Thought for Sunday 12th September 2021
This week's talk is written by Steve Langton.
I am cheating with this thought, because it is based on next week’s gospel reading from Mark 9: 30-37:
30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples…
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’
One of my interests is cricket. There are various reasons why I like it, but one is its unpredictability. The batsman who scores a fantastic double century in one innings can be bowled first ball in the next. A match can swing one way and then the other. A team that appears to have no hope can end up winning the tournament. One of my earliest cricketing memories concerns Kent County Cricket Club’s centenary year in 1970. On July 1st they were bottom of the Championship, but a remarkable run of wins saw them win the title for the first time in over 50 years. The last became first.
But even the ups and downs of cricket are nothing compared to the topsy-turvy world of the bible. There’s quite a bit of it in the old testament, as plucky little Israel takes on the surrounding nations. The little shepherd boy David defeats the mighty Goliath. Tactics that seem obvious to the world are sometimes reversed to show God’s power. In Judges 7 Gideon, who was a very junior member of an insignificant clan before God chose him, prepares for battle with the mighty Midianites. He assembles an army of over 30 thousand men. Can God give Gideon victory using this powerful army? Well, yes he can give them victory, but only after sending more than 99% of the troops home, leaving just 300 to take on the much larger Midianite forces.
When we come to the new testament we see even more examples of God’s topsy-turvy priorities. Numerous examples spring to mind; Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist, the Beatitudes, the widow’s mite (penny) that was worth so much more than the gold coins of the rich. Unfortunately the disciples have not taken these messages on board and so, as they travel along with Jesus, they start arguing about who is the greatest. Once they arrive Jesus puts them firmly in their place: ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’
The church through the ages has, like the disciples, struggled to take on board this message, often becoming distracted by self-importance and power rather than being a servant. So let us try not to make the same mistake. Let’s try to serve without seeking power or influence. Let’s try to respect all people, whether they are rich and charismatic, or poor and unprepossessing. And above all, let us remember that God can use us in his service, just as he did Gideon, however weak and inadequate we may feel.