17th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 20) LSB #’s 558, 851, 725
Text – Mark 9:37
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, & whoever receives me, receives not me but Him who sent me.
RECEIVING THE FATHER
What is the #1 priority at this stage in your life? Many of you are already retired & trying to maintain a certain standard of health & a standard of living for as long as possible. Others of you are still working, whether full-time or part-time, & you are most likely looking forward to the day when you can retire.
The economic realities of life have a tendency to take 1st priority in our lives. It’s a simple matter of the curse that God placed upon man after the fall into sin:
“And to the man He said, ‘Since you listened to your wife & ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.’” (Genesis 3:17 NLT) Because of man’s rebellion against God, the economic realities of life will weigh heavily upon us throughout time.
Therefore, it will always be a struggle, & we should expect it to be a battle to keep straight our priorities in life. And when we do keep those priorities straight that moves life toward its God-given purpose. Keeping our priorities straight demonstrates to our Creator that we love Him.
As the cross of Christ remains the center of our daily living then our decisions keep in step with the Lord of life. Jesus did not take a shortcut in order to bypass the cross. He went right through it. Jesus promises no shortcuts for those who follow Him. You & I should expect our daily lives to be a battle because sin never stops trying to lead us astray.
The cross of Jesus was given to us to be the anchor of Christian living, because those
who partake in Christ’s suffering share also in His glory. In heaven we will see that clearly. For now, our calling is to live by faith, not by what we see. The heavenly Father’s promise to us is not a life of ease & pleasure, here on earth. That will be heaven. Yet God the Father does promise to take us through our suffering to the resurrection from the dead.
What does all that have to do with the child that Jesus put in the midst of His disciples? On their own, children have no power, wealth or connections with which to take shortcuts or bypass the suffering of this life. However, important people can use their connections, power & wealth to take shortcuts & bypass much of the suffering of this life.
The parable Jesus tells about the Rich Man & Lazarus illustrates this truth. As the Rich Man was asking Abraham for relief from the pain of hell, he’s told this, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, & Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, & you are in anguish.” (Luke 16:19-31 ESV)
Lazarus was a poor man, who laid at the Rich Man’s gate. He was covered with sores & the dogs licked his wounds, but he was the one who entered heaven. He did not bypass the suffering of this life, & kept the heavenly Father as his top priority. The Rich man who bypassed this life’s suffering did not give God priority until it was too late.
If we’re honest, all of us struggle with that parable because none of us want to be lying on the ground waiting for dogs to come around & lick our sores for relief. Each of us would rather be in the mansion than starving at the gate. We want to feel like our lives are important, & worthwhile & accomplishing things. We want to be respected & thought well of.
Jesus knows that our desires are a trap Satan uses to put us in danger. He knows who has faith in Him as Savior from sin, but He also knows that we suffer from thinking too highly of ourselves. Jesus wants us to take care that we not lose the faith & the Kingdom through pride & arrogance. It is in the best interest of all believers, because we still have the sinful nature, to be admonished to accept little children, & all who are unimportant according to the world. Above all, before God we should be truly humble, but also should make ourselves subject to each other. Each of us should be a servant of the people whom God places in our lives. As Jesus said:
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, & whoever receives me, receives not me but Him who sent me.” (Mark 9:37 ESV) That is how we receive our Father who is in heaven. We do so through receiving Jesus, & since Jesus is not with us in the flesh, we do that through receiving our neighbor, especially those of lowly status.
Jesus knows that keeping our priorities straight is helpful, even crucial, as we take up our cross & follow Him. In the Gospel reading, the disciples had been arguing among themselves concerning who among them was the greatest. Jesus then teaches them that being great involves being the least & the servant of all.
Later, Jesus would demonstrate that principle by laying down His life for the lives & for the sins of the whole world. In the world’s order of things, the leader is first & others do things for him. They work in service to him. In the Church of Jesus the reverse is true. The humbler a person is, & the more willing to serve, the higher he will stand in God’s kingdom.
In order to bring home this lesson, Jesus took a little child & told the disciples that in rendering a service to one of these little ones they were rendering that service to God’s Son. And a service rendered to Him is credited in heaven as though it were rendered to Yahweh Himself.
This striking lesson in true humility & service is needed urgently in our lives. The false ambition that was found in the midst of the disciples is rampant in the Church today, threatening to render much of the preaching of the cross as invalid. For that very reason, & for many other sins like it, Jesus ascended the cross instead of a throne. Jesus was born on earth in order to serve, not to be served. His life on earth was to be a sacrifice, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – along with my sins & yours.
Before the dawn of the time that was the #1 priority of the Son of God. Before the universe was created, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity was focused upon saving sinners from their sins. He saved us so that we could love others as you & I were created to love.
In the brokenness of our sinful world that love is clearly demonstrated through receiving people of the least importance. In so doing, we receive our heavenly Father along with the life & wholeness & all the other blessings which come with our heavenly Father.
What is the #1 priority at this stage in your life? I pray that it would be receiving the Father through receiving the least important people in our lives. After all, Jesus came to live & to die in our place that one day we would again experience a perfect relationship with God.
Jesus has already paid for all our failures to love & receive others. It is a shame to let that blessing go to waste. Amen.
Wondrous honor You have given to our humblest charity in Your own mysterious sentence, “You have done it all to Me.” Can it be, O gracious Master, that You deign for alms to sue, saying by Your poor & needy, “Give as I have given to you”? Lord of glory, You have bought us with Your lifeblood as the price, never grudging for the lost ones that tremendous sacrifice. Give us faith to trust You boldly, hope, to stay our souls on You; but, oh, best of all Your graces, with Your love our love renew. Amen. LSB 851:3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet