St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 21 2012 Sermon
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Rev. Joyce Avery

Humans love to be recognized - held up as somebody special.  Salespeople are taught to use people's names as often as possible in conversation because hearing our name makes us feel special.  It makes us feel like we've been recognized ­and we tend to say yes to a sales pitch.
Andy Warhol once commented that everyone will get 15 minutes of fame in their lives - but most of us long for more.
 
In this day and age all you have to do is write something funny or derogatory about someone on Facebook and it's all over the world.  I sure wouldn't want to be recognized as causing a problem for someone.
 
The sons of Zebedee are no different than anyone else.  James & John have left their careers to follow Jesus and they believe they have hitched their wagon to a star.  This was the Messiah - the man who would restore peace to Israel and defeat the Romans.  They see their chance to be somebody ­to rule with the Messiah and bask in earthly glory.
 
Today we find James and John, looking for a safe way out, they were afraid of what was going to happen to them after Jesus was gone. They decided to approach Jesus and ask him," would you do for us whatever we ask of you."  Jesus said to them, "just what is it that you want me to do for you?"  "Grant us to sit one at you right hand and one at your left, in your glory."  Jesus goes on to tell them that" to sit at my right hand or my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
 
There is more to following the Messiah than experiencing the suffering that will come because of the people knowing who he is.  What is lacking in the son's of Jebedee is the humility of servant hood - along with understanding of the privilege they are being granted to belong to Jesus in this way.
 
It is no wonder that the other ten disciples were angry at this attempt at "stardom."  They were very disgusted with James & John.  Who do they think they were to ask Jesus such a question.  They really thought they were important to Jesus, but then Jesus puts it all in perspective, taking it as a teaching opportunity, he points out that they have it exactly backwards.
 
The sincere desire to serve comes first.  Any reward that ensues is beyond even Jesus' power to confer.
 
Jesus himself is subject to the Father's will in the unfolding of his Passion journey.  There is no room for special perks in this scenario.  Instead, they are to model themselves on their Master, who exemplifies true servanthood in their midst.
 
This must have been a hard lesson for all of them to ponder and let it sink in to their very core. Jesus was not only their teacher, but a friend too.  By that they must all have felt that they maybe should get preferential treatment.  What a shock that James & John had when they found out that they were good disciples of Jesus, but that's a far as it went.  Jesus loved them, but he also loved everyone else.  It took them quite awhile to really find out just what Jesus wanted them to do, to carry out into the world the very things he had been doing.  Jesus also tells them that whoever wishes to be great, among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.
 
Wouldn't that passage be a great one to e-mail to all the politicians  Especially now when the tempers and harsh words are flying around.  Won't it be great when the election is over???
Just what does it mean to be a servant?
 
According to the Dictionary, it is a person hired by an employer to help in domestic or public workforce.  The best one I found was a Public Servant, wouldn't the politicians just love that!!!!
 
In a Children's Sermon one Sunday morning, the minister had three pictures to show them.  One was a farmer, a sport star, and a celebrity.  I want you to think about who is the greatest among these three. Let's hear what you think.
 
He gives them time to think and then goes on to say-
If you were to ask Jesus who is the greatest of these three, we might be surprised by his answer.  I think Jesus would say it was the farmer.  The sport star is certainly a great player and in the newspaper often, and the celebrity's picture is everywhere.  If she came to town there would be a mob to see her.  But without the farmer the other two would not have food to eat.  The farmer, who works to put food on the table of many people, is really like a servant.  And Jesus taught that servants are the greatest people of all.  Once Jesus' disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them.  Jesus surprised them by saying, "Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant."  Think about that and these three pictures.  The farmer, the sport star and the celebrity.  The farmer serves all three.  He's only a servant, but as Jesus taught, the servant is the greatest.  And of all servants, none was greater than Jesus himself who came to serve and sacrifice himself for us all.
 
Last Thursday night, Bonnie, Lorraine & I went to St Mark's Cathedral for the Ordination of Sarah, and five other fellows.  It was a great night, the Church was full and what a glorious sound from the huge organ that played during the evening.  It reverberated all through the Church.  When I thought of Servanthood I thought of the five young men and our Sarah, all standing before the Bishop to be Ordained a Deacon.
 
What a road they have ahead of them.  They were all so young and full of expectation as to what their next journey will be, it was like James and John wondering just what was going to happen to them when Jesus was gone.  Little did they know that they had to become servants to all.  Our Sarah won't have any problem with being a servant to all, as she likes to serve Christ in all the homeless and broken people.  I think Our Sarah has all the compassion a person needs to carry out Christ's wishes for Servanthood.
 
Not everyone can drink from Jesus' cup and pattern their lives so closely to Jesus, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, or King.  For those of us who have not found the will to be the greatest, we can at least aspire to be ministers to the hurt and broken in our world.  Let us put aside our ideas of worldly greatness and aspire to touch "the least of these" with God's love and mercy.  Amen 



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