Anglican Church of Australia Innisfail/Tully
Diocese of North Queensland


Pentecost 18

Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’
The disciples have been under stress for some time. Being disciples of Jesus was a new experience for them. They were still not completely comfortable as to what their role would be in the future on this path with their teacher. The teacher who had talked about being killed and rising again.  How would they all fit into this ministry.

They were unsure as to their relationship with their teacher and with one another. If the teacher was to be killed who would inherit the leadership and what would the relationship be throughout the team. They had been travelling by themselves for some time and naturally issues of leadership came to the fore. Jesus was aware of this for he asked them; ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’

As we grow, as we mature, we are often unsure as to what our role in family, business or church will be. In most cases our position or our role is determined by others through their perceived understanding of our ability and our willingness to serve. In this way we will have faced similar dilemmas as faced the disciples on their journey with Jesus. Remember they did not have a hierarchy from which to seek clarification of their role, just their teacher. They were learning on the march.

When we move into an unfamiliar role how do we learn responsibilities and relationships. It is usually by watching others or from manuals or job descriptions. The disciples had none of these. Jesus provides them with guidance, little by little and in this text from Mark we and the disciples are given two specific lessons.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
It was traditional at that time for the teacher to sit and teach and we can imagine them all sitting on the ground around their teacher.

Jesus immediately addresses the issue, they had been discussing, who was the greatest among them, who was the leader designate.

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’

This was a very different concept from which they had all experienced at that time as Jesus stated in Matthew 10:
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

Tradition at that time was that the rulers lead from the front. There were servants to do the work that was not their role. Jesus was emphatic that if the disciples or members of his newly established church were to lead they should do it through service. Service was not to be delegated but to be shared. This should not have changed until this day. Our roles within the church and society must be to serve. Peter has obviously learnt the lesson from Jesus for he guides his followers in I Peter 5:
2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

This teaching is not just for priests and bishops but is for all of us. We all have responsibility for the flock of which we are part. We are all called to care for those with whom we share. Being part of the Church requires that we care for each other as equals.

Jesus then adds to the teaching of the disciples using a child as the example:
Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’

Jesus taught the disciples to welcome children, not treating them as second-class citizens which was normal in their society. However, I think Jesus teaching goes even further than that when applied to our society, to our congregations.

Jesus, in basic terms, is teaching that there should be no second-class citizen in society. All should be welcome into our midst. Our congregations should not be limited to those people with who we are comfortable. All should be welcomed into the Church.

We often talk about reaching out into the community. When people join our community, we must make them welcome. We must make them feel welcome. This does not mean just having a welcomer at the door, but all should make the visitor feel welcome and encourage them to participate in the worship.

In this we go back to the first part of the teaching where the disciples were uncertain as to the protocols. Well it is probably the same with visitors in our church, they are unsure as to how we do things, as to what extent they can participate in the service. We must put them at ease and welcome them as Jesus welcomed the little children. Our act of worship must reflect Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25.
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

As Christians we are called upon to serve all and to welcome all. We must be a serving, welcoming community.
Paul Beasley