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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
When we open our hearts and minds to the texts for this Sunday, we confront the radical nature of God’s wisdom. In the surprising reversals we encounter, we hear Jesus’ call to live against the grain. As people of faith, we desire intimacy with God and a place in God’s sovereign realm. How can we recognize the presence and meaning of God’s gift and way of wisdom? Mark 9:30–37 As they are travelling, Jesus identifies himself to the disciples as the “Son of Man.” Jesus doesn’t explain this term. (Scholars are not in agreement as to the origin or the exact meaning of this identification that Jesus chooses for himself.) Jesus talks about the signs of his betrayal, death, and resurrection and again does not elaborate. Verse 32 states that the disciples do not understand, and furthermore, that they are afraid to ask Jesus about these words. The scene shifts to a house. Jesus draws the disciples into discussion, not letting them stay on the comfortable outside. Jesus asks about their conversations on the road. Silence again. Jesus sits down, as a teacher in that day would have done. He calls the twelve and begins to explain things: those who want to be first in God’s reign need to take their places at the end of the line. Then, as the prophets before also would have done, Jesus embodies the teaching with a startling gesture. Jesus takes a child and puts this little one “among them” – in the centre. We can imagine that children were loved by their families, but in the Roman world of Mark’s first readers, children were not honored as pupils or citizens. Jesus doesn’t just place the child in this radical place of honor. Jesus takes the little one in his arms for an embrace; Jesus welcomes the child and teaches how the disciples should treat such a one as this. In the community of God’s sovereign realm, no one finds themselves left by Jesus outside the picture window, pressing nose against the glass to peer in and see what it might be like “if only.” Jesus brings the child – who also represents those who are silenced, vulnerable, and disenfranchised – to the centre. Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” God’s wisdom embodies kindness, generosity, and dignity. The description of the honored wife in Proverbs 31:10–31 is like the way Jesus calls his followers to be. The book of Proverbs begins with a description of wisdom; here we are challenged to claim wisdom as the grounding that enables our faithful actions. Being drawn into the embrace and community of God is described in Psalm 1 as being planted by streams of life-giving water. In this understanding, devotion to God’s “path” (Torah or law) comes not as some burdensome obligation, but as a delight and privilege. The book of James offers this wisdom: draw near to God in order to draw near to life. In James 3:13—4:3, 7–8a, James minces no words about how we can push ourselves away from God and others. James calls us to place ourselves in the embrace of God’s wisdom, and there to find life. Our Gospel lesson does not tell us how the disciples responded to Jesus’ teaching about being great in God’s reign by being a servant to all. We do not know how early readers of Proverbs or Psalm 1 considered the role of wisdom in their lives. We do not know how the first readers of James changed their lives because of these words. More important, perhaps, than knowing how others have responded to the challenges of God’s risky wisdom is choosing to respond ourselves, as individuals and as community. It what ways might we be both challenged and comforted by God’s wisdom?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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