Monday Morning in the Preacher's Study
First thoughts about next Sunday's sermon
(21st Sunday after Pentecost, Oct. 18, 2015)
Job 38:1-7, (34-41) OR Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b OR Psalm 91:9-16
With a touch of dramatic irony, James and John ask to be at Jesus' left and right in his glory. Jesus has just predicted his death for a third time. Mark gives not the slightest gap in the narrative before James and John begin their not too subtle grab for power. This is a helpful reminder of what we already know—Jesus will come into his glory on a hillside called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. On his right and left will be thieves. After warning the brothers to be careful for what they wish, Jesus uses this moment to state clearly in words an approach he has made clear with his self-giving way of life: The path to greatness is the path of service. Care for others is paramount.
Yet here also for the third time in a short span, the disciples again seem unable to process Jesus words about that last being first. Rather than trying to be more humble than one another or out doing each other in service, two of Jesus' inner circle vie for even more honor.
As I journey toward Sunday I am reminded of a Bishop who told me of when he was as a young minister sent to work for a time among Mother Teresa’s community in Calcutta. Soon after his arrival, a nun assigned him to a team changing lepers’ bandages in the streets. One leper saw the minister working at the station and asked him to lay hands on him and pray for healing. Horrified by the disfigured face, he told me he retreated to the nun leading the group.
“That man wants me to lay hands on him and pray for him. What should I do?” he asked.
“What would our Lord do?” she asked in reply.
“I know what our Lord would do. I want to know what I am to do,” he stammered back.
“You want a medical answer, and I will not give you one,” the nun replied. “The man wants God’s healing touch. If you are a priest, you will do what your Lord would do. As you walk back over there, decide whether you intend to be a priest or not.”
For baptized Christians, we drink the cup each week in the Eucharist, the new Passover. But how does that cup change our lives? For though we may find ourselves in positions of power, we should exercise that power well. Yet the right use of any power or authority we may have will not usher in the Kingdom of God. Rightly using authority given us is good, but Jesus points to something more foundational. Whatever positional power we may enjoy pales in comparison to the coming Kingdom. Jesus came to turn the world upside down. Only in our powerlessness and weakness can God act in power and strength.
In the Garden of Gethsemene before his arrest, Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from me.” Then he prayed for God’s will rather than his own. For Jesus, drinking the cup meant partaking of all God had set for him to do. The cup was Jesus own life and he drank it to the full, fully offering all of himself back to God.
The life of the baptized is a life of service to others. Sacrifice and humility are its marks. When opportunities to serve arise, how we respond determines whether we intend to act like one who has been united with Jesus in his death and resurrection.
Frank Logue is an Associate member of the APLM Council and has served as its secretary. He worked as a church planter in the Diocese of Georgia, starting King of Peace in Kingsland, before joining the diocesan staff in 2010 as the Canon to the Ordinary.
Photos: Image of a woman begging in Rome and Chalice at the Church of the Annunciation in Vidalia, Georgia, by Frank Logue.