21st Sunday after Pentecost
October 18, 2015
Mark 10: 25-35 You can click on this link to open the text in Oremus Bible Browser.
“It IS About Me!”
Many of my friends are confessing to a “Popecrush,” an enchantment with Francis I’s ability to represent the most honest and compassionate virtues of the Christian vocation. It seems as if his first concern is pastoral, the good of people, the value of life, and eyes to see who’s missing from the conversation. An example was his recent opportunity to enjoy lunch with the bigwigs he’d just addressed in a joint session of Congress, which he passed up to visit a local soup kitchen and have lunch with people who had nothing to offer him – except the possibility that he would meet Jesus among the least.
That’s the way the church is supposed to work – the higher up you go, the greater the demotion. When you are ordained, you get this stole as a mark of your servant hood, to God and your congregation. And you are awarded it by the person who has been demoted to an even lower rank, your Bishop, the servant of God and of many congregations. In return, those who are served promise to love and pray for God’s servants, as they are entrusted to them. So what’s so charming about Pope Francis is that he hasn’t forgotten his pastoral servant hood to all God’s people as he’s gained a platform in the church.
This is like the story Jesus wants to tell his disciples in this section of Mark’s Gospel. This is the end of a section we’ve been reading in the last few weeks. Jesus has predicted his death and resurrection three times, and no one seems to really get it. Peter thinks it’s all wrong, and the others are jockeying for the seats of honor when it all comes down and they take over the world. Jesus has offered a child as an example of what God’s kingdom looks like, and then today he tells them the radical truth, straight up. “Whoever wishes to be great among you, must become your servant, and whoever wishes to be 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 a ransom for many.” Just watch me, he says. I’m about to show you how it works.
We’re not really much better. We think that church is all about ME: the songs I like to sing, the length of the service suiting what I want to do with my day, the message something that makes me feel good about Jesus choosing me. When we recognize that we are called to be servants we come face to face with our own misguided expectations. We are confronted by our failures; our inability to see others with compassion, our quickness to judge others, our failed prayer lives, our failures to live up to the promises we’ve made. That is when we see our need for healing and forgiveness.
We are so sure we need to have our act together for God to use us but just the opposite true. When we feel that we have nothing to offer is when we are ready for God to use us. Letting go to let God work in us, makes a space for God to heal others as God is healing us. It IS about us when we are at our weakest and most humble; when we don’t have answers, only questions, and we go on anyway, trusting that God is leading us. That radical trust even when we are so unsure is our faith at work. And that is our witness to God’s love in our lives and God’s power to transform us.
We have the story of Jesus, who could have overturned everything to make God’s way work, but chose a different path, one in solidarity with everyone who suffers at the hands of an unjust world. The power of God’s love that raised Jesus from death is the same power that raises us from our fractured lives with forgiveness, compassion, and hope. And we in turn, are able to live from that humble place that Jesus chose, trusting that God is really at work in us and through us in even the tiniest ways to change the world.
We are surrounded this morning with the efforts of some of our most gifted people who take scraps and make beauty, to warm the hearts of the people who will receive these quilts as well as warm their bodies. As we dedicate these quilts this morning, our bodies are connecting God’s love with the work of the quilters and our hope for healing to people that none of us will ever meet. It is easy to imagine that Jesus is among those waiting to be served, people who have lost so much that their only hope is their trust in God. And the gift of being able to give to them becomes God’s gift to us.
Pray with me: Jesus, when I think it’s all about me, open my eyes to the hurts and worries of those around me. Heal my near-sightedness as you use me to heal those hurts and remind me that the path of humility becomes the path of glory in your kingdom. Amen.