The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 9:46-50....In this brief passage, Jesus disciples seem to be focused on all the wrong things. They argue with each other about who is the greatest among them. Then they are worried about who is inside their group and who is outside.
An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, and said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.’ John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’
Unfortunately, I find these same attitudes among professed followers of Jesus today. Visit any group of pastors and after awhile you will hear them talk about the three B's: Buildings, Bucks, and Bodies. This is how we measure success in contemporary churchianity. This is how we determine who is the greatest. The greatest pastor, obviously, is the one with the largest building, the most income, and the greatest number of people attending his or her services.
We also seem to be overly concerned in contemporary churchianity about who is in and who is out. Jesus' disciples were worried about people who were not part of "their group" performing exorcisms in Jesus' name. You will find the same attitudes among so called Christians today. "Is it possible that those Catholics, those Presbyterians, those Episcopalians, or those _________ (you fill in the blank) could be true followers of Jesus? After all, they are not part of our group."
Jesus provides the antidote to these two wrong attitudes, these two exclusive approaches to life. Instead of focusing on who is the greatest, instead of worrying about who is in and who is out, become a welcoming person. Jesus says, "Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest." Is it possible that there is any person that Jesus would not want us to welcome into his Church? That simply does not seem possible to me. Look at Jesus' ministry. He welcomed everyone, and he got in trouble with the religious authorities for hanging out with tax collectors and other sinners. It seems to me that Jesus wants us to get in trouble for doing the same. I cannot imagine that any of us will be condemned on judgment day for drawing our circle of fellowship too wide. So why not become a welcomer of all of God's children into his kingdom movement?