Wednesday, November 11, 2015

“You Then Me” (Mark 10:35-45)

James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have

something we want you to do for us.”

“What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”

“Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places

of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of

drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be

plunged into?”

“Sure,” they said. “Why not?”

Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be

baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not

my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their

tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things

down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,”

he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their

heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great

must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be

your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not

to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who

are held hostage.”

The Billings Gazette has been running a series titled “Ten

Inspiring Stories from Billings and Montana.” The goal of
the series is for the reading audience to “refresh its faith in

This week we read about the high-tech smart house that
was recently built in Lockwood for former Navy SEAL Bo
Reichenbach. Reichenbach’s life changed when he
stepped on a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan in 2012. His
dream, before the accident, was to build his own home for
his family. His father is a builder. With the loss of both his
legs, and one arm also injured, Reichenbach’s dream was
short-lived...until many good people (including foundations
and organizations) who “like to make good things happen”
stepped in.

This week Bo and his family received the keys to their
brand-new home that meets all of the American Disability
Act’s requirements, including a cook top stove that has a
button you push which lowers it to a height that you can
cook from a wheelchair--- one of many high tech features
in the home that support Bo’s needs.

What struck me as I read the story was the creativity of
the persons involved in building this unique home, whether
it was the foundation which provided financial backing
(created in memory of a firefighter named Stephen Sillar,
who laid his life on the line on September 11, 2001…his
shift had just ended and he had plans to play golf with his
brothers, but when he heard that the towers had been
bombed returned to help his coworkers), or the local
persons who gave unselfishly of their resources to make
this home a reality, to the person or persons who use their
life to think of ways to make living easier for persons who
can’t stand on two legs or reach with two arms.

A retired friend shared with me that this is how she
views her newly acquired retirement status, as an
opportunity to be creative in a Jesus kind of way,
which means SERVICE. In our lesson from the Gospel
of Mark, Jesus reminds his friends that life with God isn’t
about self-promotion, it is about self sacrifice, or
SERVICE. I like the way service is defined in the
Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible—the commentary the
work of Christian author Richard Foster:
“Service is the loving, thoughtful, active promotion of
the good of others and the causes of God in our
world, through which we experience the many little
deaths of going beyond ourselves.”

What we hear in this definition is that SERVICE is
INTENTIONAL (thoughtful; thought out),
INDESPENSIBLE (of God), and INVIGORATING (lifegiving.)

·        Many of the stories recorded in the 10th chapter of Mark
address energy centers which ail people, or make us sick:
legalism, judgment (shaming), the pursuit of comfort, and
self-centeredness (me before you). Jesus invites us into
new energy centers: compassion, humility, the pursuit of
spiritual depth, and connectedness or attention to the
other (you then me). The movement of the soul of the
person, or the soul of a congregation, from the sick
energy centers to the healthy energy centers is what
we are talking about when we talk about faith—in faith
we step into God activity such as prayer, forgiveness,
service---trusting that we will not fail ourselves or
each other—because God is with us in our actions.

My newly retired friend put God activity on hold for many
years. She made time for worship but the rest of the week
was about pursuing success at work instead of pursuing
success at life. As she entered her sixties she realized
her spirit was starving for something other than her
savings account and a new sofa and promotions at work.

“I’m simply listening to the people in my life and
responding,” she told me, “which was pretty hard to
do when I was running the company”.

She continued, “Not too long after I retired I met a
professional woman who was what I used to be—working,
working, working! You’ve heard of the walking dead—well
there is the working dead and I was one of them! When I
met this woman I loved her because she was me—she
gave everything she had to her job in the community and
her family at home. Families have to eat which means
someone has to cook! So she was a brilliant lady, and a
tired lady. So I went around to a few stores and selected
a few inexpensive goodies such as chocolates and cute
cooking utensils and a small vase with flowers, arranged
them in a basket, and left it on her front porch with a note
that read ‘If you want to be good to others you also have
to be good to yourself.’ I had so much fun! Not too long
ago a family in my neighborhood here in Billings struggled
with the failing health of their mother. Their mother had
cancer and I think, in the end, this family tended to her for
over two years. I looked out my kitchen window and
decided I’d do my part, too, so I cooked extra food on
Thursdays and placed the food in their refrigerator for the
weekend when most of the family would show up. I grew
to love the mother, too! Now that the mother has died, I
am going to select a few cards and include notes about
how much I loved this woman and her family. You know,
service simply is acts of kindness. You don’t have to
make it complicated and travel long distances to find
people who need a little kindness in their life. It’s next
door. The point is I’m having so much fun. Who knew
that SERVICE was play?”

So often we will talk about service as Christian duty; a
requirement, or obligation. Do we think Jesus plucked
Zachaeus out of that tree out of obligation—or returned
Lazarus to Mary and Martha out of obligation? Did he stop
and visit with the Rich Young Man because he was
required to do so? Did he pull the children out of the
crowd and put them on his knee, and speak of their value,
because he was supposed to?

The answer is no. Jesus served because SAW the
world as God saw the world: beauty and value in
everything and everyone. To LOVE is to WAKE UP (to
quote Jesuit author and teacher Anthony de Mello) to life
as it really is: holy. Of God—all God—all of it!!! How can
we not be impressed by it all—or moved to be in it—or
moved to stay with it—to build it up? How can we turn all
that is IN ON OURSELVES when all that is belongs to
everyone—especially God’s unconditional love?

The challenge, we begin to understand, is to love
where we are planted—to refrain from thinking that God
happens somewhere else—to refrain from wishing we
were in Hawaii, or born into a better looking family, or
longing to be ten years old again and in the care of our
parents, or, if we are entering this story as the church, to
move into our neighborhood as it is now, to embrace each
other as we are now, to be open to the depth and talent of
every generation of persons because every generation of
persons is holy.

Holy is happening RIGHT NOW…inviting us to show
up…inviting us to care.

Here’s a little story:
“Where shall I look for Enlightenment?” the disciple asked.
“Here,” the elder said.
“When will it happen?” the disciple wanted to know.
“It is happening right now,” the elder said.
“Then why don’t I experience it?” the disciple asked.
And the elder answered, “Because you do not look.”
“But what should I look for?” the disciple wanted to know.
And the elder smiled and answered, “Nothing. Just look.”
“But at what?” the disciple insisted.
“Anything your eyes alight upon,” the elder continued.
“Well, then, must I look in a special kind of way?” the
disciple said.
“No,” the elder said.
“Why ever not?” the disciple persisted.
And the elder said quietly, “Because to look you must be
here. The problem is that you are mostly somewhere

As my retired friend shard with me---when she wanted to
grow deeper in Jesus---all she had to do was walk out her
front door with a new purpose---to build up her neighbor in

Prayer: Very Present God, you are as close to us
as we choose to see. Open the eyes of our
heart—so many beautiful people—tired and
worn, growing ever so slowly in goodness—and
beautiful. Give us the courage to love us all, like
you! Amen.

(This sermon was preached by Reverend Dana Keener at Central Christian Church in Billings, Montana on October 18, 2015.)

No comments:

Post a Comment