First Congregational Church
September 19, 2021
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 9:30-37 & James 3:13-4:3, 4:7-8
“Amazing Paradox 101 Study Notes“
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
There is something about this time of year, maybe more so for kids, parents, teachers and former teachers, and that feeling of resettling - getting back in the groove - and with that comes a little review from the previous - year. Or for some students, it’s the time of year to test out of certain classes, no doubt with a little review first.
In that sense of reviewing for the message for this morning, we’ve been in the books of Mark and James of late. Today’s passage from Mark comes as Jesus starts getting more serious about trying to get people to understand his amazing paradox of living and life.
30 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.
The Greatest in the Kingdom
33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[a] welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
Thank you, __. Reviewing again, in the culture of Jesus’ day, a child was one of the lowest rungs of society. Lepers, maimed, slaves, may have had a little up on children back then, but not by much. Knowing that this day would be kid-centered, school-vibed, and in a broad sense, a review for our lives as God’s people, I saved this Children’s Bible in a Nutshell, from the hand of a 12 year-old, or so it said, - just for today.
The Children's Bible in a Nutshell
In the beginning, which occurred near the start, there was nothing but God, darkness, and some gas.
The Bible says,"The Lord thy God is one," but I think He must be a lot older than that.
Anyway, God said, "Give me a light!" and someone did.
Then God made the world.
He split the Adam and made Eve. Adam and Eve were naked, but they weren't embarrassed because mirrors hadn't been invented yet.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating one bad apple, so they were driven from the Garden of Eden ... Not sure what they were driven in though, because they didn't have cars.
Adam and Eve had a son, Cain, who hated his brother as long as he was Abel. Pretty soon all of the early people died off, except for Methuselah, who lived to be like a million or something.
One of the next important people was Noah, who was a good guy, but one of his kids was kind of a Ham. Noah built a large boat and put his family and some animals on it. He asked some other people to join him, but they said they would have to take a rain check.
After Noah came Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob was more famous than his brother, Esau, because Esau sold Jacob his birthmark in exchange for some pot roast. Jacob had a son named Joseph who wore a really loud sports coat.
Another important Bible guy is Moses, whose real name was Charlton Heston. Moses led the Israel Lights out of Egypt and away from the evil Pharaoh after God sent ten plagues on Pharaoh's people. These plagues included frogs, mice, lice, bowels, and no cable.
God fed the Israel Lights every day with manicotti. Then he gave them His Top Ten Commandments. These include: don't lie, cheat, smoke, dance, or covet your neighbor's stuff.
Oh, yeah, I just thought of one more: Humor thy father and thy mother.
One of Moses' best helpers was Joshua who was the first Bible guy to use spies. Joshua fought the battle of Geritol and the fence fell over on the town.
After Joshua came David. He got to be king by killing a giant with a slingshot. He had a son named Solomon who had about 300 wives and 500 porcupines. My teacher says he was wise, but that doesn't sound very wise to me.
After Solomon there were a bunch of major league prophets. One of these was Jonah, who was swallowed by a big whale and then barfed up on the shore.
There were also some minor league prophets, but I guess we don't have to worry about them.
After the Old Testament came the New Testament. Jesus is the star of The New Testament. He was born in Bethlehem in a barn. (I wish I had been born in a barn too, because my mom is always saying to me, "Close the door! Were you born in a barn?" It would be nice to say, ''As a matter of fact, I was.’')
During His life, Jesus had many arguments with sinners like the Pharisees and the Republicans. Jesus also had twelve opossums.The worst one was Judas Asparagus. Judas was so evil that they named a terrible vegetable after him.
Jesus was a great man. He healed many leopards and even preached to some Germans on the Mount. But the Republicans and all those guys put Jesus on trial before Pontius the Pilot. Pilot didn't stick up for Jesus. He just washed his hands instead.
Anyways, Jesus died for our sins, then came back to life again. He went up to Heaven but will be back at the end of the Aluminum. His return is foretold in the book of Revolution.
13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.[a]
Drawing Close to God
4 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
Thank you, __. Lay this passage over any current topic and it’s rather interesting. Or think about any negative comment you can, and James has food for fodder.
“I don’t like the way they put those rocks” may easily be more about desire and even greed, as in “I wish I could afford such landscaping.” James says, “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it.” Maybe that sort of phrase might not physically kill someone, but it may make a little stab in a nice car ride.
“Why do we have to wear masks?” might actually be more of a deep sorrow and even grief for the time when life seemed less scary, regardless of viruses, rules about seatbelts and stop signs and shopping attire. James says, “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.”
I don’t think James is all negative Nelly and Nigel. But in looking at what motivates our “high energy” makes or breaks the way we welcome, receive and include people, especially those vulnerable as children. Understanding what feeds the things we say and the things we do helps us learn more about what it means to live this amazing paradox where those who would be first must be last and the servant of everyone.
James says, “If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying.” Blaming someone else, in maybe most instances, is more about covering up truth with boasting and lying. Besides, it sure seems like a lot more work to remember lies and far more draining to boast than it is to figure out that’s what’s going on, and then working on being real and tactful and wise. Which seems like the right place to pray.
Holy and High God, you hold the bar high for us, that we find purpose and aspiration. And sometimes life happens and we fail to live up to those standards. Forgive us when we fail to live your amazing paradox of setting others before ourselves, and inspire us in ways we can serve others, even when we don’t want to or feel like it. Help us to see beyond ourselves to your greater good, to helping the world lighten up and reset ourselves for all that will come our way in the next days and weeks and months. Thank you for those who have set us before themselves, most especially your son, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.