These Little Ones

Mark 9:38-50, Lectionary

Rev. Christopher Harbin

27 September 2015

We like to separate people into classes and categories. We are very accustomed to doing it and really think very little of it. It is, however, a dangerous practice. It is even moreso when we move into the realm of religious life with those categories of us versus them. Why is it that we insist of keeping up the pretense that we are better than others and that our standards are more important than the standards of any other group or person? After all, that only works if we are in the position to understand everyone and the reasons behind their positions. We would have to be mentally insane to make that justification. So why do we continue to act as though we are indeed superior to all those who would differ from us?

Throughout human history, we have continually structures people and groups into categories. The Jews used the term ''Gentile'' to refer to all of those who were not Jews. The native peoples of North America had terms that referred to themselves that often simply meant ''those like us.'' All others were outsiders, given lesser consideration. The Greek-speaking peoples of the Roman Empire liked to refer to non-Greek speakers as barbarians. The English colonists called the native peoples savages. Be denigrating them to a sub-civilized status, we could dis-consider them as fully human. It was the same thing we did with the Africans we imported as slaves and then relegated them to a sub-human status that allowed us to enslave and mistreat them without qualms of conscience over the mistreatment of other people.

My pastor, Steve Ayers, was speaking this morning on Mark 9:38-50. Among other points he made, he reminded us that when Jesus uses the phrase ''one of these little ones,'' he refers to so much more than simply children. It was a phrase that pointed to the voiceless, the underrepresented, those who live on the margins of our society. A ''little one'' could be a widow, an orphan, or one who was somehow disabled and lacking power, status, and voice in the halls of power within the social structure. In today's world, we would need to add immigrants and refugees to our list of examples of who those ''little ones'' are. It refers to all of those people who are not granted full participation in society's circles of power....

...for the full text of this sermon, see These Little Ones, at

—©2015 Chri­stopher B. Harbin

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