Yr B ~ Creation 1 ~ Mark 9:30-37
Today is the beginning of the liturgical season of Creation. We’ve been marking this season for around a decade now, but it’s still pretty new. Except it isn’t. We’ll talk more about that later. You’d think the scriptures for the Season of Creation would be all about, well, you know, creation! They’re not. At least this year they’re not. This year they’re just regular lectionary readings from the gospel of Mark, and then some Matthew on Thanksgiving. So what makes it ‘creation-y’? We’ll talk more about that later too.
Let’s start today with the reading from Mark’s gospel. Jesus and his entourage are walking down the road and apparently the disciples get into an argument about who is more important – ego stuff – which is kind of ironic because just before that Jesus was teaching them about how it was inevitable that the path he was on would lead to his death, but that wouldn’t be the end of this movement – The Way. Well, our duh-sciples were not able to comprehend his teaching, so instead they argued about who was better than the other. Oh the irony!
So Jesus sits them down, and tries again. Mark 9:35 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Classic Jesus! Turns our perception upside down. If you really want to be ‘first’ you have to be ‘last’ and become the servant of all. In other words, leggo-your-ego! Their blank faces show that they still don’t get it – so Jesus tries again.
He places a child in the centre of their circle. First of all, that helps us let go of this limited visual image that it was just Jesus and 12 men who were there. That kid didn’t come from nowhere. Clearly there were kids with them when they gathered – which means women too.
Anyway, Jesus puts the child in the centre and then embraces the child. Lovely. Jesus says, Mark 9:37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
At first glance we may miss how important this is. Nowadays we say things like “the children are our future” and “it takes a village to raise a child” and “kids first”. That’s fantastic. But that’s not the way it was in ancient days. There were no helicopter or snow plow parents back then. Kids had no rights, no standing, no importance except for their usefulness. Sure, parents loved their kids, of course they did – but from a societal view kids were not valued generally.
But Jesus puts this child in the centre – not the side, but the centre – and embraces the child – and says if we aren’t loving the helpless ones, the ones with no voice or standing, the ones society devalues, then we are not loving Jesus, or by extension God.
Ok, that’s not a shocking teaching for us because our society does much, much better now at honouring, and protecting, and caring for children. So let’s use this teaching as metaphor. Let’s talk about the environment – it is the Season of Creation, after all.
“But Larry, this scripture has nothing to do with the environment at all! It’s basically about Jesus schooling his disciples about being too self-important.”
Look deeper! Jesus places a child in the centre of the circle and challenges his followers to see the child as beloved – holy – valuable beyond measure even though society devalued them.
What if we put nature – the earth – in the centre of the circle?
What if we were challenged to treat the environment as beloved, holy, and valuable – and not just something for us to consume or monetize?
Jesus challenges us to welcome the ‘child’ – to care for and respect the powerless, the voiceless – the forgotten, discounted, ignored, undervalued. Jesus puts creation, the environment, in the centre of the circle, embraces it, and challenges us to do likewise, in love.
“But Larry, we do this all the time. Just like the kids, we value the environment!”
Do we though? read on