Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity 23.9.12 Mark 9.30-37

13 09 2012

Status Anxiety

The descent from the mountain seems to be very steep. Jesus tries to explain things; the disciples don’t understand; they fail to ask a question and begin a status row.  ‘Okay’ says Jesus, ‘you lot need to grow up and learn how to welcome real children’.

Mark 9.30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

Reflections and Questions

‘they were afraid to ask him’ v 32

People often find that when they fail to understand they also fail to ask a question that will help them understand. That’s one reason why it is so important to make question-asking normal and easy.

What questions would flow from the congregation today if people were not afraid to ask?

‘arguing about on the way’  v33

Jesus saw them arguing – and perhaps thought it was a dispute about what he had been saying earlier, or maybe about the precise meaning of the phrase ‘The Son of Man’.  Sadly not. They were arguing about status.

Can you imagine people today, shortly after hearing some profound spiritual words, starting to squabble about status?  (I rather suspect you  can.) What will you say to them?

‘He sat down’ v35

Just when you thought Jesus was going to get on his high horse and give them all a rocket, he sits on the floor.

What impact do you feel this gesture has?

‘welcomes’ v37

The word ‘welcomes’ is repeated 4 times in one sentence: ‘welcomes… welcomes… welcomes… welcomes…’

A subtle point about hospitality being made here perhaps? How will you make it?

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Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity 16.9.12 Mark 8.27-end

6 09 2012

Identity and Crisis

This is a pivotal gospel passage. A turning pont. It is all about transition and change. It involves honesty and truth, mistake and rebuke, openness and orders.  These few words really live – if we let them.

Mark 8.27-end

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’

Reflections and Questions

‘Jesus went on’ v 27

Jesus really is pushing forward now. The disciples are following and sharing in the journey.

Can you imagine discipleship without journey? Why not preach what you feel about that in your bones?

‘Caesarea Philippi’  v27

This passage is obviously about names and naming. The place itself had a name change. Philip named it after himself, usurping the dignity of the ‘great god Pan’ – it used to be called ‘Paneas’.

How much background is enough to help people appreciate the significance of the place of this encounter?

‘Messiah’ v29

‘Anointed One’. ‘Christ’. ‘King’. ‘The One’.

What did Peter mean? How fully did he understand his own words?

‘must’ v31

Not ‘may’, not ‘is likely to’, not ‘will’.  Rather, ‘the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.’ This is the context for the message to would-be disciples: that they must take up their cross. We are all in this together. Suffering is not optional. It is necessary.

This does not mean all suffering is good. How do you distinguish between necessary and unnecessary suffering as you reflect on your own life? what does this teach you about the nature of sacrifice?