the one about being able...
October 22, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from October 21, 2018

Text: Mark 10:35-45

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen!

So, in the summer of 2020 the South Carolina Synod will elect a new bishop at that year’s Synod Assembly. Bishops elections are always a little exciting. I’ve been a part of one bishop’s election while I served in Michigan, and it was definitely an interesting experience. The election process itself is very different from how we normally would assume an election is conducted.

There is no campaigning (at least not deliberate). No ads. No speeches leading up to the appointed time. Instead, names are essentially thrown into a hat and the people who get the most ‘votes’ proceed on to the next round.

As I went through that first bishop’s election, I noticed something. For me, anyone who said, “I want to be bishop.” Was someone that I was highly skeptical about. No one wants to be bishop unless they have an agenda of sorts. But, anyone who might’ve said, “I think I have skills and gifts to be in that position and I wouldn’t remove my name from consideration.” Was someone that piqued my interest. And, I definitely zoned in through conversations about people who said, “So-and-so is a wonderful pastor, a great listener, and who I think would help lead and serve this synod.”

I thought about this future bishop’s election and the one I was previously apart of as I read this passage from Mark’s gospel. I happen to think of a lot of leadership roles and elections in our world and culture as I read this small part of the gospel because I think that it not only provides a wonderful model for us to live out our lives as faithful followers of Jesus, but it also gives us a faithful model of how all leadership can be lived into through all facets of our culture.

As Jesus speaks to the brothers James and John, he points out that what they are doing is no different from what the Gentiles do. Seeking power. Striving for greatness over others. The world does this and we know it because they lord it over those whom they rule. The ones who do that Jesus is implying that they are not faithful rulers – not in the way that God has called us to be leaders.

Those are the ones who brag about their power and reach. The ones who exert that power with force. The ones who demand loyalty to them over everything and everyone else. Those are rulers and leaders to be very wary of because they view their leadership only from their perspective and not from how others receive it.

Jesus speaks to his disciples and to us that leadership in the kingdom of God – faithfully lived out in the world – is something very different from what we would expect. Where leadership is something that is served for others. Where leadership is concerned with the care and love for those around them.

As I’ve talked about these last few weeks, the disciples are still not able to ‘get’ what Jesus is laying out. They’ve continually heard Jesus say things like glory, anointed, and power and they continue to view that from the world’s perspective. We do that too through many aspects of our lives and world. But, they (and we) fail to realize – again and again – that living into the glory that Jesus proclaims – drinking from the same cup – being baptized into the same baptism – brings us opportunities to suffer and serve.

Not necessarily suffering that we are intentionally hurting ourselves. Whipping our backsides as some monks used to do as they walked the streets of their hometowns. But, being lifted in glory requires us to serve those around us. Being in glory in the world has people look up to you, but in the kingdom of God, people will look down because you’re intentionally placing yourself lower so that others’ needs might be served. We come to serve – we live to serve – we have faith to serve.

This life of faith calls us to look out for others before we lookout for ourselves. That’s what Jesus asks of us when we optimistically cry out, “We are able!” Just as James and John cried out – yet they still ran when the time came to think of others before themselves.

That’s the tricky part. That’s the part that keeps us from fully living into what God calls of us. And that happens to everyone – even your pastor. We get scared, we get anxious. We get leery of serving others, putting ourselves ‘out there’ that goes against what the world calls for. Mostly because we don’t think anyone is out there serving us as well.

We can become obstinate when we take leadership roles and we see that stubbornness run through those who are in power. I’ve got the authority to do this, why should I care to listen to those around me? As Mel Brooks said in, History of the World, Part I, ‘It’s good to be the king!’

So, we cry out – we are able, yet become shy and timid when the opportunity arises for us to live into our cry that we are able in our faith; in our proclamation of God’s love and kingdom.

The wonder that we receive in this reading this morning – is that Jesus knows this. I’m fully confident that as Jesus hears James and John say, “We are able!” He knows that they’ll fall. Yet, he still has faith in them. Eventually they’ll ‘get it.’ As the rest of the disciples will as well.

Not because they’ll do it on their own, but because the Spirit will be present with them. They won’t be alone. They’ll be fed, they’ll be led.

God is with us as well. We will cry out today and many days in the future, “We are able!” when we are called upon by God. Yet we will fall short. We’ll run, we’ll stay quiet, we will remain seated. It’ll happen. It happens to all of us.

Yet, God doesn’t stop working on us. Jesus doesn’t leave us out to dry. The Spirit doesn’t abandon us. We work together. We work with one another. We are not alone. We are fed. We are led.

We serve, and we are raised. We drink from the cup that Jesus drinks. We are baptized into his baptism. We are called and claimed by God. As leaders – as servant leaders in the kingdom of God at work today - we continue to proclaim that we are able – and with Christ – we are. Amen.

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