September 19: Outdoor Worship – Blessing of Pets

PETS – BRING YOUR PEOPLE and join us on the labyrinth this morning at 10:30am. 

Just like our summer services, we are asking that you bring your lawn chairs, masks, (and maybe an umbrella just in case).  We will be contact tracing and continuing to social distance while reminding ourselves of the blessings of worshipping with one another. 

Readings from the Scriptures (CEB)  Mark 9:30-37

30 From there Jesus and his followers went through Galilee, but he didn’t want anyone to know it. 31 This was because he was teaching his disciples, “The Human One will be delivered into human hands. They will kill him. Three days after he is killed he will rise up.” 32 But they didn’t understand this kind of talk, and they were afraid to ask him. 33 They entered Capernaum. When they had come into a house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about during the journey?” 34 They didn’t respond, since on the way they had been debating with each other about who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” 36 Jesus reached for a little child, placed him among the Twelve, and embraced him. Then he said, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me isn’t actually welcoming me but rather the one who sent me.”

Like a Chiild

This past weekend, we voted early.  In getting together our documentation, we realized that because of the pandemic we hadn’t updated our address change yet, and of course when I looked at my i.d., all of it had expired.  Fantastic.  Thanks to some wonderful poll workers it got all figured out.  (That’s my subtle encouragement for you all to go vote tomorrow too!)

So I planned on Monday morning to line up early for Service Ontario to get everything up to date.  I checked the website which said that they opened at 8:30, got up early and was there a little after eight. When 8:30 past and an employee came out and warned us that the time for opening was actually nine I thought no problem.  The pandemic has forced us all to be flexible. 

In truth, I didn’t mind waiting, because from the time of my arrival until the doors opened I listened to the people, first and second in line, argue about everything.  There was a generation or two between them, let alone the tension that you could cut with a knife.

They argued mostly about Covid and protocols and vaccines, but it wasn’t what they spoke about, but how. Both people spoke with so much confidence bordering on arrogance.  AS a result, they weren’t listening to one another. They were essentially arguing the same point, about best practises to get us through this, the importance of vaccines and distancing – while they edged closer to one another as the conversation would heat up – no matter how close they got physically, they were miles apart.  They couldn’t hear their similarities.

Upon hearing his disciples argue,

[Jesus] asked them, “What were you arguing about during the journey?” 34 They didn’t respond, since on the way they had been debating with each other about who was the greatest. 

It’s like hearing a couple of kids arguing and then interrupting them with the same question, what were you arguing about…it’s amazing how they find agreement in that moment to sheepishly blurt out together…nothing!  Those arguments that border on meaninglessness are so time consuming.  As Jesus once said, where two or three are gathered…there will likely be an argument.  Or something like that.  It’s such an ingrained part of the human experience.  When we think we have things figured out we then go preaching to others.  When we feel we are right – defensiveness[1] gives way to arguing in order to win those arguments of who is the greatest.  The advent of the Internet has just given us a taller soapbox to stand on and a louder megaphone. 

35 [Jesus] sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.” 36 Jesus reached for a little child, placed him among the Twelve, and embraced him. 

I’ve always read this passage as Jesus using the child as a stand-in for all those who can do nothing for you.  In Biblical culture children were meaningless – they had no power – no authority – no gains to society (because they couldn’t work, or provide for their families) – as many would view pets or animals.  Just an add-on.  Interesting that nowadays the world has flipped, that children and pets are borderline worshipped.  I wonder who Jesus would place among us today.  Because Jesus’ teaching of greatness is to ask the disciples:

Who are you to people…to creation…to those who are wholly dependant on you?
Who are you to those who can do nothing for you?

Those questions are life shaping, but I, like those arguing outside the Service Ontario, had missed the point.  This week, I realized that I was emulating the same practices of those in Jesus’ time.  I had stopped listening.  I had ignored this child, and possibly what Jesus was getting at.    

Author Anne Lamott said that,

We came here with such generosity of spirit, and curiosity. That was what defined us.  And the literal bliss of sharing gets cultured out of you, and you get in trouble when it turns out you gave half your sandwich away in kindergarten because your parents wanted you to eat it…and they become bitter. 

Defined by generosity of spirit…wonder and curiosity… that grows into bitter, arguing adults who strive to be the greatest.  What happens to us? 

Our little one, Samuel, just turned five this week, and I believe I have a gray hair for every question he’s ever asked.  Usually the questions come at a time that he’s stalling, or avoiding bedtime – and so my stress level increases because of my self-important schedule, rather than join with him in the curiosity.  Friday night’s questions were:

Does giving birth mean having a baby?
Are moms the only ones that can have babies?
Did you know that words are just lots of letters?

But the question that comes most often is…why?  He asks why more often than not, a desire to know more, to understand more, when so much is a mystery.  It’s a humility that (like the generosity of spirit and curiosity) is often lost as we grow into adults.  It gets cultured out of us when we have to act all confident for jobs…such as premiers or prime ministers…when the world needs a little more humility. 

And I started to wonder.  What if the election was called because Justin Trudeau wasn’t sure he had the support of Canadians? What if it came from a place of humility? Newspapers and online articles will sell you stories proving that they know what’s going on in his head but I’m starting to think it less a power grab than more a testing to see if Canadians were done with him?  Last year, I spoke to some leaders in the church here, as to whether or not they thought we’re done – I didn’t want to leave – but we needed to move from one side of Kitchener to the other, and I certainly didn’t want to jeopardize our ministry together just because I needed a living room. 

What if Jesus, in placing the child amongst the disciples is reminding us of the humility needed in our world.  It’s like us bringing pets to worship today – can we learn enough from them as we marvel at those defined by a generosity of spirit, curiosity and humility?  What if our day’s joys were met by going for a walk?  Or being fed?  Or watching the world go by as you drive? 

May we learn from those in our midst, a new way of being in the world, shrugging off our self-important schedules, bitterness, over-confidence, and arguing with one another that we may pay attention to all that connects us, all that unites us, all that reminds us that:

This is God’s wondrous world…
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.



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