The disciples have been arguing about who among them is the greatest. When Jesus inquires about their conversation, they have nothing but an awkward silence to offer in response.

We are so scared to let Jesus know how important it is to us to be great. But Jesus already knows. The disciples did not have to recount their conversation for Jesus to know what they had been talking about. Jesus knows, sits with their awkward silence, and lovingly responds. He challenges them to become “servant of all.” Then, as an unforgettable visual aid, he brings a child among them and embraces the child. He urges them to welcome children as he does. Jesus only asks them to do what he is willing to do.

The disciples’ preoccupation with greatness is born of misunderstanding and fear. We too can get sidetracked by pursuing false standards of greatness. Our problem is not in wanting to be great but in how we define greatness. Jesus reminds us that being great is about living humbly. It is about welcoming those who have great need and cannot care for themselves.

Where in your life are you serving all? Do you strive to be great through humble service, or through seeking recognition and achievement? Do you need a particular seat at church, a prestigious title, or the acceptance and approval of certain people? Jesus tells the disciples that they do not need such recognition. Instead, they are to serve all. We can embrace this challenge too. Jesus calls us to adopt an attitude of humility among all people—not just those who look and live like us, not just those with well-balanced lives, and not just those in our familiar corners of the community. Jesus provides both the instruction and the example. If we want to be great, we will humble ourselves among all, as he did.

Jesus, help me remain mindful today of what it really means to be great. Help me to welcome those with great need and adopt an attitude of humility. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 9:30-37

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Lectionary Week
September 13–19, 2021
Scripture Overview

Proverbs describes the noble wife and sets a standard that can seem impossible. This woman is capable and respected but also generous and wise. She serves but is not weak. Is she a “superwoman,” and do all women need to be “superwomen”? No, she is noble because she follows the counsel of the psalmist and is deeply rooted in the teachings of God. Therefore, she represents a standard for everyone to emulate, not just women. James, another teacher of wisdom, encourages believers to show these same characteristics by following the wisdom given by God. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples display a lack of wisdom by arguing over who is the greatest. Jesus reminds them that greatness in God’s eyes comes through service, not through seeking recognition.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Proverbs 31:10-31. How have societal expectations shaped your life? How do you allow them to shape the ways you interact with others?
Read Psalm 1. What fruit are you yielding in this season?
Read James 3:13–4:3, 7-8a. In what ways does your life reflect “gentleness born of wisdom”? How are you gentle with yourself and with others?
Read Mark 9:30-37. How do you seek to serve others in your daily life?

Respond by posting a prayer.