Saturday, May 1, 2010

Who's the Greatest?...

(photo from
Let me start by saying that this blog is just my thoughts in free flow. Since seminary, I have learned to process my thoughts through writing. I have a folder on my laptop full of things I had written before I started blogging, and I've even started writing a book, but I don't know where that's going yet. So, what you read here is in no way representative of the churches I serve, or the people I know; I'm not speaking for anyone else, it's just my thoughts. I just thought I would throw that out there again.

I realized something after I entered the ministry...there are just as many politics in the church as there are in the secular world. I have to admit that surprised me. I don't know why it did, after all, clergy are just as human as anyone else, and so are the folks sitting in the pews. We have the same needs, some of the same wants, we bleed when we're cut, and maybe even have some of the same desires to climb the corporate ladder. Every institution has its heirarchy, and some do aspire to reach the top...the church is no different.

Having said that, I guess it's no surprise that Christ spends as much time as he does speaking to the idea of "Who is the greatest?" Two of the disciples even had their mom ask him for seats of honor in his kingdom, so we know they weren't exempt from the desire. In this morning's text, it simply starts with a question. Now, we have no way of knowing the motive behind this particular question...we don't even know which one of them actually asked it...but we do have the question..."Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

Evidently there had been some discussion among the boys. Perhaps Peter thought that since he was there first, he was the greatest? Or maybe it was the disciple that Jesus loved? We don't know that it was John, but John is never mentioned by name in his own gospel, only "The disciple that Jesus loved." Perhaps it was Matthew, since we think he might have been the oldest. But whatever, or whichever it was, the answer Jesus gave was not the one they were expecting.

"He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Ouch. "But Jesus, he's just a kid." Scripture doesn't say that's what they said, but they must have been thinking it. In that culture, at that time, children were not very highly valued. They, along with the women of that society, were just one step above a slave. So, for the disciples to hear Jesus say that this was what they would have to become to enter the kingdom must have been the proverbial slap in the face.

But why? Why a child? This is one place where Jesus gives a little explanation, and it boils down to humility. The most humble in the kingdom will be the greatest.

I watched something take place in our sanctuary this past Sunday that has bothered me greatly all week, and I don't know how I'm going to handle it. It must have bothered me more than I realize because I'm not thinking very clearly about it this morning. It ties in perfectly with what Jesus was talking about, but I think it best not to go into it...yet. For me, it was a real lesson in who thought they were the greatest. It happens; it happens even in our churches; and it's a very real reminder of our humanity, and sometimes, the size of our egos.

So what do we do with this? When Jesus says that the only way we will enter the kingdom of heaven is with the humilty of a child, what do we do with ego, pride, and ideas of self importance in our worshipping community, in our co-workers, friends, or family? It's the question of the ages, really.

I've been accused of being arrogant and cocky more than once, and maybe I am, I don't know. But when I look at a child, either a child in years, or a child in the faith, that arrogance begins to disappear. I see them as Christ sees them; not necessarily their blind faith, but their humility and I wish I were more humble at times.

It broke my heart Sunday to hear one of our children talked to the way he was because in the kingdom, he is one of the greatest. I'm the only one that witnessed it, but I doubt that I'm the only one bothered by it. A few years ago, that incident would have determined the next's week message, but not this time. My focus as shepherd this weekend is to remind that child just how important he is in the eyes of the King of kings. I'll deal with ideas of self importance in some other way, at some other time.

This is one of the tender spots in this ol' boy. Kids are important, and we don't tell them that enough, or maybe I should say, I don't tell them that enough. It's easy to focus on their mistakes, and that's what happened Sunday. I do it with my own kids, and I know I'm not alone. But for Jesus to use a child as an example of the only way we'll enter the kingdom speaks volumes. It knocks my ego in the head, and I think I'm ok with that.

Ok, I think I've probably rambled this morning, so I'll stop. Do me this favor though, in the morning when you enter whichever house of worship you choose, find a child and remind them how important they are in Christ's eyes.


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