The Greatest

by Paul Gnan

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)

I like to argue that you and I have the greatest job in the world Part of our job is to read and study the Scriptures. We hear all the chapel speakers and visit our local churches each week. We are doing something of eternal importance to the next generation of church and community leaders. We help direct students who are in the initial stages of real reasoning. We have the tough conversations with our teenage students who are just starting to drive. Our students will go on their first real date without getting a ride from a parent. They begin contemplating their long-term educational goals or their initial vocational decisions. 

Our staff spends more time with those students than do most of their parents in a day, a week, and for four years after being confirmed at their churches. We bring up the important subjects that will help determine their outlook on many social topics. We reinforce biblical teachings that will direct their spiritual life and therefore their eternal life. We show them how to give God the glory for any accomplishment they achieve or give praise to Him through every failure because,  in Christ, we have obtained the Victory and through Him alone, not through anything we do lest we should boast.

In the Bible reading, why does Jesus talk about the importance of receiving a child?  I think it has a lot to do with the qualities/beliefs of a child compared to what we pick up as we get older and the innocence of a child as they start life. A child can play with sticks in the backyard and with them start to outline a house or build a fort. They can pile them up for a bonfire, or even use them as a sword. A child plays with a stack of Lego bricks and uses them to build a spaceship, a castle, an all-terrain vehicle, you name it. Children possess the ability of imagination without limits, to see what is possible, and imagine something that is not there. That something is a possible vision for this world and the next.

Adults tend to limit what can be done, saying we have never done it that way before. For many adults, it’s too hard for them to think outside the box and imagine what can be done with a little faith and imagination.

Children trust in the providence of God and the parents that God provided for them. Think of how a child eats as much as they can at a family gathering. They think there is plenty enough to go around for everyone. The food magically appears at home when it is breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. They don’t ask where it comes from and they are totally not sure how it was made, but it is there. They don’t worry that they will go hungry or thirsty. God will provide for them, an important lesson the Israelites learned in the desert. Children also run around with no regard for their safety. God will protect them from injury. They run, jump and do crazy physical things. They are totally vulnerable. They believe things will turn out good. Someone will take care of them. They believe they are indestructible when they climb trees, ride bikes or play tackle football with the neighbors.

Well, think about us as adults. Think about how much planning adults undertake as they worry about an upcoming family gathering they are going to host. Don’t do that or don’t do this there are so many bad things that could happen. I could get hurt really bad. Do we believe God is enough for all our needs? Do we trust Him to help us? To guide us? To provide for us?   

If a child has a question, what do they do? They ask it. They don’t worry about what others will think of them. They will not take offense about the answer they receive. If a child is on a winning team or makes a good play they rejoice with the team in full exuberance. They don’t worry about the credit, or the amount of playing time, or the you fill in the blank. They just celebrate with pure joy. 

What does this say to us as leaders of Lutheran schools? Do we think out of the box with true vision and the possibilities for ministry? Or are we limited to doing it the way it has always been done? Do we ask questions and listen with believing ears to God’s promises found in the Bible? Or do we keep quiet and worry about what we do not know for absolute certainty?  Do we want to get the best idea or implement our idea?  Do we need to get the credit for the hours of work we put in or do we serve the Lord with joy and gladness unaware of the time spent on a project?

“God I believe, Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) I say those words too many times as I have the blessing and privilege to work with the present and future leaders of our churches. The present and future risk-takers and stakeholders of our ministries.

Please pray with me: Dear good and gracious Lord, the blessings flow from You to me each and every day. Help me to see and grasp the opportunities that I have to serve You in my earthly ministry. Help me to see and take those chances move forward in faith in bold and new ways. Help me to lead the present and next generation of faithful people to serve in your church wherever mission field leads them. Thank you for the abundance of gifts, talents and people that you allow us to use and to touch the lives of others in service to One and only True God and Savior, Jesus Christ! It is in His precious name that we ask these things.  Amen.

Paul Gnan is the Executive Director at Sheboygan Lutheran High School in Sheboygan, WI. He can be reached at gnan@lutheranhigh.com.