Thursday, January 29th

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying…An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” Luke 9:43-48


There are a lot of different ways to say it but the fact is, life in the kingdom of God is counter-intuitive.  Upside down.  It is no wonder that the disciples were often puzzled along the way.


Hearing the Boss say he was going to be betrayed, arrested, humiliated, crucified?  The world would call that failure.  No one in their right mind would aspire to such drastic downward mobility.


Listening to the One (whom they thought would right the wrongs of the world, maybe raise a mighty army to defeat the Romans, surely move into the Big House in Jerusalem and assume his position of Davidic leadership) lifting up a small child and then saying that greatness has something to do with leastness?  That doesn’t make any sense.  We would think greatness is about rubbing elbows with the rich, famous and powerful, not bouncing a child on your knee.  But Jesus turns everything around.


How do you follow someone like that?  One step at a time.  Hopefully in the right direction.


After the “big” conference at the beginning of the week, I’ll be spending today on retreat with a small group of pastors in their first three years of parish ministry. This retreat is part of an initiative that recognizes the value, and the difficulty, of excellent leadership in the church in the midst of the challenges we face today.  Together we will look again at how we look at things and how best to do what we are called to do.


Knowing that we follow one who was rejected means that we often must do battle with that inner urge we have to please people, to be liked, to settle for peace at all costs while mistrusting the possibility of peace beyond understanding. 


Realizing that greatness has something to do with least-ness means that our calling is to be attentive to the poor, the powerless, the rejected, the least and the lost.  Children are seldom the ones bending a pastor’s ear, telling him or her what they don’t like about this or that, about what they want done about this or that.  Children don’t pay the bills.  But Jesus lifted up a child and we need to be attentive to that.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, much has changed in 2000 years but so much remains the same – you still turn us inside out and upside down, you still rely on simple human beings to incarnate your love for the world, and it is still so hard to resist the allure of the easy way out.  Inspire us to excellence in all of the upside down ways that happens as we follow you day by day.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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