What do we believe makes us great? We answer that question through the decisions and pursuits of our lives. Some value education and achievement. Others value status, wealth, and power. Others value social connections and service, parenting and work. Some place relationships or ministry at the forefront. Others value thinness or fitness or eating according to a specific plan. We are all participating in an ongoing discussion about greatness, spoken or unspoken. In this discussion, our lives speak for us.

Jesus did not reprimand the disciples for wanting to be great. He just wanted to make sure they were pursuing the greatness that would reflect their love for God. The competitive relational sparring among them turned to silence when they encountered Jesus. We would be wise to let our fruitless competitions and comparisons fall silent as we encounter Jesus’ presence. Let’s listen to his call to greatness: Strive to be great but do so by welcoming and serving those in need.

What does “serving all” mean in our lives today? We are stewards of our stories, our resources, our experiences, and our knowledge of God. Every gift from God provides an opportunity to serve. So how do we offer our gifts without entering into a type of pathological giving that is itself a need-based, misguided competition that feeds our ego? We can look at Jesus’ example. I cannot think of any story where Jesus tried to one-up someone, interrupt, prove himself worthy, or win an argument. Instead, he gently offered wisdom, responded with truths that astounded his listeners, and remained unwavering in his faith. He was the non-violent, loving, human reality of God.

What does your life say about what it means to you to be great? What would it look like for you to be a “servant of all”?

Jesus, servant of all, may our fruitless comparisons fall silent in your presence. Make us faithful examples of true greatness. 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?

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