Sermon - September 19, 2021 - St. Martin's In the Desert

Sermon – September 19, 2021


Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20
Year B
September 19, 2021

First Reading: Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
Second Reading: James 3:13-4:3,7-8a
Gospel: Mark: 9:30-37


Grant us, O Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Wisdom and Humility:

When writing a sermon, we look for a common thread in each lesson we read, today if, you take it home and read them again, you will find wisdom and humility in each lesson. 

There are multiple sermon possibilities in this gospel reading. The passion death and resurrection, “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.    

However, I wanted to talk some about our second reading…

James the Apostle. The lesson in James this morning, has so much in it to read and re-read and let his words soak in. He writes in 3-17…But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

James gives the church much good advice, the wisdom of the world with the wisdom that comes from above and he points out that true wisdom is shown by a man’s good and gracious conduct. He also adds that true wisdom flows from a heart that is gentle and a spirit that demonstrates true humility.  

But if a believer tries to hide behind a fake impression, of heavenly wisdom or puts on a pretense of humility, while really being bitter or jealous and selfishness, within their hearts, they are living a lie and being false to the truth.

How different is the wisdom that comes from the Spirit of God? For it is pure and peace-loving, considerate, gentle, and kind. The men and women, that have been filled with the wisdom of God are the ones that are full of mercy and good and sincere.

This my friends leads us into the Gospel lesson today.

The Gospel of Mark 9:30-37

Jesus and the disciples pass through Galilee, they have returned from the north, and Capernaum marks the end of the trip…. Jesus is home. He has traveled incognito, 

as in (7:24), Here the purpose is to devote full time to the teaching of his disciples.

He knows his time here is short… and the disciples still… have trouble understanding his purpose.

The Gospel of Mark has three passions in his gospel and this is the second one.

“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.

Jesus then asks the disciples, what they were arguing about on the way?

But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.

We all have experienced this in our life, we heard someone talking about us or whispering. 

The disciples have been told before by Jesus, that he is to suffer in human hands and to be killed, but in three days he will rise again.

And again, they don’t understand and get confused, so they focus on themselves and which one of them is most important or the greatest, they were silent and Jesus…responds by calling them all together and saying 

“Whoever what’s to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 

“First” is from the Greet root word protos. It means first in influence, honor, and rank; in this case, it would mean the chief of the disciples. “Servant” is from the Greek root word diakonos and simply means one who acts on the desires of another. And this is where we get our word for “deacon”

So, what we have here is human behavior that we all have today…we want to be recognized by our leaders, our bosses, or teachers and even children learn this at a very young age.

We all love to be first, in influence, honor, and rank…but we don’t all want to be a servant…who acts on the desires of another!

Then Jesus 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.”

Children want to compete for attention from their parents and teachers, they often are rewarded for their behavior. 

And that is good, but often we see that exceptional child, that on his or her own…wants to do good for someone. 

Raise money to help those in need and give it all away. 

Organize a group or thousands of people to donate to their cause, maybe they are collecting shoes to send to a foreign county. 

Sometimes children are just sweet and kind and they open a door for an elderly person, help a disabled or elderly person get across the road.

We have seen countless stories on TV of this kindness in our children.

Not only are these children born leaders but they are born with a pure heart and a pure heart is a heart that has warmth and comfort, that will make others feel cared for and safe. This heart does not have a limit on caring or giving.  

We all start out in life like this, we are all born with a pure heart and it is up to us to dive deep within and retrieve that purity that we have been given by God.


The most significant benefit of purity is that it allows you entrance into God’s holy presence.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

I go back to the reading from the Apostle James…. For it is pure and peace-loving, considerate, gentle and kind. The men and women, that have been filled with the wisdom of God is the ones that are full of mercy and good and sincere.

What will you remember when you leave here today?

To return to the pure heart of a child, the humility that Jesus taught his disciples and the wisdom of God.

Rev. Lola Culbreath