Humility and Wisdom. These can seem to be in kind of short supply these days. And they seem to have been in short supply even in Jesus’ day. Even amidst the disciples.
You might have noticed in our gospel lesson that while Jesus was telling the disciples about how he would humble himself to the point of letting himself be put to death, they weren’t even listening because they were so busy arguing over who was going to be the greatest among them.
So much for humility among the disciples! So much for wisdom.
Then again, there but for the grace of God go I - or any of us.
Years ago, when I first started seminary, I was also directing a music ministry. And we were really psyched because a benefit concert that we organized for a local domestic violence shelter spurred other volunteers to step up and organize what became a week-long series of events to train people in domestic violence awareness, bring in a major author as a key note speaker, and table local restaurants and cafes with teachable facts to educate folks about domestic violence.
A lot of us worked really hard and the week was a big success and if I was honest with myself, I knew I had a big part in how it all came together. And if I was more honest with myself, I’d see my ego had inflated about all “my” good work. But then a funny thing happened. I was at one of the gathering areas on campus the week after this all took place, talking with a few people, and one of them asked us if we’d heard about or been able to go to any of the amazing events that took place on campus and in town during the domestic violence awareness focus of the previous week.
I was about to speak up and say something like, “Ummm, in fact I helped get this whole thing going and kept it going” and tell them about all I had done when suddenly I found myself saying instead, “thanks be to God. That sounds like it was wonderful.”
And afterwards, as I pondered this a bit more, I realized how I had wanted recognition for what I had done but how wonderful it was that at least for that person, it would not be me that they thought about in relation to the Domestic Violence benefit concert and awareness week, but the wonderful work of God and Jesus.
The disciples are arguing about who is greatest among them when what they really should be arguing about is how they can help Jesus more in the work that Jesus has come to do – teaching, healing, caring for the poor, and telling people that all of this and more are signs that the kingdom of God has come near. That God is not distant, but near and desiring the healing of the world. And Jesus places a child in their midst – someone who would have been the “least of these,” lacking status or importance in Jesus’ day; Jesus places a child in the midst of the gathered disciples to make his point: in God’s eyes we all have equal worth. It is not our age or gender or social status that make us important, it is God’s abundant love for us and all of this world.
And the disciples are missing – and if we are not careful we will miss it, too – the disciples are missing Jesus telling them the story of what is to happen. That he will die and after three days be raised again. You see, caught up in their worldly concerns of status the disciples are missing the pure gold of Jesus’ promise that through the humble sacrifice of his life all healing and wisdom and joy and hope will be possible for the disciples and for all of us.
If we’re not careful, we might miss this, too. Busy as we are with all the status making of this world – in jobs and school, checking to see how many people liked our social media posts. All the status of this world cannot bring us true joy. Only knowing the love of God in Christ – as witnessed in the smile or hug of someone who cares about us, or through helping others less fortunate than ourselves, or praising God when someone celebrates something good we did without knowing we had anything to do with it.
Maybe when, with Christ’s resurrecting help, we begin to die to our egos God in Christ can help us rise up in humility and wisdom so that true greatness, the greatness of God, can shine forth through us. Wouldn’t that be something? Wouldn’t that be something.