Summary: The call, responsibilities and blessings of discipleship.
“It’s Not About Moving On Up”
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA www.parkview-umc.org
I was talking with a colleague of mine this past week about the United Methodist appointive system.
We both agreed that, in our opinions, The United Methodist Church has the best system for deciding what pastor goes to what church and so on…
…but even within the best of systems…there are flaws.
My friend spoke about pastors he has known who have spent their entire careers calculating their next move…
…how they will get moved up to a bigger church, which of course, means a bigger salary and I suppose more prestige.
Ministers are human creatures just like everyone else, and can easily fall prey to thinking about Christian ministry in worldly ways.
And the first disciples of Jesus were no exception to this flaw in thinking.
Here in our Gospel Lesson for this morning we find James and John asking Jesus to give them positions of prestige and power…
“Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Take a look back at Mark chapter 9:33-35.
Jesus has just gone through this same discussion with the twelve…
…and a chapter later He must deal with it again.
The disciples missed the point in chapter 9 and they miss it again in chapter 10…
…and some 2,000 years later, we often miss it as well!
What is greatness?
In the kingdom of God greatness is not about moving on up…
…it’s about transformation!!!
The violent reversal of the world’s way of measuring greatness…can go no further than Jesus explains it, embodies it, models it, and makes it possible!!!
In Jesus’ world…which is the world of reality…
…the greatest at the banquet is the slave who does the serving…
…not the one sitting at the head of the table making the toasts, getting all the attention, and telling others what to do.
Well, let’s think about it…
…let’s really think about it…
Within our families, our social circles, our church…
…who is it that we love and respect the most?
Who do we prize the most?
Who do we trust the most?
Is it the person who drives the most expensive car?
Is it the person who wears the most flashy and expensive clothing?
Is it the person who is best looking?
Is it the person who holds high positions and tells others what to do?
Is it the one who ‘lords it over us’…who exercises their authority over us…who causes us to quake in our boots?
Or is it the person, rich or poor, who is not a show off…if they do happen to have anything to show off?
The person who is the first to visit us when we are sick…maybe bringing us a pot of homemade chicken soup?
The person who is more than willing to sit and listen to our problems…without complaining…without judging?
The person who holds our hands and prays for and with us when we are facing trials and tribulations?
The person who rejoices with us when good things happen in our lives, and grieves with us when bad things happen?
The person that we know we can count on to help us in our time of need no matter what?
Look at verses 42-45 in our Gospel Lesson.
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”
Again we find Jesus turning the world upside down!
Notice the irony and scorn in the phrase: “those who are regarded as rulers…”.
Talk about popping the balloon of human pomp and circumstance!
Here, Jesus punctures the pretensions of all ruling classes, all ‘so-called superior races’, all self-designated caste systems…
…greatness is found in humility, honesty and repentance.
There is a little boy on the sidewalk in the fairy tale called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
While the rest of the crowd, are enraptured and full of flatterings over the supposed gossamer-thin clothing of the emperor, the realistic little boy blurts out the truth, “Why, he hasn’t anything on at all. He’s naked!”
And isn’t this what Christ is saying to us?
There is no real leadership in the tyranny of power; the only real greatness lies in service.
This reversal of the world’s measurements may be hard for us to accept; but until we do accept it we are far from the kingdom of God!
Suppose our lives were measured only by the amount of real service we have offered to other people?
How great would our lives really be?
Well, here Jesus is telling us that this is precisely how they are measured!
After James and John ask Jesus to let one of them sit at His right and the other at His left…Jesus replies: “You don’t know what you are asking…Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”