Servant Messiah

Here is Reader Christine’s sermon from Sunday 17 October 2021:

What sort of person are you? A very leading question and not a pick-up question (am a bit long in the tooth for that sort of approach), but what sort of things do you like to watch or read?

I tend to like mysteries with some drama and detective work, but I don’t like thrillers, horror or romances, but as a certain season beginning with “C” fast approaches, I do like to watch the occasional ‘feel good movies’ if only for the scenery and idyllic locations. 

I’m sure you know the sort of seasonal movies I mean and there’s usually a happy ending. 

Have you noticed though that in these movies either the man or woman gets the wrong end of the stick and it looks like the ‘happy ending’ is heading for disaster, but of course it doesn’t.  The rejected or offended party realises what they’re about to lose and turns back to admit their love for the other person and the happy ending completes the movie.

James and John certainly got the wrong end of the stick and probably caused mayhem among the other disciples.  How on earth could they have missed the point of Jesus’ mission so badly.

Jesus himself doesn’t get angry with them, but simply says, “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?”

The disciples have followed Jesus through so many different places, watched and seen the many different reactions he has faced and still don’t fully understand what he has been telling them over the weeks and days leading to his arrest, death and resurrection.

I can understand it to a degree, because I was not there in the same way Job was not there when creation was formed.   

Job was angry with God, because of all the suffering he had undergone, but he didn’t know God’s plan, the disciples were probably angry with James and John for have the effrontery to ask Jesus if they could sit on his right- and left-hand side when he entered his kingdom, because they didn’t understand God’s plan.

They were still thinking about an earthly kingdom, they were still imagining him sitting on a throne in a mighty kingdom on earth, they had still not envisaged his heavenly kingdom and he as the Son of God, even though this is the third time he has hinted at his death.

It is probably no coincidence that in Mark 8, Jesus heals a blind man, then foretells his death and resurrection.  After the request of James and John he again heals a blind man, using similar words to the ones he uses with James and John, “What do you want me to do for you?” and once healed Bartimaeus follows Jesus and this is again after he foretells his death and resurrection. 

The disciples, no matter how loyal they are, their eyes are closed to the forthcoming events.  They don’t want to see or hear about Jesus’ death and resurrection.  They don’t understand God’s plan and the sacrifice Jesus is about to make.  They don’t understand the suffering he is about to undergo.

Is it any wonder Jesus answers James and John in the way he does?

‘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.’

The disciples didn’t have any ambitions, they weren’t planning on being entrepreneurs, millionaires or even looking for fame.  They just lived each day as it came, they lived simple lives, they didn’t envisage riches, so it’s not surprising the other ten were angry with James and John.

However, Jesus settles the argument like a loving father.  He reminds them about how rulers treat their subjects and how, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 4and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all,”

Jesus then says the words we are all so familiar with, For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Going back to the movies, have we ever thought about how much we are served?  Entertainment is a way of serving others, those who work as actors, behind the scenes, directors and the many different types of work that go into producing any kind of programme, is a form of service to us.

Going for a meal, take-outs, staying in a hotel or even self-catering are all forms of services offered to us, but Jesus offered more.

Jesus served up food, the feeding of the 5,000 for example, he served up forgiveness to many people including tax collectors and an adulteress.  He served up healing, curing lepers, the paralysed and the dying.  He served up compassion to the rich young man and many more, but most of all he served up love as an example to everyone and gave his body as the living bread and blood of salvation.  To reunite us with a God who is at work in ordinary everyday people.

Jesus’ challenge to us is to be a servant to all and using words from the Peregrini book of prayers I feels sums up what we are asked to do:

“May we be no one’s enemy, and may we be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.  May we never quarrel with those nearest us and if we do, may we be reconciled quickly.  May we love, seek and attain only that which is good.  May we wish for all people’s happiness and envy none.  May we never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged us. When we have done or said what is wrong, may we never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke ourselves until we make amends.  May we win no victory that harms either us or our opponent.  May we reconcile friends who are angry with one another.  May we, to the extent of our power, give all needful help to our friends and all who are in want.  May we never fail a friend who is in danger.  When visiting those in grief may we be able by gentle and healing words, to soften their pain.  May we respect ourselves and always keep tame that which rages within us.  May we accustom ourselves to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances.  May we never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things they have done, but know good people and follow in their footsteps.”

And I ask.  Might we hear the word of the Lord and be open to God’s extortionary challenge to serve others in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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