Sunday Reflection: Mark 9:30-37

I have been contemplating the Mark 9 reading further, if you look back you will find a blog I wrote on two of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) reading from three years ago where you will find a predominantly Child Theology view. I have been taking my thoughts in different directions. Alongside my thoughts on Mark this week I have also been considering the effect of culture on our faith formation, the Intergenerational Movement, as well as going back and rereading the Mark passage both with and without the Child Theology lens.

Putting these thoughts in the mixmaster called my mind has lead me to dig a little deeper, and come up with these thoughts. Now I am more than happy for others to jump in, think about or make other suggestions, as I truly would say that these thoughts are in production, possibly not my finished product, but definitely worth a run through, especially if there are others out there that might help me birth them.

Let’s start with the Mark Passage, and more importantly the Greek word used for child. In all of the passages that involved Jesus and children, different Gospels have used different Greek words for child, in Mark’s version it is a word used for an older child or a servant.

This story and its companion stories in the 3 other Gospels are one of the few teachings where we are told that Jesus uses a prop, a baby/child/slave depending on which of the versions we look at. To me this is significant, of course the physical presence of a child can be extended by metaphor, in just the same way as the written or verbal word can be, but this is one of the few examples that we have of Jesus teaching by using more than just words. 

Why? Does the object lend more weight to the words? If so is this story not to be extended into metaphor and thus are we meant to take this teaching literally? (I accept that there are many that take the teachings as literal, but there are also scholars who extend the literal to the metaphor, heavily crafted by using other methods of exegesis).

If we take the weight of the words literally then we are being asked to make the least first, and value the child. Written in an era where children’s value was in their survival, the Greek would suggest this is a child who has already survived. Slaves could be children, children could be slaves, could it be that this child is already running errands, fetching food and drink for those assembled, be it an actual slave or a child of the disciples, is it not too fanciful of me to think that maybe the disciples may not have been treating the child/slaves well. Embedded into adjoining passages regarding who is important and what do we really understand of the teacher’s teaching, this seems very much a telling off to the disciples, a reminder that they are not as important as they think they are.

This analysis sits nicely with traditional exegesis which, though a child is mentioned, jump off too quickly into a morals lesson on how to treat those who are unlike you, quickly leaving the idea of the child to one side. If we take this moral argument, but keep the emphasis on the child then what is this passage saying to us today, in thinking about this, my mind turned to the Intergenerational Movement. The intergenerational Movement understand Christian community in terms of intentionally including more than 2 generations but preferably more, be it in worship, fellowship, governance or any other aspect of a worshipping community’s life. So, unlike the child theology movement where the child is placed in the centre, of all thought and activity, the Intergenerational Movement’s concern is that many generations are intentionally part of the community, all generations are important and by extension because generations include diverse people, that all diversities of gender, cultures and ability etc are also catered for. We could say that the Mark reading is supportive of an Intergenerational viewpoint, that all generations are needed to help each generation grow and adapt, so that no-one feels superior. There is no serving of one generation to the other but of all generations to each other, and one generation does not control, but each generation is needed to guide and lead. Power, or dominance in the hands of a few who feel entitled is not what the Intergenerational movement is about, nor is it about what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples here.

This is the point where I considered cultural influence on Biblical text. Where the power base has been hierarchical and dare I say even male orientated, should we be looking at this text to query if that entitlement view has come from culture or theology? Many cultures were altered by, or justified by the dominant power of a colonising power. Sometimes we all fail to measure our structures by the Christian principles we are meant to be forming.

What a mix of thoughts I have poured out.

I really have been wrestling with the text this week, hope you may find something inspiring within my wanderings


Wendy L.


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