The Rev. Jonathan Chapman in pastor of Westfield Church in Killingly, Connecticut.
Scripture: Mark 9:30-37 (NRSV)
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’
I’ve always scoffed at the disciples arguing about who was the greatest among them. Particularly in Mark, our gospel lection this week, the disciples are notoriously dimwitted. So the answer is obvious to readers: none of them is. None of them is the greatest or the best. They’re broken and hurting, lost and bewildered. One might even say, they are—in some way—the least.
I think there’s a lot of competition in our conference to be the greatest—to have the best attendance numbers or the most yearly baptisms, to have the biggest budgets or the largest percentage increase of pledged income from year to year. We squabble at annual meeting, sliding backhanded comments and not-so-subtle bragging into our sessions. Not outright arguing, but making a case for our individual greatness nonetheless.
And yet, Jesus’ words for his disciples are his words for us still today—it’s not the greatest who find the kingdom first. It’s the last of all.
Almighty God, help me be a servant, that I may find your kingdom. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- for the family and friends of Rev. Dr. Craig T. McClellan, retired pastor from North Congregational Church in Woodbury, who died on Sept. 12
- for the family and friends of Rev. John Pelletier, Pastor of First Church of Bethlehem, who died Sept. 15
- for Dora Hall, grandmother of Isaac Monts, Associate for Justice and Leadership for the CT Conference. Dora suffered a stroke last week.
- for grieving or suffering in the Carolinas and surrounding areas due to effects of Hurricane Florence.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- for supportive and helpful colleagues who can be relied on in times of need
- for those who have helped others by contributing to Florence Relief efforts
- for the call to be faithful disciples and our belief that we are invited to “live the love and justice of Jesus”
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
South Congregational Church, UCC (Hopeville Church)
Waterford Congregational UCC
First Congregational Church of Watertown, UCC
Covenant Congregational Church
Elmwood Community Church UCC
This Week in History:
Sept. 19, 1938 (80 years ago): The Great New England Hurricane rips through Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, killing more than 700 and causing an estimated $18 billion (today's dollars). The storm was so strong that it continued to gain speed and intensity even after making landfall over Long Island. One gust recorded south of Boston reach 186 mph. The storm continued to cause destruction even as it passed into Canada late that night.