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September 2012

Humble and Great

Pentecost Proper 20

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Scripture Reference: Mark 9:33-37 

Preparation (optional): You may wish to bring a photograph of Olympic medalists standing on the awards platform.

How many of you have watched the Olympics? When they give out the medals—gold, silver, and bronze—which medal-winner gets to stand on the highest platform? (Let the children answer.) The highest platforms are for the top prizewinners, the athletes who won the gold medals. (You may show your photo here.) Gold-medal winners also get to see the flag of their country raised up higher than the other flags as the band plays their national anthem. It’s wonderful to see how happy those winning athletes are.

One day, the disciples of Jesus were holding their own kind of Olympics. They were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Can you imagine Jesus’ own disciples doing that? It seems pretty silly doesn’t it? When Jesus asked them what they were arguing about, they wouldn’t answer him. Jesus knew, of course, so he told his disciples, “Anyone who wants to be the first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35 nlt). To the disciples, it must have seemed like Jesus had turned everything upside down. The highest was the lowest, and the lowly servant was on the very top getting the gold medal.

If we tried to figure out who was the greatest among all of the children up here this morning, like Jesus’ disciples did among themselves, we might ask questions like: “Who is the fastest runner?” or “Who has the best toys?” But to be great in the kingdom of God, we don’t have to be the fastest or the richest. To be great in God’s eyes, we have to be humble and loving. Being humble means not thinking that we are better than others. Being humble means letting others have their way and being ready to be kind and helpful to others.

If we used Jesus’ method, we wouldn’t ever try to figure out who was “best.” Instead, we would look at ourselves and ask questions like: “Can I help my parents clean the floors this morning?” or “How can I make my brother or sister feel happy about themselves?”

It might be hard to ask ourselves questions like these. We all like to do things that seem important and that make people think we’re “winners.” When we watch the Olympics or other sporting events, it’s easy to get the idea that the winners are the ones who come in first, who are better than others. But God wants us to remember that the humble servants are really the winners in his kingdom. We are at our very best when we are serving others.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, give us a humble spirit and make our hands always ready to serve others. Help us remember that putting others first is better than being first.

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