[Every now and again, I’ll sidle take a break from posting about interim work and reflect on the upcoming Sunday’s scripture and theme. This is one of those occasions.]
In the latter section of Mark 9, Jesus takes a child, displays the child to those gathered, sits the child on his knee, and preaches about welcoming the most vulnerable into into our communion and treating the most vulnerable with compassion. By the end of chapter 9, we can only guess that Jesus still holds the child as he preaches–no evidence he releases the child.
This section is complex as it addresses some tough issues not the least of which is what happens when anyone puts a “stumbling block” in front of a child preventing them from receiving the compassionate love of God. The Greek word from which we get the English “stumbling block” is the root of the word “to scandalize.” Translated somewhat literally: “Don’t scandalize children.” (The counter to scandalizing is noted in earlier verses of this section: performing “deeds of power” or more literally “dynamic acts.”)
Instead of wearing crosses around our necks, maybe we ought to wear mini-millstones
It got me thinking about some of the ways kids are scandalized: separating them from their parents at the US border, not supplying safe drinking water, not protecting them from gun violence. Unfortunately, the list could go on and on.
So, how do we demonstrate “deeds of power” to children? At Calvin Church there are many dynamic deeds that nurture kids and support them in their growth in faith: Sunday classes, youth group, mission trips, children’s sermons, worshipping with the adults, housing a pre-school.
Nationally there’s the Children’s Defense Fund (who encourages congregations to observe an annual Children’s Sabbath), and internationally there’s UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) advocating for children around the world.
A caution: Jesus says that if someone puts a stumbling block in front of a child, the punishment would be a millstone placed around their neck and they’d be tossed into the sea. Certain death for scandalizing children.
Instead of wearing crosses around our necks, maybe we ought to wear mini-millstones reminding us of our obligation to perform weeds of power for the little ones in our midst and across the globe.