Year B Proper 20 Mark 9
The Measure of Greatness
Mark 9:30-37

Some years ago St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City was seeking a new president. Over one hundred candidates applied for the position. The search committee narrowed the list to five eminently qualified persons. Then somebody came up with a brilliant idea: let's send a person to the institutions where each of the five finalists is currently employed, and let's interview the janitor at each place, asking him what he thinks of the man seeking to be our president. This was done and a janitor gave such a glowing appraisal of William MacElvaney that he was selected President of St. Paul's School of Theology.

Somebody on that search committee understood, in a flash of genius, that those who live close to Christ become so secure in his love that they no longer relate to other people according to rank or power or money or prestige. They treat janitors and governors with equal dignity. They regard everybody as a VIP. Children seem to do this intuitively; adult Christians have to relearn it.

It is a telling little peace of scripture in verse 32: "But they did not understand." That's a picture that can be hung in the halls of the museum of mankind. When confronted by true greatness, we simply do not see it. That's what happens to the disciples. One day Jesus is passing through Galilee with his disciples. We are told that he did not want anyone in the area to know where they were? Why is that? Because, he had something important to tell them. It was a strategic part of his plan. "The Son of Man" he explains, "is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him," now listen to what he says here, "and after three days he will rise." There it was. The whole plan laid out before them. The crucifixion and the resurrection. They should have been curious. They should have asked questions. They could have seen the significance. But the best they could muster up was a blank stare and silence. They could not understand it because it did not meet the measure of greatness./

How do we grow to the point that we stop measuring people by their successes and start regarding people for their service, for their sacrifices? What is greatness in the kingdom of God?

  1. Greatness Is Hardly Ever Recognized.
  2. Greatness Is Never About Promotion.
  3. Greatness Is Found In Service To All.

What's Left Is Right
Mark 9:30-37

Party games.

Just the phrase gives me the shivers.

[You may want to get out some party games here and help people relive their horror. You could get some volunteers to do a quick party-game in front of everyone.]

Whether played at a child's birthday or an after-hours office shindig, party games are designed to make us look ridiculous and act silly. The rationale seems to be as follows: now that we've been silly together, the ice is broken, people can get comfortable, and we can begin enjoying one another without pretensions and protocols.

Party games are supposed to put people in a party mood.

If there's one party game that truly does an outstanding job of making all participants look ridiculous, it's the dreaded limbo contest. The limbo is far worse than the bunny hop because you have to go one at a time (no hiding in the crowd). The whole point of the contest is to make you fall on your backside in front of a group of onlookers.

Unfortunately, the better you are at bending over backwards and coming back up again without falling flat, the more sensational and embarrassing will be your eventual failure. Even if you manage not to fall, the more obtuse the angle of your back, the more convoluted and comical your body is going to appear. Face it. Even if you win a limbo contest, you've lost…you've lost your dignity and made yourself a laughingstock.

Outside the limbo party atmosphere, nobody ever wants to know how low can you go.

How much further can your family income drop? How much more dismal can morale get in your work place? How much more strained can the relationship get between yourself and your teenager? How far down can you drop into depression? How much more stupid can you feel at school? How unprepared can you be emotionally, mentally, fiscally for retirement? We spend our whole lives, and huge amounts of energies, clawing our way UP... presents Leonard Sweet