22 Pentecost Proper 24 Yr B Oct 21 2018 Audio
Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us, James and John ask Jesus. Arrange it, they say, so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory - one of us at your right, the other at your left. James and John ask Jesus for something Jesus has shown no desire to give, placing some above others. Or giving some more or better attention. But Jesus’ love for us, God’s beloveds, isn’t like that. Jesus’ love for us, God’s beloveds, washes over all of us, no matter who we are, how much money we make, the kind of house we live in or maybe we don’t even have a house. Jesus’ love for us, God’s beloveds, washes over all of us no matter what.
This misunderstanding follows the third time in Mark’s story Jesus tells the disciples the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and will be condemned to death. The trouble is that all the disciples, even though this is the third time they’ve heard Jesus say this, find this news astounding, alarming, and frightening. And equally as astounding, I think it causes James and John especially, and the others as well, to be confused about their own calling, and who Jesus is. James and John seem to think this is about seating order at a party, not life in God's kingdom. They don’t seem to remember that Jesus has just taught them about laying down their life, or about what greatness looks like, or the words about being last of all and servant of all. And so Jesus has to tell them again. Jesus says, this is hard, are you willing to accept that? Are you willing to drink the cup I will drink? Are you willing to be in this all the way to the end? Are you willing to receive my love, my gift, for your freedom? Because, Jesus’ love for us, God’s beloveds, washes over all of us no matter what.
Aren’t we a lot like James and John though? If Jesus were anything like me, and thank goodness he’s not, Jesus would say to James and John, since when did you think this was about you? Since when did you think this is about your power, your prestige, your privilege? Since when did we think this was about us? It’s about Jesus’ love for us, and we are God’s beloveds, but so often we loose our way, we get frightened or confused about our calling as citizens of God’s kingdom, and we forget who Jesus is.
Jesus, I have something I want you to do for me. I want you to grant my wish for a better job, a bigger house, a wonderful spouse. I want you to get me out of this mess I'm in. I want you to make sure that with this investment I make a lot of money. With this ticket, just make sure I win the lottery. Jesus, I know you can do this for me, and if you do, I will be a better person. I will give ten percent away. I will never again use your name in vain. Just give me the power Jesus, and all will be well. Just leave it up to me Jesus, and I will judge who gets what.
I think this is a dialogue that is playing out in our world today. You’ve got to make the most money, you’ve got to have the most important job, you’ve got to, sing, dance, play better than anyone else…. so that you will be noticed, so that you’ll receive power and prestige and privilege? It’ll drive you crazy. And this race to the best plays out in our community lives as well as our personal lives. And it results in disregard for those whose lives are not filled with big houses and big jobs and big money. I think this is at the root of our political impasse as well. It is the question about who deserves to get what?
As long as we work hard and make money we deserve the big house and nice car. We deserve to have what we have, we deserve that place of pride with James and John.
But that’s not what Jesus’ love looks like. Jesus’ love for us, God’s beloveds, washes over all of us no matter what. The call that James and John seem to be missing is really right there in front of them, and is really good news, whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Dwight Zscheile, in a book titled People of the Way writes, "In the household of God, no one can claim privilege of place; we are all adopted children by our baptism." Jesus asks James and John if they are willing to dive into the water with him. "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized." Jesus’ journey in the gospel of Mark began in the waters of the Jordan, in baptism, and that journey will be to the cross and resurrection. The grace in this story is that Jesus is the one who comes and shows the way of love, Jesus shows the way of vulnerability all the way to the cross. You see, speaking and acting in terms of who deserves what, who deserves health care or housing or hospitality, who deserves eternal life, who deserves to be on Jesus’ right hand, are so beside the point. The grace in this story is that Jesus, with his very life, death, and resurrection, puts himself in our place, in your place, and in my place, and says, everyone of you is worth my love.
Jesus’ love for us, God’s beloveds, washes over all of us no matter what.
You are God’s beloved. We are baptized into Jesus' life, suffering, death, and resurrection. Taking Jesus' cup is about diving into the waters of our own baptism, waters that bring the dead to life, waters that fill an empty soul, waters that give a heart the only thing worth living, and worth dying for. We get completely wet in these holy waters. There is grace in diving in to the waters of baptism, and receiving the unconditional, undeserved, underrated love that is God’s love. When we take the cup that Jesus drinks, when we are washed with the waters of baptism, we, God’s beloveds, are called to respond to Jesus’ love, with love. We are called not to the seat of power, but to the posture of service. And our lives are made new, our lives are transformed, our lives become the wave of change. The wave of change, the wave of love, the wave of mercy, the wave of kindness. During bible study on Friday mornings, we often wonder about what God’s word calls us to, what Jesus’ love asks of us. More often than not we share stories of kindness, the kind of kindness that inspires you to pay for the groceries for the person in front of you, the kind of kindness that inspires you to pay for the order for the person behind you in the drive up at McDonalds, the kind of kindness that inspires you to deliver meals on wheels, or make breakfast at the men’s shelter, or bring cereal when the cereal shelves are empty.
You do these things without ever knowing if the person you are serving agrees with you on anything, you do these things without ever knowing if the person you are serving needs it or not, you do these things because Jesus’ love washes over all of us, no matter what. And what a wave it is. Amen.