Sunday 20th September 2015, Trinity 16, Schools Sunday, morning

Mark 9:30-37

by Revd Chris Palmer

Ask for a child volunteer.

From the time we’re very young we start getting programmed with all sorts of ideas and expectations. We are expected to pass exams (give child certificates), get a degree (put on a gown), be good at sport (baseball bat), and music (a drum), take pride in friends and family (photo of family), collect possesions (a printer box), have a car (a scooter!).

These expectations feed our worldview, the way our minds are programmed to think, the inner script that controls our choices. And they weigh us down till we collapse (finally let the volunteer collapse under the strain, but stay amidst the stuff). There’s a saying: it’s not your actual life that makes you unhappy, it’s your idea of how life should be.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus predicts that he will suffer and die: ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him.’ And the disciples just don’t get it, they can’t understand, because it collides with the way their minds were programmed. You see, Jesus wasn’t just telling them what would happen to him, he was challenging their worldview, their inner script which controlled all their judgements, but about which they were barely conscious.

I started thinking about my inner script, some of the things that control my judgements. There’s certainly something not so great in there about taking pride in educational achievement. Then I like to be admired. I need to please people. I get self-worth from working hard and getting the job done; I’m one of those people who’ll have ten jobs to do, and get nine done, but I’ll notice that; instead I’ll be beating myself up about the one job I didn’t do. I like to be self-reliant. I need to cope under pressure. There’s more, I’m sure. And all of this is the oppressive programming that distorts my living.

Today as we celebrate Schools Sunday, we’re thinking about what makes a good education – what doesn’t leave us with this distorted account of what matters.  So I suggest these things:

(As I say these, take away the symbols of oppressive expectation piled on the volunteer earlier)

            Education should liberate us to become fully who God sees us as

            Education allows us to know ourselves and know God

            Education gives us respect for everyone, irrespective of their status or
             achievements; it teaches us to live without prejudice (which is based in ignorance)

            Education teaches us discernment – to discover what is truly life-giving for us

            Education equips us to better serve others

            Education allows us to be at ease with who we are, to know inner peace

            Education gives us to the courage not to be controlled by fear

            Education teaches us to ask for help when we need it.

And what you’ll notice is that all these are how Jesus lived. He was able to know himself and be true to God’s calling. He lived in intimate relationship with God, and in service of others. He sought God’s will, and had the courage to go with it even when it meant facing death. He was at ease with himself, not forever seeking worth by garnering other people’s approval. He asked for help – and had apostles and disciples who gave it to him.

The child stands alone, no longer surrounded by props. Stand with the child in front.

Jesus took a child and put it in the midst of his hearers and said. ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’. Children show us what it means to live free from oppressive mind programming. They are a sign of the freedom from judgements and expectations that burden us. If we want to welcome Jesus, we need to welcome the child in each of us.