James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
Are We Really Able? Mark 10:35-45
This isn't the first time that we've heard that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The last time that we heard about it was when Jesus as telling his disciples that it was important to welcome children and all marginalized people as followers of Christ. I don't know if you remember, but the last time that Jesus talked about being a servant was very similar to this time. It was also in response to two of his followers arguing about status. It is interesting to me that Jesus' first response to naval-gazing and self-aggrandizement in both cases was to remind his followers that their first concern was not to be themselves, but instead to be other people. He asserted, both times, that the true mark of being a Christian was being outward focused, not inward focused.
Now, it is not an easy thing to be outward focused, especially if you are worrying about your own safety and well-being, or the safety and well-being of an institution that you love. Fear turns us inward. So, James and John, two disciples who had been through so much with Jesus and maybe felt the tension that was rising around them as they made their way to Jerusalem, began to think of their own, personal futures. They were willing to go to the very end with Jesus. That is evident from the fact that they are there are the road with him. And, yet, they were afraid. So, they distracted themselves with thoughts of their own welfare and perhaps their own personal legacies. Perhaps the danger they were in would be less scary if they knew that they had a place of honor at the end.
Jesus reminded them that honor looked different than they imagined in their fear. Honor looked outward, not inward. Honor looked like service, not self-protection. Honor looked much more like the work that the slaves did than the haughty tyranny of the rulers of his day. He said that the Son of Man came to serve and that his service would liberate the world. The disciples are not the only ones who can be tempted to turn inward out of fear. In this time when so many churches, including our own, are much smaller than they used to be, it can be easy for us to turn inwards... to worry about protecting ourselves first. But, Jesus reminds us that our first call is to be a servant, to help meet the needs of the world around us. In that spirit, today we're going to spend some time talking about what are some of the needs in the community beyond our walls. Maybe by turning our attention to the needs beyond our walls, we can find some new places where we can serve just as Jesus did.
*During worship, the people gathered broke up into small groups and talked about the needs of our community. The pictures below show the kinds of issues that our members think are affecting our communities.
Resources Pastor Chrissy consulted when writing this sermon:
The people of the Church who came together to compile the list
Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman:
Rolf Jacobson: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1486
Matt Skinner: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=435
The Sermon Brainwave Podcast:
The Pulpit Fiction Podcast: http://www.pulpitfiction.us/show-notes/137-proper-24b-oct-18-2015
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.