Mark 10:35-45 – The 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time â€“ for October 21, 2012
â€œâ€¦But Jesus said to them, you do not know what you are askingâ€¦â€ (Mark 10:38)
G. K. Chesterton, the British writer, curmudgeon and ponderer said it best, â€œJust going to church doesnâ€™t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.â€
I claim to be Christian, but just barely. And Iâ€™m not a car. Not. Not. Not.
Itâ€™s too easy, whether I look back a week or a decade, to see how Iâ€™ve failed to follow in the path of the Prince of Peace. How many times have I . . .
Eagerly listened to gossip about someone and passed along the hurt or humor about another to fellow tattletalers?
Stared at my phoneâ€™s screen, with that personâ€™s number displayed on caller ID, and permitted my digitalized voice to invite them to leave a message I might listen to later?
Said yes when I shouldâ€™ve said no; said no when I shouldâ€™ve said yes?
Or said nothing when any number of simple wordsâ€”thank-you, Iâ€™ll pray for you, Iâ€™ll help youâ€”mightâ€™ve transformed my day from isolation to involvement?
Would you prefer more specificity with some of my, er, indiscretions and foibles? Iâ€™ll bet you would! But does it matter? Even if I time-stamped a moment when gossiping about another or babbled in detail about why I didnâ€™t answer the phone because that person called, Iâ€™d likely disguise the depths of my vanity or frailty.
Therefore, thank God for the Bible! It scoops out heaping portions of specificity. Instead of talking about me, I can mention James and John, two of Jesusâ€™ stalwart disciples. They were also known as the â€œsons of Zebedeeâ€ or (this nickname delights me) the â€œsons of thunder.â€ In the Gospel of Markâ€™s 10th chapter, the thunderous duo sidle up to Jesus and ask, â€œGrant to us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.â€
In other words, Zebedeeâ€™s boys wanted to go to the head of the class, be the first in line and guarantee they could grab the best seat when the glory train pulled into town.
Could they be the Abbot and Costello of the Bible, doing their own version of â€œWhoâ€™s On First?â€
How I love the Gospel showing me two of the churchâ€™s future saints treating the Son of Humanity like he was a holy ticket scalper.
In past sermons on Mark 10:35-45, Iâ€™ve enjoyed aiming an index finger at the text to help a congregation see the self-serving nature of James and John. And yet I was always talking about myself.
Being a Christian every day, any day and today is a struggle. Iâ€™ve got papers to prove Iâ€™m ordained. Great, eh? Once I used those documents while living in Oregon to verify I could perform marriages. Indeed, I hand-carried the United Methodist forms to the local courthouse . . . one of those rare moments where I went on recordâ€”for governmental requirementsâ€”to prove Iâ€™m Christian.
But Iâ€™m barely Christian, inside or outside of a church. Chesterton was right . . . standing in a garage doesnâ€™t make you a car. Sidling up to Jesus doesnâ€™t make boarding the glory train any easier.
That persnickety tenth chapter of Mark had Jesus summing up faith in one awful, awesome word. Serve. â€œFor the Son of Humanity came not to be served, but to serve . . .â€
As Iâ€™ve mentioned before, I now spend a few hours each week making bereavement calls for a hospice. I go to my desk, open a binder and study names printed on recycled paperâ€”sheets of paper far removed from my fancy ordination parchment. The backside might be an announcement of last yearâ€™s holiday grief workshop or an outdated update on guidelines for proper office attire. Old news. The page facing me in todayâ€™s news, todayâ€™s calls. Each week there are scores of calls; I hardly know anything about the folks Iâ€™ll contact. But I know one thing. They hurt.
I am the guy too willing to gossip, too eager to use caller ID to plan my inaction. With my ordination papers, I can prove Iâ€™m Christian for the laws of a state, but itâ€™s the state of my heart that matters. Way too often I loiter in â€œgaragesâ€ claiming to be a â€œcar.â€ Iâ€™m pretty sure Iâ€™d have joined the Thunder Boys, hoping weâ€™d find Jesus in a generous mood.
Every single damn week, Iâ€™m blessed to open a binder thick with names.
Todayâ€™s news is that we all hurt.
Can I, for a moment or two, serve another? Itâ€™s not whoâ€™s on first, but who feels like he or she is last.
When I look at the list of names, in truth I see my own. And yours. And yours. And yours. For the Son of Humanity came not to be served, but to serve . . .