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burn.

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Mark 9:38-50
Jesus is eight verses into a lesson about a different kind of greatness.
The Empires of the world define greatness according to one’s achievements, status,
and wealth and by a close association with those who have these things.

But the Messiah has come to reveal greatness on totally different terms.
The Kingdom of Heaven defines greatness as compassionate presence among the little
and the least, a power that comes from having nothing to lose
because all is gained in God, and a close association with the little and the least.

During the lesson, the crowd is shushing a child and pushing the child to the back
of the crowd. Because kids can be a real nuisance, their vulnerability high-maintenance,
their hygiene questionable at best. They are a noisy distraction from
what actually matters.

But Jesus tells them to stop pushing the child away, to let the child come
all the way forward, to be blessed and seen and heard and held at the center of it all.
This is what matters, you guy…

fifteen.

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They bend over backwards making excuses.  Men like him get to be boys for decades. But enough about him and his really hard week.
She was fifteen. Remember for a moment  what your body felt like when you were fifteen.
You are just finding your gate in adolescence, rehearsing womanhood while hormones discern breasts and hips.
She was fifteen. Old enough to be at the party  young enough to be fresh meat.
You remember what this was like  because you were there,  your body full of electricity and seeming grown.
She was only fifteen. It was one of the first times she was alone with a boy so it fucked with her sense of self and worth 
her desire to be touched  her trust for the boys and men who would follow  they were all wet with his sweat and drunken breath.

held.

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This is my friend Stephanie. We were pregnant with our twins at the same time. She was admitted to the hospital a few weeks before me and placed on bedrest. We would text back and forth about how hard it was to slow down, to do less, to listen to our bodies and our babies. She didn't think she was very good at bedrest, but I learned a lot from watching her.

She held those babies for a few more weeks because she listened to her body. She paid attention to how it felt. It was as though she was saying, "Not yet. Stay here, together with me. Let me hold you for a little longer. You're not quite ready for the big wide world."

The morning I was induced, I asked Stephanie to get wheelchair privileges so we could hang out in my room. It took several hours for my contractions to gain strength, so we talked and laughed about ministry and pregnancy and bodies until, finally, she and Matt convinced me it was time for an epidural.

The next day I waddled up to her room and wheeled…

pity.

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Jesus said, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"  - Matthew 7:1-3
Jesus is speaking to our mortal tendency to pass blame, to focus on what we cannot control, to grade the sins others.


We do this as young children, arguing with siblings and friends, more concerned about who started it or tattling to the parental authorities, hoping our own sins get lost in the chaos of the versions told.

We do this as voters, pointing blame at the opposite party for debt or war with a self-righteous tone that feigns distance from the decisions we should all try bearing together.

And we do this as Christians, clinging more tightly to some laws than others, wielding scripture as a weapon whenever we disapprove of someone, assume something, or can't be bothered with a real relationship.
W…