One of the things I’ve reflected on as a weakness of the church’s Bible presentation model is the fact that it presents the bible in little amuse-bouche pieces–here are a few verses from here, and a few more verses from there. To the churched, who have heard them associated with one another for decades, they might make sense. Sometimes, though even one selected reading seems to contain multitudes of messages and contradictions.
The gospel of Luke tends to present itself like a quick-cut action film lots of the time. In the passage we just read(Luke 9: 37-50), Jesus heals a sick boy, chastises the “ye of little faith” crowd in a particularly cranky way, and then smashes hierarchy in a way that is both profound and meaningful–but also so quickly that if you blink you could miss it.
Reading and re-reading this passage this week, I concentrated (as I always have) on my hang-up of the ableism of the boy needing to be “healed” from “spirits” that to my modern disabled eyes are clearly seizures. Having had seizures and migraines since before I could articulate their symptoms, I’ve always side-eyed the beginning of this passage instead of looking at the real kicker.
Which is this part that happens after the healing: “An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest”.
How modern is this. I’ve walked by enough basketball courts and heard enough trash talk to know that if you get a group of athletic young dudes together, sooner or later–even playfully–the conversation is going to turn this way. I like to imagine the disciples trash talking each other this way whenever they’re arguing about who is the greatest:
“Hold up. Bro, do you even heal the sick?”
But the thing that happens next is so earth shattering and SO important: Jesus finds a child in the crowd and says “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Not hustle harder. Not give 110% But, HUMBLE YOURSELVES. See God everywhere, in every person. Be as loving and as open as a child as you move through your life.
Immediately John changes the subject–it’s the second time in this reading that the disciples just haven’t been ready to hear what Jesus has been telling them. (a recurring theme throughout all of the gospels)
Why? Because they were carrying their baggage. The baggage of their egos, of the world, of their bro-ness and their brokenness–their neediness that is so recognizable to us: who is THE BEST? Who will sit at your right hand? Who is the head disciple in charge here?
The same kind of baggage I was carrying about the beginning of this passage that made me miss the END of this passage, where Jesus sows the seeds of a revolution so powerful it could establish the kingdom of God right here and now on the Earth, if we would only let it. Earlier in this chapter of Luke, Jesus gives the disciples very clear instructions for the road ahead: “Take nothing for your journey.” In other words, put down your baggage. Where you’re going, it’s only going to weigh you down.
I want to close with a quote from Bishop Michael Curry–who gave what could easily be called “the sermon heard round the world” at the royal wedding this past week. He gave it on the simplest, most distilled message of Christianity there is. So simple that a child could understand it. God IS love. The purest and most beautiful love imaginable–Bishop Curry spoke (as Jesus did) about a world built on love– and said:
“If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.
Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way.
Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.
Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.”
Imagine that love.