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Whom will you serve? (You Gotta Serve Somebody)

Pentecost 21, Common Lectionary Year B

Mark 10: 35-45

©2015 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Sometimes coincidence, serendipity,
and the hand of God create a perfect coalescence!
–On the day before a Federal Election,
when citizens make choices about the sort of leadership we want for our country;
–on the day when we launch our
annual Stewardship programme
to review how we as individuals
and as a community
use our time, talents and financial resources
to feed our spirits with God’s purpose
so that we can be of service
to the neighbourhood and world;
–and for the day when, over lunch,
some of us will step nto courageous conversations about death and dying;
what better text can we have,
handed to us on a biblical platter,
than this Gospel?

It’s all there!
James and John and their spectacular misspoken grab for position and privilege,
Jesus’ teaching on servant leadership
for the sake of the world,
and his own talk of dying and rising.
Trouble with all this
is that there’s enough for three sermons,
not just one!

First, I’m going to resist making partisan connections between
Canadian political leadership and the models
in this text;
you and easily do that yourselves!

What I am going to do is a little harder:
look more closely at Jesus, and this Dream of God,
this upside down Kingdom,
where servanthood is the pinnacle, not power.
A Dream for which he was prepared to die.
It’s something we don’t often talk about in
liberal, upbeat congregations,
but we’re going to have to
if we’re going to find here words to help us
shape our decisions for our ministry
as a congregation in the coming year.
Only when we’ve taken a good look at Jesus
will we look at James, John, the Disciples,
because after all,
as we’ve been discovering all year in Mark’s Gospel;
First Jesus.
Look at his posture in this passage.
He’s on ahead, face, body, legs, heart, soul,
pointed towards Jerusalem.
We’d be forgiven for wondering why on earth
he would do that,
after all, everything he’s been up to in the Galilee,
his healings, his teaching,
his casting out of possessive demons,
his upbraiding of the religious and political establishment,
all this has gained him wild popularity, of a sort.

The bus with the colours and the billboards,
and the police outriders, rolls into town,
and the un-vetted, motley crowd of misfits,
the moved and shaken who are yelling out for change, real change,
are thrilled to see him come
to their side of the tracks.

Only he hates it.
He knows how tempting this sort of
leadership can be.
Surely he can go on healing the sick,
feeding the hungry,
drawing the crowds with messages of reversal,
up here in backwater Galilee.
Isn’t that enough?
If he stays here,
he can avoid the trouble he’ll inevitably provoke
if he takes that Gospel Dream of God
to those who hold on to power at all costs.

But twice already he’s told us,
“I gotta go.
Let me put Bob Dylan into Jesus’
mouth for a minute:
“Listen, guys,
doesn’t matter who we are, we’re all
gonna have to serve somebody.
It may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”[1]

For me, you all know, I serve God,
I live God’s Dream,
and it’s bigger than me,
it’s bigger than Galilee.
This Dream of God is for the world’s recreation,
and that’s what frightens those who run the world
to want to crush it,
by crushing me.”

No wonder he’s on ahead,
left the bus, and the Disciples behind,
Mark says, bluntly, scared out of their sandals.

Watch him,
turn back, pull us off the road,
and for a third time he telling us again.
the real cost of serving God.
Arrest, conviction, mockery,
derision, flogging, then death.

And we, dear reader,
know that’s not an empty threat.
We know that’s how it played out.
Still plays out, for many who walk the Jerusalem road.

It is worth it?
Being part of all …. this….
the logo, the hymns, the building….
the Board, the ministries, the
KidZone…. F4….Connections, Studies…
This Dream of God,
where fishers, and accountants,
and venture capitalists,
and teachers, and doctors, and nurses
and moms and great grandmothers
become Disciples,
where we, lame, or blind, or sick in soul,
get to dance and see and sing.
This Dream of God
where the uncared for, care,
the unloveable, love,
the sinner is forgiven and set free to serve,
the spiritually hungry are welcomed and fed,
the fearful find courage,
the purposeless come together around the purposes of God,
to serve that God….
Because if we’re gonna have to serve somebody,
it may as well be the Lord, right?

We should end it there!
Start the Stewardship campaign right now…
But, in Mark’s text, what comes next?
James and John.

And what do they say?

“Hey, Rabbi…. what can you do for us?
Who’s gonna get to lead?
Who gets the power seat?”
Is there a chapter missing?
Where were they when Jesus was talking.
Did they not hear?
Three times.
Living the Dream costs a life!
And they want the Bombardier Jet with the leather seats and cut glass cup holders?

That’s my first reaction.
Uncharitably incredulous.
Oh, so much holier than them.

Until I realize they are me.
How many times
I do the same thing?

Something difficult,
something that might cost me
time, investment, courage,
being noticed and possibly ridiculed
for the dog-collar, for standing in Place Ville Marie
alongside Aboriginal or Muslim or refugee brothers and sisters, crying for justice?

When I’m scared that this Gospel
might get me in trouble,
I run for cover,
I crave security,
I hide behind privilege.
I start to believe the scaremongers,
and I completely lose sight of what this Gospel
is about,
its cup and its cost,
its death and its rising…
and I beg Christ for a seat of power,
forgetting that there is nothing Jesus can offer me
but a cross between two thieves.
So, thank God,
that Jesus,
incredulous though he may have been, paused,
long enough to see beyond the bombast to the fear,
long enough to turn back to them, James, and John,
and me and you,
giving us his whole hearted, full-bodied attention,
to sit us down, to look us in the eye,
for a fourth time,
for the umpteenth time,
for as many times as it takes,
to remind us that this Gospel of God
is not about power,
but service.
It’s not merely about my salvation,
but that of the entire world.
It’s not about what this place can be for me,
nor how my needs might be met with the right programming,
but who we can be for others
It’s – all of it – all this – is about, servanthood.

Because we’re all gonna have to serve somebody.
For the sake of the world,
let us be known for,
let us bear the cost of, serving the Dream of God.


[1] Bob Dylan (released 1979)

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