Sermon Reflection for Sunday, September 23, 2018 respectfully submitted by Mal Underwood
The Conqueror’s Vulnerability
On the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Mother Mary preached a powerful message on the human condition and dealing with our vulnerabilities. In the Gospel reading from St. Mark, Jesus was teaching his disciples that he was to be betrayed into human hands unto his death. The disciples were perplexed and did not understand the depth of his message. Mark writes that they were afraid to ask their conquering hero what he meant, obviously feeling extremely vulnerable at being left behind to deal with the misery of Roman rule if he were to die. After all, Jesus was seen as their earthly King of Kings who would free them from slavery and rule with power and equity. Instead, unknown to his closest earthly friends, Jesus himself was experiencing the human pain of a most extreme form of betrayal; being turned over to hostile authorities by a member of his inner circle to be put to death. In spite of his clear message, the disciples did not understand the gravity of the situation and the truth of his Kingship of the universe. They were trapped by their own vulnerable circumstances and found relief from believing the earthly version of their conqueror of the world. Little did they know that their king was suffering vulnerability himself as he journeyed to the cross. Instead, they argued among themselves as to who was the greatest.
Mother Mary told us that she loves the disciples. Among the many reasons is that they are so much like us. No one can escape feelings of vulnerability in life. It can come in so many ways, but however it appears, we invariably create coping mechanisms to relieve our fear and pain. As Jesus continued to teach them on their way to Capernaum, he demonstrated what he wanted them to do. He took a child in his arms, at that time a relatively invaluable member of society, and told them that “whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” As he himself dealt with his fears, he was showing his trusted friends how they can help ease pain in the world by embracing and comforting those whom God places in their path – those who need his love and grace. They did not understand in that moment, but he was preparing them to be his arms of love and comfort in the world once he was called home.
We are called to be the arms of Christ in the world today. Let us pray for God’s wisdom, strength, and love to be to others what Christ is to us – our place of refuge and peace among the storm of human vulnerabilities. However, as we are working for the kingdom, let us also allow our vulnerabilities to be known to those who love us and will offer us peace and comfort. At Ascension we have a loving, supportive family of God’s children who will care for us in our time of need. Allow those who love you to comfort you when needed. We will be a stronger family for it.
— Written by Mal Underwood