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Notes from Steve:
September 19, 2021
(Psalm 1, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37)
Many people identify autumn as their favorite season because of the beauty of the fall foliage. I was reminded recently that the reds, oranges and yellows seen on leaves this time of year actually don’t “arrive” in autumn; they are instead “revealed.” You see, during spring and summer, a chemical called chlorophyll (which creates the green color in the leaves) dominates the leaf. As the winter season approaches, the chlorophyll drains out of the leaf and into the branches and trunk of the tree, adding nourishment and strength to the tree as it prepares for the harsh winter months. By subtracting the chlorophyll, the beauty of the leaf is revealed as the reds, oranges and yellows begin to show. Today’s passages deal with the subject of discipleship; I suggest to you that as followers of Christ, we are made most beautiful when we too, like the autumn leaf, allow certain things to drain from our lives.
Psalm 1, thought to be written by Solomon, compares us to a tree (in verse 3) with streams of water representing God’s presence. Being connected to the water allows that tree to thrive while bearing fruit for all to see. The analogy teaches that in order for us to be connected with “streams of water” (God’s presence) we must choose to “delight in the law of the Lord” (verse 2) which means to be intentional in living as God would have us live. This often requires us to rid our lives of selfishness, pride and arrogance. When we allow these things to drain from our lives, our beauty is then revealed.
From the passage in Mark today, we are reminded of Jesus’ words to the disciples after he learns of them squabbling over who among them was greatest. Jesus told them (verse 35) “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He then brought a child into their midst, and explained that “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me by the one who sent me” (verse 37.) Using a child to illustrate his point was significant, since children held the lowest position on their societal totem pole. The implication is that we shouldn’t be concentrating on our own prestige, or focus our attention on the “haves,” but rather on the “have nots.” When we drain ourselves of self-importance, pride and arrogance, our beauty begins to show as we extend ministry to others in Jesus’ name.
Together, may we learn that we are most significant, most beautiful, when we take the position not of master, but as servant; for it is in serving that Christ becomes alive in our community. Together, let us be about the business of revealing beauty as we minister to people as people of the United Methodist Church.