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.”John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Things are not always as they appear to be; even less are they as we think they ought to be. The disciples certainly discovered that truth during their interaction with Jesus in today’s scripture passage. Jesus’ followers are vying for the position of “most important.” If we enter into the scene, we can imagine each disciple listing off his credentials, his years with Jesus, perhaps even his family lineage. In the midst of the conversation, however, Jesus chimes in reminding them (for everything about Jesus has been saying it all along) that it is not the powerful, or the rich, or the intelligent who are the greatest. In fact, he chooses to align himself with those who represent the least social status in his time. “If you warmly receive a child,” he states, “you receive me and you receive God.” I’m sure it was not the resolution the disciples were expecting.
It is easy to sympathize with these followers. We too can get caught up in self-serving arguments— at work and at home—aimed at reassuring ourselves, and others, of our importance and worth. But when we do that, we run the risk of missing the truth that God is trying to reveal to us; namely, that he dwells with those the world has cast aside.
Today, Jesus cries out to us to warmly receive those in our society who lack status: the ex-con, the high school dropout, the immigrant, the poor. Receive these people into your life, he promises, and you receive me. Then, to push his point further, Jesus instructs John to embrace those who cast out demons, whether they are of his company or not.
Likewise, he calls us today to embrace those who work for peace, whether they are from the U.S. or Russia or anywhere else in the world. He calls us to embrace those who heal our broken world, no matter their religion. In short, he calls us to embrace all those who do their part in realizing the Kingdom of God here and now.
—Judy Henry McMullan earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology). She currently works as a Pastoral Care Minister at Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham, MA
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer