Greatness.

Mark 10:35-45

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

We all have a desire at times to be great in something.  We would like to think that there is something out there that we can excel at.  I know for me that I sometimes have this achievement mindset.  It’s OK to be an achiever, to want to work towards a goal, to get things done, but sometimes that can cloud your thinking.

A good example of that is right before I got engaged to Debbie.  I was pumped that after so many years of wanting to see my relationship with Debbie move towards a goal, it was finally coming together.  I bought a ring and I had a vision of what our marriage could be like.  

I got together with my friend Chuck Scott.  Chuck is a great guy, former NFL player, amazing family, and a national leader for Young Life.  He’s also someone whose opinion I highly appreciated and.  His dad, Charlie, was one of the original Young Life staff persons from the 1950’s and was one of my mentors.  I went to him to ask him about what he thought about me asking Debbie to marry him.  He thought very highly of Debbie, he tried to hire her in his Young Life area a couple of times, and I knew that he loved me as a friend.  

His response, wait…do you understand what you are getting into…he even said don’t get married to Debbie.  He tried to talk me out of it.  He said marriage was hard, that I wanted this so bad that I wasn’t thinking straight, I needed to count the cost, and that even though I had this friendship with Debbie for close to a decade, I needed to take a timeout and think and pray.  He was right in many ways, and he helped me to gain some perspective.

I still ended up asking Deb to marry me, and his dad, Charlie, co-officiated our wedding.  

Out of that commitment, there have been some moments of greatness, and some moments of darkness.  There have been failures, lots of them.  Yet, the relationship and growth I’ve received from Deb as a partner has been overwhelming.  Our story is still being written and I’m grateful.  

In much the same way, I had folks try to talk me out of going into the ministry.  I know that I had some personal visions that involved changing the world in big ways.  I wanted to see great things happen.  But, others cautioned me.  My dad even told me after I graduated from UK and told him that I was going into the ministry that I was making a mistake.  His exact first words:  “I just paid for 4 years of college for you to do what?”.  

Again, it may not have been the right wording or the right motivation, but it did cause me to ask some questions.

I still went into the ministry, obviously, as I stand here today.  And, again, out of that commitment, there have been some moments of greatness, and some moments of darkness.  There have been failures, lots of them.  Yet, the relationships that have been formed, my life and others lives have been changed…and the same is happening here at Fleming Road UCC in our lives together.  Our story is still being written and I’m grateful.  

As we jump into this passage, let’s remember that we are seeing the disciples live’s stories being written…Jesus is calling them away from a fantasy to something deeper, something better for them…Jesus is inviting them into the present moment, not for some pie-in-the-sky transactional relationship, but to let go of their desire to live into a narrative that want to create, a narrative that their culture may have conditioned them for, towards a narrative of loving themselves, others, and seeing that God wants them, and us, to grow into what Thomas Merton, the great catholic monk philosopher would say, our true Selves.  

Our gospel lesson tells us about the disciples having some wrong motivations for being followers of Jesus.  They are focused on this idea of being great and having special places.  They had waited for so long for the messiah and had high expectations, some fantasies.  James and John have some moxie and ask Jesus to sit on the right and left.  The other disciples are mad at them, but they are wondering the same thing.  

Jesus gives them a response, one he defers to the Father…really, he’s deferring to the community that he’s in of the Trinity.  A community of three in one that is so tight that things are created, saved, and sustained through deep, good relationship.  A relationship of yielding to one another.  

And, he says if you want to be first, you’ve got to be last and the last will be first.  He flips the understanding that is in the world.  A world of hierarchy and social climbing.  

Jesus also welcomes their commitment, but asks some hard questions, are you willing to struggle, to experience hardship, to truly live into his baptism?  They are commited, the have experienced a call, but he’s causing them to pause and think deeply about that calling and commitment as my friends have done for me.  

Rob Bell shares this about our commitment and calling to live life as Jesus followers, really as fully alive humans:  

Jesus is inviting his disciples, his friends, into a life that isn’t defined by greatness in worldly standards.   He is calling them into a deeper, more beautiful life that is full and expansive.  

We are called to ask ourselves some of the same questions.  Are we willing to suffer, are we willing to die, and are we willing to live life to the fullest and experience resurrection in Jesus’ baptism that symbolizes the old life dying and the new life beginning?  Are we willing to live into that as persons and as people of faith gathered at Fleming Road UCC?  Are we willing to let go of all that we hold on to so tightly in order to experience the beauty of God’s Presence in our lives. 

St. Augustine wrote in City of God:  “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are always too full to receive them.”  Jesus came to serve and calls us into a life filled with meaning and goodness, but we have to let go of the things that we think bring greatness.  If we are willing to serve others and to live as Jesus followers, then the story that is emerging out of Fleming Road UCC will be filled with hope for the world around us and in us…and we will see something greater happen than than our fantasies, especially as we live in the present moment, greater than we could have ever imagined.  May it be so!

