Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
Mark 9:30-37 - “Dandole el avion”
September 20, 2009
In Mexico there’s a wonderful saying… dandole el avion, literally, “giving someone the airplane.” It’s not vulgar, I promise. We do this all the time.
You’re with someone who just talks and talks and talks—just won’t shut up—you’re stuck, you don’t want to be rude, so you just give little signals: “Uh hu..Yeah. That’s nice.” Or maybe: someone’s talking over your head, not really making any sense, but you don’t want to look stupid, and you don’t really care enough to have them explain themselves. So you just nod…Uh, yeah, Interesting. Le estas dando el avion. Me dan el avion a mi--You give me the airplane: I see it. I see it when I’m preaching. The nice smile that says your looking, but your mind is totally elsewhere ☺.
You know what the disciples are doing to Jesus in this passage? Le estan dando el avion. They’re walking along toward Capernaum; Jesus is talking, The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” The didn’t understand what he was saying..
“Uh, Yeah…That’s nice. “ They don’t understand, but they don’t bother to ask.
They sort of just nod, and drift back and then talk about, no argue about… who was the greatest. Doesn’t that seem a little odd?
This morning, we continue our series on the cost of discipleship, drawing on the theme of the early 20th century German minister, Dietrich BOnhoeffer, who wrote a book called the Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer summarized Jesus call to follow in this way: When Jesus calls anyone to follow, he bid him or her to come and die.
In the passage from Mark, we are challenged with a new facet of the cost of discipleship. When Jesus and his disciples get to where they were going, Jesus asks, “So what were you talking about after hearing that I was going to be killed?” They’re silent. Jesus huddles them up: “Take a knee, fellas.” “If you want to be first you must become last, a servant to all.” Servant…I thought we were talking about greatness. We are all lured to desire greatness. Who doesn’t want to be great? We who claim to be followers of Jesus…we are right there with the disciples, talking about how we might be great, giving Jesus the airplane.
We ignore the fact that the one we follow sets the example of losing his life for others. The one we follow Says if you want to be great, you must serve.
I love what Martin Luther King, Jr. says about this passage:
“So Jesus gives us a new norm of greatness.
If you want to be important--wonderful.
If you want to be recognized—wonderful.
If you want to be great—wonderful.
But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your definition of greatness.
And this morning, the thing I like about it…by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve.
You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.
You don’t have to make your subject and you verb agree to serve.
You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.
You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second [law] of thermodynamics in physics to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace;
a soul generated by love;
and you can be that servant.”
Be that servant. What’s great is that Jesus, in the next sentence, kind of let’s us off the hook? He takes a child who just happened to be within arms reach, and places that child in the midst of the disciples, a really cute bubbly smiling child right there in the middle of their huddle: “Welcome this child, and you welcome me, you welcome the one who sent me. Welcome this child.”
That’s what it means to serve? That’s what it means to be great? Welcome a child in our midst. Welcome the child. Hey, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s no problem right! We love children, right?
The other day I was out for a jog with Ruby, it was a little cool outside so I had her in a stocking cap, and socks and pants, but her shirt was short sleeved, and her pants were beginning to ride up a bit exposing some of her legs…and this woman drove and looked at me..rather scowled at me, slowed down, and she stopped and I came jogging up beside her....She rolled her window down still scowling, ”cover her up”, “Huh, Excuse me ma’am?” “Put some clothes on your child it’s cold,” she said harshly. “Oh…ok, thanks.”
Making sure this daddy is treating his kid right.
Coming back from Farmington yesterday with Bruce and Trasie after a presbytery council meeting, we stopped to eat and told the waiter to be patient cause we had a kid. He said, “it’s an unwritten law, you do anything for babies.”
So Jesus telling us to welcome children is some of the best news we could hear:
Cute, cuddly, innocent, dependent, we love kids.
(hand over the ear, John Stewart impersonation)
Back in Jesus’ day kids were considered second-class citizens. The lowest of the low, really, well just how low—lower than women, the poor, the sick and the lame…Gee that is low. So basically they had no value…
Okay. Thanks for straightening that up…what?
Kids are still treated as objects and of no value today? Sold into prostitution?
Malnurished, Starving to death? Subject to fight in wars, Work in sweat shops?
Ignored, abused, left alone and unheard?
I see…I guess you’re right.
Okay, you have a good day, too.
Oh, and could you hold off the cold weather until the end of October….no. Okay, bueno bye.
Just a little conversation with God. You know.
Consider the cost of discipleship: Become a servant of all. Welcome the little children. If we get anything out of this sermon this morning, I want us to consider what it means to serve, by welcoming children in our midst.
What I want us adults of this faith community to think about, and pray about:
to what extent do we take on a servant attitude and welcome little children?
What are we doing to attract more kids to the church and welcome them in our midst and say, you are a valuable part of this community? Could this yard outside be a space for kids from the neighborhood to come and play? Does the nursery really reflect an attitude that kids are a priority? Does the way that we worship, and do our activities really engage our children?
Do we take a servant attitude by working to ensure the rights of children? Not only in this community, but around the world. Little children certainly can’t organize and fight for themselves….
I don’t know. Maybe it’s something we would like… a nice idea. But when it really comes down to it, are we going out of our way to make it happen? I guess we should ask the kids. And not give them the airplane ☺ when they answer, “I don’t know.”
I do know this: I know that Jesus promises greatness, something we all may seek and find, by becoming a servant to all, especially to the little children. Jesus promises to be with us, the one we are welcoming, when we welcome little children.
A friend of mine was traveling on an airplane and as he was waiting there at the gate he noticed a little girl—6-7 years old. And she was with her mother and kept repeating over and over, “I’m going to see daddy I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy.” Yes dear you are. My friend thought…oh boy, I hope I don’t sit next to her on the flight. They board the plane, and guess who is sitting just across the aisle from my friend:
“I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy.”
He kind of rolls his eyes and shrugs and turns the other way:
“I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy”
The flight takes off and the flight attendant comes around and offers beverages…and she drinks a coca cola, and is offered cookies. I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy. And she is drinking coke and eating cookies I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy. More coke, and more cookies, I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy.
And they hit turbulence, and the little girl probably didn’t know that there were barf bags… Cookies and coke….everywhere. All over her, of course. “I’m going to see daddy, I’m going to see daddy”
The plane lands finally, and my friend gets off the plane as quickly as possible, trying ot avoid making eye contact…with anyone as he exits and makes his way to baggage claim. But as he makes his way, he sees a man, who he just knows, has to be daddy. So he stops, and waits, and sees the little girl and she sees her daddy, and she runs to meet him and as he lifts her up in his arms, he says to his little girl covered in vomit…”Oh my precious little girl. It’s great to see you!”
Our heavenly father welcomes us with open and loving arms, just as we are…and Jesus says in this passage if you want to be great, become a servant, and welcome even the little children covered in filth. And by doing so, we come full circle.
By doing so, we welcome Jesus, we welcome the one who sent Jesus.
Welcome little children right in our midst, one and all.