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Today’s Gospel reading in the daily office lectionary reads;
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.’
John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. ~ Mark 9:30-41
Jesus finds himself looking into the face of the disciples, wondering if they think he is stupid. he has heard them arguing on the way. He knows that they have been engaged in conversations that would betray the very message that he has been preaching. Now he wants to know – ‘What were you talking about in your whispered tones?’ Knowing full well that Jesus would not be impressed with an argument about who was the greatest, they remain silent. But Jesus would have none of it. He quite rightly calls the truth out into the light. He then takes a child into his arms and makes clear that being the greatest is embodied in being a servant of all. Welcoming a child, welcoming the vulnerable, is welcoming Christ.
This seems too obvious to ask but… we do all understand this right? I mean, we do understand that Jesus has made clear that clear that Kingdom living is embracing sacrifice for others, service of others, vulnerability with one another, humility in service? It’s a very strong overarching message in the preaching of Jesus and in the witness of his life. Yet we still find ourselves in the church engaged in whispered conversations about who is the greatest. We still argue about who gets to do what. We still have a problem acknowledging that a child is in the most fundamental embodies the image of Christ. We still want to know who will be the favourite. We still lack humility. We still seek status. We still forget that our primary call is to service.
I am praying tonight for eyes to see the ways I have become too concerned with status, with whose got it better than me, with envy for what another owns or what another has achieved. I am praying that I might see how I can better welcome Christ by welcoming the vulnerable. I am praying to be a better servant.
The best portion of a good man’s life – his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. ~William Wordsworth
Yesterday I received the sad news of the sudden death of a colleague – the Rev’d Stephen Demitroff. Stephen died suddenly and without warning. His wife Ruth and his family remain in the prayers of the people of the Diocese of Huron and indeed in the many people who came to know Stephen throughout his twenty-seven years of ordained ministry. I was shocked and very saddened to hear this news.
I met Stephen just over 13 years ago when I moved to the Diocese of Huron from the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador. The move to Essex Deanery was a big one. It was to me, a new community, a new city, a new group of clergy to work with. I was a little apprehensive and nervous. I have no problem admitting that as a young cleric, my first year of ministry was not the highlight of vocational career. As a result, my confidence was not real high. The first meeting of clericus (monthly meeting of the clergy of a the local area) came and I set out for St. Paul’s in Essex. Where is Essex? I found it – eventually! I shall never forget how I felt walking into St. Paul’s that morning. The knot in my stomach felt to me like a hot charcoal swallowed on the drive from Tecumseh. A deep breath, and I opened the door to the church. Inside I found the gentle, warm and genuine smile of Stephen Demitroff. “You must be Kevin – WELCOME to Essex!” In those first months of my time in this deanery, Stephen took many opportunities to ask me how I was doing. It was not uncommon for Stephen to call me out of the blue. “Hey Kev!” Few people call me Kev. Even fewer can get away with it. But from Stephen, I loved to hear it. It was real! I am saddened that I am not sure I ever made Stephen aware of how very much his loving kindness meant to me in my early days of ministry.
Stephen Demitroff and I were not close friends. He was a fellow priest on the journey of faith. He took seriously the call in the priestly ordination covenant: “to undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, labouring together with them and with your fellow ministers to build up the family of God.” Stephen Demitroff was so kind and generous with others and he did so without making a lot of noise. He was a faithful pastor to his congregants and to his fellow presbyters. Many of us are guilty of doing things to be noticed by others. Stephen acted faithfully and kindly with love and compassion to others because the love of Christ compelled him to do so. I will always remember that kind smile that welcomed me here. I will always remember the considerate way Stephen approached me, always to hear how I was doing. Ironically, I think Stephen would not have remembered what he did for me in my first days and months in Windsor-Essex. To me, his ‘nameless, unremembered acts of kindness’ are a reflection of the best portion of this man’s life.
Stephen – you well be missed greatly.
“Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Lord.”