Monday, November 27, 2006

Unimportant People

Unimporant People

the gospel reading from today's lectionary:

Luke 18:15-30

15People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

18A certain ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.'" 21He replied, "I have kept all these since my youth." 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 23But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

26Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27He replied, 'What is impossible for mortals is possible for God."

28Then Peter said, "Look, we have left our homes and followed you." 29And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life."

For those of us familiar with this passage it's hard to notice Luke's thematic intent in both of these encounters. Luke wants to make it thunderingly clear that childlikeness is Kingdom of God-likeness. That is, snotty-nosed, laughing, crying, giggling, puking, needy, dancing, sing-songy little kids are precisely what the Kingdom of God is full of . . . and so it seems that Jesus' Kingdom of God is full of nonsense - (because children in 1st century Palestine were of little significance in public - to be seen an not heard; and certainly not worthy of the time of a rabbi). And yet here Jesus invites insignificant nonsense into his presence - and calls it the Kingdom of God.

This story sets up the difficult but profoundly beautiful encounter with the "ruler" - where we have a grand overture of what Jesus seems to be getting at in the brunt of his teachings . . . Rulers (important people) are not nearly as important in the Kingdom of God as children (unimportant people); or prostitutes, tax collectors, Samaritans, Romans centurions, et al.

When the ruler responds to Jesus' answer about keeping the commandments with the phrase "all these I have kept since my youth," the ruler is in effect saying to Jesus that he has never really been a child. When the ruler was supposed to be playing games in the mud like the rest of the kids on the block, this child was intent in keeping in line with the moral code of the commandments - a child 'ruler' if you will.

Now the ruler wants to be commended for his moral performance, his goodness, and his godliness but Jesus will have none of this. Rather, Jesus invites the man now well into his adulthood to become a child all over again; one that has no control or ruler-ship over his life, one that is free from the distinction of being important, one that is free even from good religious moralistic living. Jesus invites this ruler to become a mess. To have the freedom from being important. And so it is within the economy of the Kingdom of God that Jesus redefines importance and prominence simply and mysteriously as one's capacity toward childlikeness.

Bizarre. Strange. Hard to apply. Hard to grasp. Difficult to put one's head around. But perhaps for many of us we need to consider . . .

that instead of being important and exacting in our Bible studies and missions trips and churches and ministries and conferences - maybe it's time we go and sell our importance and run screaming outside to play in the mud. And laugh loudly in our own beloved muddy mess - so we too might become inheritors of the Kingdom of God.


Blogger Erica Murray Wright said...

True that... and also to become friends with other's who are muddied and laughing and maybe split a pb&j sandwich that's cut into triangles. Are we the only ones who use this thing?

5:30 PM  

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