Page last updated



Are You Open to God?
Mark 9:30-37
by Pastor Debbie

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in room full of people, with lots of noise. You start talking to the person sitting next to you, and the two of you are deep in conversation, confident that it is private because everyone else is also talking. You get to a point of saying something that you are willing to say to this person, but not to the rest of the people there. Maybe its a slightly off colored joke, or your true opinion about another person. All of sudden everyone else stops talking, and they hear what you had intended as being only shared with the other. There, in the stark silence the remark sits, for everyone to hear and to evaluate. It can leave a person embarrassed, and regretting what they had just a minute before had been so happy and willing to share.

This is what I imagine happened to the disciples. They have been walking along with Jesus, and in side conversations, arguing about who among them was the greatest. Never imagining that Jesus has overheard; in fact not even considering it. For there were at least 12 of them, plus Jesus, and probably more with the crowds who regularly traveled with Jesus. All that the disciples are focused on is who is the greatest, who is the best, the brightest, who should be lifted up as the premier disciple. Who is worthy of the place of honor, of prestige, the respect of the others. Who is worthy of being their leader when Jesus is no longer with them, as Jesus has been talking about.

And then, there is Jesus, asking them what they are arguing about. Suddenly, the disciples are brought up short and are embarrassed. Embarrassed about something that they had been so vehemently and unabashedly arguing about just moments before among themselves. Embarrassed once they look at their arguments in the light of Jesus. Embarrassed, because they realize that though they have followed Jesus down the road in to Galilee, they haven’t yet followed him fully down the spiritual road that Jesus is walking.

They have been with Jesus, watching him as he travels along. They have been with Jesus when he has eaten with the lowly of their society, and as one of them, not over them as some generous benefactor. They have been with Jesus when he has healed the sick, comforted those who mourned. They have been with Jesus as the crowds have grown, and seen the opportunity for Jesus to use this to his advantage, to gain a position of power, or monetary security. And they have been with him, seeing how he has instead continued to live as a servant, to God, and God’s people.

So when Jesus asks them, what are you arguing about, they do not answer. For suddenly, what seemed so right, so clearly important just a few minutes ago, now, in the light of Christ, fades into nothing. In the light of Christ, suddenly, what they hold as values, what they were calling important, these things are cast in shadows. And so the disciples can't answer Jesus. Instead they hesitate, hesitate in the light of Christ. They realize that they still have far to go, to say that they truly are living in the life that Jesus is leading them.

Its a path that we are also called by Jesus to follow today. And let’s not kid ourselves, it isn’t easy, and we probably will fall short at some point. Like the disciples, we may find that we have missed the mark. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, yet we may have times when we don’t.. We are called to forgive, yet we may hold on to a resentment, anger, a grudge, building it into righteous indignation, and perhaps even a desire for revenge or punishment.

And then, then there are the day to day things in life, the little things that we don’t think about- the ethnic joke, the piece of “news’ we share about another person, the quick dismissal of another as not being worthy of a minutes conversation because we have more important things to do, or the want to get that bit of recognition, that feeling of being at least a little better of a - fill in the blank here, student, daughter,son, husband,wife, father mother, worker, Christian?- than they next person. Things that we have no problem reconciling with our beliefs, and who we say we are. That is, until Jesus stops us and ask, what were you arguing about? And then, like the disciples, we may find that we too are too embarrassed to answer.

Yet it is not necessarily bad that the disciples have been caught arguing by Jesus, or that we may find ourselves guilty over something we do. Jesus was able to ask the disciples what they were arguing about because the disciples were living with Christ. They may not have understood and followed what Jesus was saying, and thus being embarrassed, caught up short when Jesus asks them what they are arguing about. But they are there for him to ask the question. They hear it, and in their silence, respond to it.

And then they are there for Jesus to continue to guide, to once again remind, this time with a child, that to be his disciple, and to truly follow God wholly, is to be willing to serve the rest of God’s beloved people. Even the lowest in their society, such as the child. The disciples, not always perfectly, are there, present, to realize the grace of God’s love and mercy.

In the Gospel of Mark, this is not the first time or the last time that they disciples are pulled up short, when what they are doing and saying is contrasted with what Jesus is teaching them. The disciples are shown to be all too human. But this is important, that the disciples didn’t have some sort of one time conversion experience, then never fall back to their old, sinful ways. Discipleship is shown to be a process, a process of following the one who calls them, A process of going forward, then stumbling, falling back, arguing, disagreeing, falling short, and then trying again. Trying again, because God is there, ready, willing to forgive, and never failing to love them.

This is the light that we are called to walk in the light of Christ. Not a harsh glaring searchlight, attempting to catch us, seeking to judge us for failing to live to some abstract standard ; but a beacon for us to walk in, that opens and shows the clear path to our relationship with God, and the way God created us to live.

We do need to ask ourselves, through prayer, through study, through discussion with each other, would we want Jesus to catch us in this. And might I suggest that you take time at least once a day this this week, when you ask yourself if you would have wanted to have Jesus asking you what you were talking about, or doing? But not because God is waiting to say, GOTCHA, or so that we can beat ourselves up about how bad a person we are. Take time to stop briefly to hesitate, to reevaluate, to wonder if this is something I wish to be overheard saying, or caught doing by Jesus, so that we are open to God. Open to what God’s Spirit still has to teach us, about right relationships with each other and with God. Open to God’s love as shown in the living ministry of Jesus Christ. Open to the forgiveness and grace that God so readily longs to give us, if we would seek it. Open to the realization, that even at those times when we fail, that when we fall short, that we can still walk with Christ, and that Christ still walks with us.