Monday, April 15, 2013

The Least

I've been reflecting on Luke chapter 9 the past few days.  Verses 46-48 have really stood out to me.

"An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest.  But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.'"

The disciples were not that different from us.  They had all of the foibles and shortcomings that humans have struggled with from the dawn of creation until now.  So it shouldn't surprise us that they, like us, at times were extremely short and narrow sighted and exceedingly  prideful and selfish.  They weren't subtle either - they came right out into the open with their argument, each putting forth their case for greatness.  But Jesus was having none of this.  As he had been trying to get into their heads for most of his ministry, Jesus was bringing in a Kingdom that was utterly different from the the kingdoms of this world.  In the ancient world, it was preferred for children to be seen and not heard.  They, like women, were second class citizens at best.  Although they may not have been actively scorned or marginalized, they would have simply been ignored by most people who had any pretensions to importance.  So it's within this cultural backdrop that Jesus invites a little child to have a seat of importance, right next to the creator of the cosmos.  Jesus' words must have stung, "If you think you are important, if you think the Kingdom of God is primarily about you, then you've got it all wrong.  Look at this little child, she's not jockeying for position, she's not climbing over the backs of her friends to advance her own agenda, she's not looking for glory or honor, she's simply enjoying the life that her God has freely given her.  When you begin to embrace her way of living, you'll be on your way to embracing my Kingdom way of life and discipleship and the final destination for that way of living is eternal life with God the Father himself.  This child may be small in your eyes, but she's the one sitting next to the King."

 We might be a bit more subtle in our designs for greatness, but if we're honest, in a number of obvious, and less obvious ways, we can identify with the disciples.  We might not come right out and boast about our awesomeness, but how often do we find ourselves wrestling with envy and resentment?  We might not always want to be the greatest, but how often do we desire to be the least?  In fact, I've seen within myself that though I have enjoyed feelings of superiority at times, the more deceitful enemy I've battled has been the desire to avoid feelings of inferiority.  I may not have to be the best, but I don't want anyone else to be the best either, and I certainly don't want to be the least.  Shouldn't we all be equal?  The reality is that God so loved the world that he was willing to humble himself, enter into humanity, and in a sense, to take humanity back into himself through the incarnation of his Son.  He didn't just come as a King, but as a servant King.  He didn't just come as Lord, but as a loving Lord, a giving Lord, a forgiving Lord.  The irony is that the one who is truly the greatest, became like the least, so that we, who truly are the least (yet harboring delusions of grandeur) might become all that we were created to be.  Although I acknowledge this truth intellectually, it's a far harder concept to embrace emotionally, socially, and practically.  But by God's grace, may we all begin to embrace it just a little bit more. - Shay

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sitting Down, Face to Face, Around a Table

Yesterday, I found myself sitting down, face to face, around a table four different times.  The first time I was teaching conversational English to several Spanish students, a couple of Poles, a Romanian, a Brazilian, and a Korean.  Although the proficiency in English varies greatly from student to student at these Thursday morning classes, more times than not, genuine connections are made from person to person.  We discover that our shared humanity more than compensates for our differing backgrounds, cultures, and countries. 

A little while later I was sitting at our dining table with two good friends and my best friend, Juli.  This wasn't just a casual conversation.  It was born out of a shared passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ and Christian community.  At the end of our 3 hour discussion, we had all grown closer together and closer to Christ. 

The third conversation occurred about an hour later in the city centre.  We are beginning to study Paul's letter to the Romans at our Thursday evening Dublin Coffee Shop Bible Studies.  Last night we were meant to read the entire letter but didn't quite manage all of the chapters as we constantly paused from the reading to discuss what we had just read. Four Irish-persons and a graciously received American were sitting down, face to face, around a table full of empty coffee mugs and pastry plates discussing how the gospel so relevantly interacts with real life.  A lady who joined us for the first time mentioned that she is excited to begin to study the Bible as it is something she's never really explored.  Biblical exploration is best done in the context of community, so I think she's found a great platform from which to begin.

Later in the evening, a couple more of my friends joined me around the table at a local watering hole.  Although we never opened our Bibles (scripture was quoted & probably misquoted throughout the evening), the entire conversation from first to last was centered on how Easter shapes and molds our lives - how it makes all the difference.  One of my friends remarked that we should all be prepared to throw away our traditions and world-views if that's what Jesus calls for.  That's what the original disciples had to do.  Words worth considering.

There's something powerful about sitting down, face to face, around a table.  Connections are made, relationships are deepened, and life is enriched.  I can't think of a better way for faith to be shared and received.  Can you? - Shay