Grace and peace to you from God, the Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Printed words tumble over us daily. Words, in text and conversation, are before us. They fill our pages and our heads with information and detail. Without limit, our pages overflow, one to the next.
Nineteenth-century writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived in a quieter day, we expect, yet he too felt the press of words, actions and notations. He realized his need for "a broad margin around my life" so as to have room enough to move and breathe and be. Simply "be."
How breathless are we? How breathless do we become as followers of Christ? At Baptism, we know that God has promised the Holy Spirit to never leave us. How can a Body be breathless when the Spirit is our breath?
Mark's account of the Gospel portrays the disciples as always on the move. Breathless, perhaps,they try to keep up with Jesus and likely wonder when their rest will come. Healing, teaching, telling and preaching, followed by healing, teaching, telling and preaching keep the Jesus of Mark's Gospel always "on the way", with the disciples close behind.
When there is a moment to catch their breath, the pace hardly slows and the mystery increases, as Mark tells the reader, "(Jesus and the disciples) began a journey through Galilee, but Jesus did not wish anyone to know about it." A few breaths later in Mark 9:34, Jesus catches the disciples arguing. Their disagreements have been about who is the greatest. Jesus promptly sits them down and declares,"Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all."
What does it mean that the disciples hurriedly make their way in pursuit of greatness, only to be cut short by the most intense of them all: their leader. When Jesus sits them down and insists that the first must be last of all and servant of all, he invites a child to come and join them. Perhaps here they gasp in disbelief. What? Our work needs to be about welcoming children? What kind of an assignment is that? "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
Uncomplicated work. The least among us are to be first. The measure of a healthy village is the value given those who have the least. When the least have needs met and surpassed, we may begin to grasp instead of merely gasp about, the future Jesus describes.
Mark's gospel continually moves with direction and purpose. The clearest purpose of these passages from Mark 9 hold our mandate: Welcome the least of these, so as to include and receive and be affected by the gifts and the presence of the least ones. Amen.