners where there wasn’t a warming up to the bishop to be the pastor of that church.
Three times between chapters 8 and the end of chapter 10 in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus will tell the disciples that he must suffer at the hands of the chief priests and scribes, be killed, and then will rise from the dead. The first time, which we heard last week, Peter rebukes him because Peter can see political deliverance with this guy who is healing the sick, raising the dead, and drawing huge crowds. There is that thing again, crowds.
This time, today in Mark 9:30-37, we hear Jesus tell the disciples, away from the crowds, that he must suffer at the hands of the chief priests and scribes, be killed, and then will rise from the dead. The disciple’s reaction is like a common scene in a romantic comedy when the person who has been in love finally realizes that they are in love. They finally realize that they need to leave everything and stop that marriage their true love is about to enter — now. You know, the scene where they are in a restaurant and their best friend says, “Hey! Hello? Are you even listening to me?” Except, the problem is that the disciples are not in love with the mission that Jesus gives them, they are in love with power, prestige, and popularity.
Jesus says, “Hey, guys, I am going to die.”
The disciples reply, “Huh, what? Tell us, which one is the greatest. Peter? James? John?”
Actually, they don’t say anything. When Jesus says, “What were you talking about along the way?” The awkward silence is nine months pregnant.
In preaching there are two ways to interpret scripture. One way, is called exegesis. “Ex” means “out from”. It means that when you interpret a text, you see what the Scripture tells you and then you create your homily. The other way is called “eisegesis”. “eis” means “into”. So, you probably can discern that eisegesis means you have an idea and are looking for it in a text. Incidentally, that is the difference between a homily and a sermon. A homily is exegetical. A sermon is eisegetical. A sermon is usually based on a truth that then is backed up by scripture. Yet, I was always taught that you have to take what the scriptures give you.
It is clear to me that the disciples are interpreting what Jesus is saying through what they want to hear. This is antithetical to this famous stanza of a very famous prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” The disciples are being eisegetical. They are reading into what Jesus is saying, if they are hearing him at all, like our friend in the romcom.
Instead, Jesus gives them a master class in being God’s servant, which is amazing because he is God in the flesh. The Son comes down to serve humanity and serve God so that humanity can be delivered from sin. Remember, this is what distinguishes our faith from others: we believe that the one true God has come down from heaven to be like us in every way but disobedience.
Jesus is giving a master class in leadership and discipleship. He is showing that a leader shows the direction, truthfully lays out the cost, and then leads by example. If God can humble himself to be concerned for humans on this small planet in this huge galaxy in this enormous universe, then the disciples can understand that leadership is about sacrifice of the self for the good of all. Greatness is not about the size of the crowds, it is about the goodness of the work.
Look, Jesus is constantly trying to get away by himself to pray, to teach, to be in private. He is not seeking the limelight. In fact, he constantly tells those who are healed to do the impossible: tell no one. A person who is seeking greatness is one who is great in the privacy of their own life as well as before the crowds.
A great leader is sober about the mission. They look and understand the cost of discipleship. They see the pending storm, if there is one, and they welcome it if it is part of the goal. As for us, we are to not be concerned about the crowds, but to just do the work of being disciples. We are not to seek to go to the big parish, but do the saving work of evangelization wherever we are, until we are called or asked by God or the bishop to go elsewhere.
Lastly, another shocking thing about this scene in the macho Arab culture of Jesus’ day is that he would take a child, present the child, and then tell his disciples to receive the child “in his name.” In other words, they are to receive the child as if the child were him. The child represents more than just children. Children were without voice, without standing. Not only are we to receive children as if they are Christ, we are to receive those who have no standing, no voice, no right to be where they are. We are not only to receive them, but receive them as if they are Christ.
That is a shocking statement. It means that we have to be kind, attentive, respectful, and generous to even those who have no standing. Let the crowds take care of themselves. Being a disciple means to ensure that the least are raised up. It means being willing to be like Jesus: the higher one who came down, emptied himself, and became like the lowly, so that he would experience what it is like to be lowly.
If we are a community[ies] of people who are each trying to be the servant of each other, imagine what kind of world we could be! What are the desires of your heart, prejudices that you may have, that are causing you to think of yourself as greater, better, more deserving than others? If you are to be a disciple, you must empty those out. How can we serve the mission of God when we are concerned about a mission that serves only ourselves? Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian