Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Anglican Lutheran Lenten Reflections

Value beyond Age and Gender (Mark 10:13–16)

Daily Lenten Reflection - Thursday, 23 March 2017

Week 4: Human Beings—Not for Sale1

Week 4, Day 5

A hymn by Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, 1962

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;

tender to me the promise of his word;

in God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!

Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;

his mercy sure, from age to age to same;

his holy Name--the Lord, the Mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by.

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,

the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!

Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord

to children’s children and for evermore!

Value beyond Age and Gender (Mark 10:13–16)

Rebecca Sangeetha, Lutheran, India

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. 

“Keep quiet” is what many women and children from my part of the world grow up hearing. The subtext is loud and clear—you are not worthy of having a voice, your opinions do not matter. Women and children are on the whole advised to keep quiet in the name of convention (within the family), in the name of tradition (within the church) and in the name of stigma (in the face of abuse). Having a voice signifies having value and women and children are largely shut off from that.

One of my favorite biblical stories is the healing of Namaan in 2 Kings 5. Here the words of an unnamed, foreign, captive slave girl help cure Namaan of his leprosy. Sometimes I wonder what if the girl had been asked to shut up. What if her words had not been taken seriously by Namaan’s wife and Namaan? What if she had been asked not to interfere in matters beyond her work as a slave? The story of Namaan’s healing shows how even a child’s words can lead to human flourishing!

I cannot help but think, what if there had been a group of people like Jesus’ disciples around the girl shutting her up? Jesus’ disciples come across as people who are stern, preventing those on the margins—children (Mk13–14), the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:23) and blind Bartimaeus (Mk 10:48)—from approaching Jesus. Jesus’ attitude however is different. “[Do] not stop them,” he says (Mk 10:14).

Jesus challenges his disciples. Participation in God’s kingdom is not possible unless they change and become like children (Mt 18:3). It is a challenge for those with privileged access to power to give up power. In a context where “value” is often gendered and associated with age, the ethics of the kingdom of God where “the first become the last and the last become the first” is an important way to rectify existing inequalities. Therefore, affirming value beyond age and gender calls for a discipleship of self-emptying through which fullness and the flourishing of life become possible not just for some but for all.

“On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Anglican-Lutheran International Coordinating Committee has compiled a collection of Lenten reflections to commemorate the anniversary. The text can be used by small groups or individual, as a Lenten reading or as a resource for the weeks between Easter and Trinity Sunday. We are sharing these reflections daily during Lent, hoping that our common experience of God’s grace may draw our two families of churches closer together in this extraordinary year, and be used beyond 2017 and actually at any time.”