The Holy Gospel: September 23, 2012 (Year B)

Read: Mark 9:30-37

Meditation:  “Understanding the Lineup”

Whether its traveling or shopping, there’s something in us that wants to be at the head of the line when the doors open.  Competitiveness flares up among an otherwise quiet group when it’s time to line up.  Sometimes it’s downright befuddling to watch a group of adults seemingly lose their minds to push and shove their way forward.

The disciples were playing a version of the same game as they walked along trying to figure out who among them was the greatest.  And even worse, their evaluation process was taking place at a time when Jesus was staring into the face of his upcoming crucifixion.

Jesus used a gathering in Capernaum to ask them what they were doing.  In so many words they replied embarrassingly, “Pushing and shoving to get to the head of the line.”

Jesus, in effect, said, “Really?”  And he set the record straight by a show-and-tell moment, putting a child in front of the disciples and saying, “Here is the kind of person you are supposed to be.”

Servanthood is arguably the most difficult lesson we have to learn, even after we begin to follow Jesus—perhaps especially so then.  Having put our feet on the path of discipleship, it’s easy to slip into a self-evaluation process which tries to figure out who we are “ahead” of and who we may still be “behind.”

Jesus says that this kind of comparison is false from the outset.  Discipleship is not marked by some assumed hierarchy of spirituality, but by an acceptance of the fact that we are to be servants—humbling ourselves like little children.  Anything else is born of egotism and the desire to “outrank” someone else.

We must understand the lineup: “the first must be last and servant of all.”  When the doors open, we don’t trample those around us, we hold the door open so they may enter.


About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to The Holy Gospel: September 23, 2012 (Year B)

  1. Tom Pope says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. Yet, the call to “self-evaluate” is thrust upon us as clergy. While we would not admit to “competing” we also know our self-evaluations are read by those who control our appointments. This post reminds us that we still have a ways to go in order to be the servant leaders Christ calls us to be.

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