9/23/2018 Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost The text is James 3:13-4:3,7-8a; Mark 9:30-37.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, it’s all about children – the little ones that Jesus gathers to himself with welcoming arms. Today, it’s all about coming to Jesus as children – vulnerable, innocent, trusting, and dependent upon God and the good will of others. Today, it’s all about children, like CJ, who was recently welcomed into God’s kingdom through the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Today, it’s all about children – little children, like Sarah who walks down troubled street, unaware of what is happening around her for she is unable to see the shapes and shades which are spread before her.
Sarah doesn’t see the mugger exercising his trade. She doesn’t see the drug dealers and pan handlers on street corners. She has never seen the war waging around her. She hears the sounds of distant guns, but she has never seen the victims lying face up with eyes staring to the heavens. For, Sarah was born without sight.
At times, I wish I could be like Sarah, unable to see the pain of this world. I wish I could be like CJ, unable to understand what it is like to live as an adult in this world. But innocence is gone. I have seen the tears trickling down the face of a child who was laughed at because he was too thin. I have seen the agony of a person who lost a job because someone younger came along. I have seen the eyes of a victim of cruel jokes, of unforgiving attitudes, of feelings of worthlessness. I have seen eyes staring into the heavens, without an expression, except pain.
I no longer “see” and understand as a child. I live in an adult world where wars and conflicts, fights and disputes keep us from coming close to God and each other. It doesn’t matter whether these things happen between nations or between people – whenever selfish desires and passions gain control, there are broken and bruised bodies in the wake. There are the bloody bodies of those who strove, but didn’t quite make it all the way. There are the broken hearts and spirits of those who couldn’t really measure up to standards and were crushed beneath the feet of those who surpassed them. There is the ever-present stench of death, as people discover that what they strove to obtain has no lasting value. To the victors belong the spoils. The “victors” may seem to have it all – money, fame, power, position – but they have no peace and the victory is shallow – because victory, ultimate victory, without Christ, is fallacy.
It doesn’t matter how much you own, or where you are as compared to another. In the loving arms of God, all are equal. No one is useless; no one is without value. There is no one more important than you are to God. For Christ came down from heaven and into this adult world of desires and fights, of killing and death, so that through him you might experience the love that God has for you. And in this love, Christ willingly went to the cross and was stretched upon it. He became a bruised and bloodied body so that we might be whole. Christ Jesus showed his love and experienced our pain and embarrassment. He took on our lowly estate and became victim for our sake. And when the time came, he died. He died, not because he did anything wrong, but because he came into this adult world of war and conflicts, fights and disputes, and he dared to love. He dared to love you and me and all people. And he dared to love us equally, like an only child.
Yet unlike all other victims who had gone before him, Jesus did not remain in the bowels of death. On the third day he rose and took his place at the right hand of his Father. Death did not win. Death was not victor. Jesus, the victim, became the victor. And because he won, we who are connected to him through the child-like faith and through the waters of baptism, shall win too.
The salvation that Christ has won for us is something that we could not win, earn or buy. It is a gift from the God who loves us. So we can open our eyes and see. We can see ourselves for what we are – loved children who don’t need the recognition of the world, a million dollars to spend, or a sense of worth that is heightened by crushing another. In God, we have all we need.
I’ve often wondered what would happen if Sarah someday would open her eyes and see. Would she see the pain of this world and discern the scum which sloshes on the shore of her beautiful lakes and rivers? Would she look down and then up, as her big beautiful eyes stare into the heavens, full of questions and tears? Would her eyes be filled for those forgotten people and places that were dying because of greed and selfishness and inhumanity? Or would she see a different world?
I hope that Sarah will one day open her eyes and see. That she will see a people and place of peace. That she will see a people who have put faith in God and taken into their lives the wisdom from above – a wisdom that is first pure, partaking the character of God in love and humble service, a wisdom that puts God first and alone – where people help each other, tend to each other’s needs and do not place undo value on money, power and position. For with that wisdom we gain peace and gentleness, an open mind and heart, full of mercy and good fruits, and lives without uncertainty and insincerity. With that wisdom we can open our eyes and see, see all that God has done for us and gladly submit to God’s truth.
It is this type of world that I wish Sarah could see and that CJ will experience in his adult years. But if it ever is to be, it has to begin with you and me, working and serving in humility and submitting to our God. For, in God there is the music of peace and harmony; the sounds of nature, undisturbed by war and conflict; and the laughter of people who no longer need to measure themselves against one another, for they live in the wonder of God who has loved and blessed us all.
So, let us be like children – innocent, vulnerable, trusting and blind to the pressures of the adult world in which we live. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.