Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mark 9:30-37

This passage is found in the Revised Common Lectionary Year B (Most recently: Sept 20, 2015) 
 
Summary:  "Serving others" sounds like an exciting idea in high school - volunteering is hip these days.  But serving others is actually quite difficult.  Jesus even ups the ante by commanding that we should be servant to all!  The hope I find in this week's passage is that Jesus follows this command to serve everyone by touching one particular person.  A reminder that service to world means service to individuals, often the very individuals the world forgets.

Key Words:
διακονος:  ("servant", 9:35)  The meaning of this word has come under great fire in the last generation.  In post-Vatican II Catholicism and post-Holocaust protestantism, there reemerged a strong desire and need for the church to serve the needy. (Not that this had ever gone away totally!)  What emerged was an incredible surge in the interest of service under various forms, offices and theology related to "διακονος."  A generation or two later, some, including the previous Pope, are concerned that we have replaced the ministry of the Word with charity.  If you research "Collins diakonia" you can read all about it.  Within the Lutheran context a rather pointed and academic article is here: http://www.ctsfw.net/media/pdfs/donfriedministry.pdf

The word does have a variety of meanings, from "waiter" as in someone who waits on tables, but also someone who acts as an agent on behalf of someone.  In Mark's Gospel the word describes angels and women who attend to Jesus.  In this way, Mark's usasge attests to the idea of service to the needy, but the service always involves Jesus.

Without being overly argumentative, you can assert this: διακονος did not simply mean service to the poor but also service on behalf of Christ.  This week's passage shows a beautiful example of what διακονος entails:  bringing the least in society to the arms of Jesus.

παιδιον ("child", 9:36, 37)  The word here can mean "kid" but can also mean "child" (as in my kid) or "slave."  In our culture, we have seen this passage almost exclusively in light of the idea of "my child," a precious offspring of someone.  However, the social context of youth ought not to be lost -- children did not have great social status and were not the focus of parental energy.  In this sense, Jesus is acting toward the "least", namely, the people without voice, vote, income or status.

εναγκαλισμενος ("hug", 9:36 and 10:16)  This word is only used twice in the whole New Testament, both times in Mark!, when Jesus takes children into his arm.  This is also a reminder of what it means to welcome someone in the name of Christ, to bring them close enough that you can see their beauty, but also their warts, stinky breath and dirty fingernails.

Grammar:  "αν"
This word is nearly impossible to translate.  It sort of means "if" but not really.  It is best just to learn all the ways in which it is used (ie, consult a grammar aid when you come to it).  In verse 37, it is used with ος, which always gets translated "Whoever."  This might not make sense, but this combination is a bit like:  "Who, who?,..." to make a "whoever."

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