Mark 10:35-45

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

We all have a desire at times to be great in something.  We would like to think that there is something out there that we can excel at.  I know for me that I sometimes have this achievement mindset.  It’s OK to be an achiever, to want to work towards a goal, to get things done, but sometimes that can cloud your thinking.

A good example of that is right before I got engaged to Debbie.  I was pumped that after so many years of wanting to see my relationship with Debbie move towards a goal, it was finally coming together.  I bought a ring and I had a vision of what our marriage could be like.  

I got together with my friend Chuck Scott.  Chuck is a great guy, former NFL player, amazing family, and a national leader for Young Life.  He’s also someone whose opinion I highly appreciated and.  His dad, Charlie, was one of the original Young Life staff persons from the 1950’s and was one of my mentors.  I went to him to ask him about what he thought about me asking Debbie to marry him.  He thought very highly of Debbie, he tried to hire her in his Young Life area a couple of times, and I knew that he loved me as a friend.  

His response, wait…do you understand what you are getting into…he even said don’t get married to Debbie.  He tried to talk me out of it.  He said marriage was hard, that I wanted this so bad that I wasn’t thinking straight, I needed to count the cost, and that even though I had this friendship with Debbie for close to a decade, I needed to take a timeout and think and pray.  He was right in many ways, and he helped me to gain some perspective.

I still ended up asking Deb to marry me, and his dad, Charlie, co-officiated our wedding.  

Out of that commitment, there have been some moments of greatness, and some moments of darkness.  There have been failures, lots of them.  Yet, the relationship and growth I’ve received from Deb as a partner has been overwhelming.  Our story is still being written and I’m grateful.  

In much the same way, I had folks try to talk me out of going into the ministry.  I know that I had some personal visions that involved changing the world in big ways.  I wanted to see great things happen.  But, others cautioned me.  My dad even told me after I graduated from UK and told him that I was going into the ministry that I was making a mistake.  His exact first words:  “I just paid for 4 years of college for you to do what?”.  

Again, it may not have been the right wording or the right motivation, but it did cause me to ask some questions.

I still went into the ministry, obviously, as I stand here today.  And, again, out of that commitment, there have been some moments of greatness, and some moments of darkness.  There have been failures, lots of them.  Yet, the relationships that have been formed, my life and others lives have been changed…and the same is happening here at Fleming Road UCC in our lives together.  Our story is still being written and I’m grateful.  

As we jump into this passage, let’s remember that we are seeing the disciples live’s stories being written…Jesus is calling them away from a fantasy to something deeper, something better for them…Jesus is inviting them into the present moment, not for some pie-in-the-sky transactional relationship, but to let go of their desire to live into a narrative that want to create, a narrative that their culture may have conditioned them for, towards a narrative of loving themselves, others, and seeing that God wants them, and us, to grow into what Thomas Merton, the great catholic monk philosopher would say, our true Selves.  

Our gospel lesson tells us about the disciples having some wrong motivations for being followers of Jesus.  They are focused on this idea of being great and having special places.  They had waited for so long for the messiah and had high expectations, some fantasies.  James and John have some moxie and ask Jesus to sit on the right and left.  The other disciples are mad at them, but they are wondering the same thing.  

Jesus gives them a response, one he defers to the Father…really, he’s deferring to the community that he’s in of the Trinity.  A community of three in one that is so tight that things are created, saved, and sustained through deep, good relationship.  A relationship of yielding to one another.  

And, he says if you want to be first, you’ve got to be last and the last will be first.  He flips the understanding that is in the world.  A world of hierarchy and social climbing.  

Jesus also welcomes their commitment, but asks some hard questions, are you willing to struggle, to experience hardship, to truly live into his baptism?  They are commited, the have experienced a call, but he’s causing them to pause and think deeply about that calling and commitment as my friends have done for me.  

Rob Bell shares this about our commitment and calling to live life as Jesus followers, really as fully alive humans:  

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Jesus is inviting his disciples, his friends, into a life that isn’t defined by greatness in worldly standards.   He is calling them into a deeper, more beautiful life that is full and expansive.  

We are called to ask ourselves some of the same questions.  Are we willing to suffer, are we willing to die, and are we willing to live life to the fullest and experience resurrection in Jesus’ baptism that symbolizes the old life dying and the new life beginning?  Are we willing to live into that as persons and as people of faith gathered at Fleming Road UCC?  Are we willing to let go of all that we hold on to so tightly in order to experience the beauty of God’s Presence in our lives. 

St. Augustine wrote in City of God:  “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are always too full to receive them.”  Jesus came to serve and calls us into a life filled with meaning and goodness, but we have to let go of the things that we think bring greatness.  If we are willing to serve others and to live as Jesus followers, then the story that is emerging out of Fleming Road UCC will be filled with hope for the world around us and in us…and we will see something greater happen than than our fantasies, especially as we live in the present moment, greater than we could have ever imagined.  May it be so!

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