Stumbling Block or Silent Servant?
By this point in Jesus' ministry, he had become quite famous and revered. It's no surprise his disciples would let it get to their heads. As any good entourage, they rode the high off of Jesus' success.
But Jesus knew his work was for more than fame and recognition. There was genuine, important work to be done. He took this opportunity to remind them of the mission and ministry. He warned them not to let the fame elevate them too high to help common folk - not to become stumbling blocks or obstacles for those who were just trying to get close to Jesus - to learn, be healed, or bask in the presence of a loving and culture-shifting leader. He reminded them not to become too big to forgive. They were following Jesus for a greater purpose - to serve, not to be exalted.
I'm not gonna lie - when I was a parish pastor, I lived for the moments I could shine as a leader, preacher, or teacher. When I left parish ministry, it was a long, hard fall from pseudo-fame and recognition to complete and utter nothingness. Suddenly I had no more Christmas present for the pastor, no accolades for my awesome preaching, no hugs from beloved parishioners. It was just me in my house with my family. (And yes, they love me too, but they seen the person who loses a temper, farts, and sleeps in too late, so they're much less enamored by me.) It was in this lonely time I had to learn what it truly meant to serve without recognition - to cook meals every day, just to find my teens had just eaten a huge bowl of cereal; to pick up dog poop only to step in another land mine; to sit at my laptop all day, only to have my family ask for errands because I'm "home all day." It was here that I learned it had to be enough to know I was doing God's work, even if nobody else on the planet recognized it. There's a genuine peace about knowing and accepting this reality. And it makes, "Thanks for dinner, mom" so much sweeter!
Narrative Lectionary Text: Luke 17:1-10
Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”