Some thoughts on ministry, a collection of sermons, theological musings and of course, random thoughts.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Serving Sermon- A shout-out to Midnight Truffle Blizzards
Mark 10: 35-45 March 14, 2010
Sometimes we ask for too much. Let me tell you about Wednesdays in my world. Although I love them, Wednesdays are my longest day of the week. Often times I am at church from the time I arrive in the morning through the day, through Wednesday Night Live dinner, and fellowship. I teach the second and third graders and then I finish up with choir practice around 8:30. By that time of night I’m exhausted! This week, when I had reached that point I got a text message from David before I left church. The message said, “It sure would be nice if I had a Midnight Truffle Blizzard from Dairy Queen…” Sometimes we ask for too much. I know you have felt burdened by a request like this from a well-meaning loved one. Maybe you have had the world’s most exhausting day and your best friend calls and needs a favor- it almost feels like he is asking too much. I read the status of a friend on facebook this week- it was a classic story. Her child had waited until about an hour before they went to bed to tell her she needed to bring three dozen cupcakes to school the next day. Sometimes we ask for too much.
James and John asked for too much. They waited until they could confront Jesus alone, without the other disciples and they said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” In my opinion that’s a little bold. I would have probably gone with a, “Hey, Jesus, if it’s not too much trouble we’d like to ask you for a favor.” But the sons of Zebedee lay it on the line, they go for gold, they ask too much. They want to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when the kingdom comes. Their request is too much to ask, they want the most honored places in the kingdom. If Jesus was anything like me this is where he’d start beating his head against the wall. He has already had a discussion with the disciples about the argument they had on the way to Capernaum. They were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus told them then, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, the servant of all.” And then he called a child to stand among them and told the disciples that they needed to become like little children. And yet, here are James and John- trying to jockey for position in the kingdom; they want the two best spots. And of course Jesus responds with infinitely more patience than I would in this situation. He says to them, “You do not know what you are asking.” Sometimes we ask for too much.
Often times we agree to something and we have no idea what we are getting into. Jesus asks James and John if they are willing to drink the cup that he will drink and to be baptized with the baptism that he is baptized with. “Yeah, sure, Jesus- we’ll do whatever, just give us what we ask for.” James and John agreed, having no idea what they were getting themselves into. Of course, you and I think we know what we are getting into, and frequently we have no idea! I have heard people talk about having children in this way. I have seen couples make a conscious decision that they are ready to have kids. They think they are prepared, they think they know what there are getting into. People who have children will try to point the way, they will say to the couple who thinks they are ready, “having kids will change your life.” And then children are born and the lives of the parents are changed in ways they could never imagine.
Even if you don’t have children, I know you have had this experience. Maybe you’ve signed on to help with some project at school, or agreed to chair a ministry team at church, or been a part of a non-for-profit organization. You think you know what you are getting into- but you could never know all the details that your commitment comes with. Sometimes, if you had known up front all the details, you would have never committed in the first place.
David and I are in the process of buying a house. We have said to ourselves, “yes, we can buy a house- we know what we are getting into.” We’ve gone over our budget, talked to the bank, looked at the house, had David’s dad look at the house and I have had trouble sleeping this week because I am so excited. We think we know what we are getting into. However, I’ve never owned a home before and I have been a renter a long time. When something breaks at our new house I will not be picking up the phone to call the landlord. The landlord is me! Right now it feels like we are prepared, but I know that in reality, we have no idea what we are getting into.
Jesus has been trying to tell the disciples what they are getting into. He keeps hinting around that he won’t always be around, that the end of this time is coming, that painful things are on the horizon. The disciples have signed on to follow him anywhere- and they truly believe they will be able to do that. But honestly, they have no idea what is coming. James and John have no idea that drinking from the same cup as Jesus, and being baptized with his same baptism will mean suffering with him. Following Jesus will lead to condemnation, torture and death. They think they are willing to follow him anywhere- but really, they have no idea what they are getting into.
Being a follower of Jesus means being a servant. James and John quickly figure out that they have asked the wrong question. They have asked for the places of honor in the kingdom and in so doing they have upset the other disciples who are wondering, “Why should they get the glory over us?” Jesus steps in to this argument with some teaching about what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ. He explains that in the world, people who have places of honor tend to lord over those who do not have power, they become tryants. In the kingdom of God, things are different. “But it is not so among you;” Jesus says, “but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be the first among you must be the slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Greatness in the kingdom of God is determined by how willing you are to be a servant. Jesus wasn’t just speaking to the twelve disciples that were gathered with him that day, he was speaking to us. We, as a people of this denomination, have claimed the name “Disciples of Christ,” for ourselves. When we signed on for that name did we have any idea what we were getting into? We thought we did. The teachings of Jesus remind us that they way of discipleship is the way of a servant.
To follow the ways of Jesus, to truly be a disciple means turning our back on the status and power that the world might seek to bestow upon us. Being a true disciple means being a servant, doing the job that no one else wants to do and not expecting any recognition for doing it. We are being asked to move beyond the human demand for honor, power and status. This is not easy business. I’m not sure when we took that baptism vow that we knew exactly what we were getting into.
Preacher William Willamon says, “This is the message that contemporary followers of Jesus have been reluctant to proclaim to the world, perhaps because we’re reluctant to hear this message ourselves! Jesus is not a technique for getting what we want out of God; Jesus is God’s way of getting what God wants out of us. God wants a world, a world redeemed, restored to God. And the way God gets that is ordinary people like us who are willing to walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, yes, and even if need be to suffer like Jesus.”
Jesus is God’s way of getting what God wants out of us, not a technique for getting what we want out of God. God wants us to be servants, not to seek power and recognition and to walk all over other people to do it. We are called to be servants, to be humble and to attend to the needs of others. We are to deny power and status whenever we can. The word disciple can be exchanged for the word servant.
It is my hope that we can live our lives so that we could just as easily be called “Servants of Christ” as “Disciples of Christ. Even though we might have not known exactly what we were getting into when we first signed on to be a disciple, we now have a little better understanding that being a disciple means being a servant. Sometimes we will forget, and lose our way, and ask for too much from Jesus. Sometimes we will seek the world’s honor and praise, but when we refocus our lives on Christ we will remember that we are called to be partners with each other in service to the world in the name of Christ. May God give us the grace to serve one another. Amen.