Worship for Sunday, October 17, 2021

Isaiah 53:4-12

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the LORD shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 91:9-16

Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
and the Most High your habitation,
no evil will befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your dwelling.
For God will give the angels charge over you,
to guard you in all your ways.
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion cub and viper;
you will trample down the lion and the serpent.
I will deliver those who cling to me;
I will uphold them, because they know my name.
They will call me, and I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and honor them.
With long life will I satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.  Amen.

Hebrews 5:1-10

Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 10:35-45

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.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 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?” 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; 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.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 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. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel reading for this week – opens with the brothers James and John coming to Jesus with an incredibly bold request.

And they didn’t want any witnesses. So they waited until the other disciples aren’t around before making their bold request.

They want a tangible sign of just how important they are. James and John want a sign so obvious – no one can miss its meaning. James and John want to sit at Jesus’ right hand and his left hand in glory.

James and John want positions of power and honor and incredible prestige. They want everyone in both heaven and on earth to know just how important they are!

This must have been one of those moments in Jesus’ earthly life that made him want to weep. Or beat his head against the nearest wall. Or stomp his feet in frustration while throwing a hissy fit. Or to send James and John back to being fishers of FISH.   Or simply to quit in despair.

Seriously – after working and learning and studying and SERVING with Jesus for years – James and John come to him with a request like this?!?   Jesus must have wondered where he had gone so wrong . . .

But Jesus doesn’t have a hissy fit or quit or cry or fire James and John.

And Jesus doesn’t grant their bold – completely clueless request either.

Instead – Jesus informs them – they clearly don’t understand what they are asking for. They have completely misunderstood what Jesus has been up to in the world.

Jesus’ response must have been crushing for these ambitious brothers.

And things don’t get any better for James and John. Because when the other disciples hear about their gutsy request – they are furious with them.

Jesus sees trouble is brewing. So – Jesus gathers ALL of his disciples together – and informs them – that – “whoever wants to become great must become a servant and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

That probably wasn’t what ANY of the disciples were hoping to hear.

It isn’t like servants were held in higher esteem back then.   Serving wasn’t more honorable in Jesus’ time than it is in ours. People looked down on servants then too. Servants were nobodies who did the worst – hardest – most backbreaking jobs. And in many cases – they were actually slaves.

Yet here Jesus stands telling the disciples they are called to be servants and slaves.

Once again – Jesus is calling us to do something hard.   Service just doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Serving others takes humility. Most folks prefer glory and honor like James and John. Or at the very least not having to do too much hard work.

There is a story about a company of soldiers from the American Revolutionary War that speaks to our tendency to look down on serving.

These soldiers had been working day after long – hard day constructing a fort. All of the work was done by hand with just a few rudimentary tools. The work was truly difficult and the men were exhausted. As the men worked – their captain stood nearby shouting orders – but offering no help.

Finally – the end was in sight. There were just a few huge logs for the men to heft into place. As the men wrestled with these final logs – it was clear they were nearing their physical breaking point. But still their captain refused to offer any help.   Instead – he just stood there yelling at them and shouting insults.

The more the men struggled – the louder their captain yelled. But he never made a move to help them.

Suddenly a stranger rode up on horseback – and seeing the soldiers struggling – he stopped and asked the captain why he wasn’t helping his men.

“I AM AN OFFICER. OFFICERS DO NOT DIRTY THEIR HANDS IN THAT MANNER” – was the captain’s snooty reply.

Upon hearing that – the stranger quickly got to work helping the men place the final heavy logs.

And the helpful stranger – well – rumor had it – It was George Washington himself the COMMANDER of the Continental Army . . .

A good leader serves others too. Leading means pitching in – helping out and offering support. The best leaders are helpers and companions and co-workers.

James and John did not understand this. They didn’t want to get their hands dirty. They wanted glory and not a bunch of hard work.

Clearly James and John hadn’t been watching Jesus very carefully.   Because Jesus had been showing them day after day that being a follower of God means serving others.

Just look at Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus put other people first. Jesus fed people who were hungry. Jesus healed the sick. Jesus gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. Jesus cast out demons and raised people from the dead.

Jesus taught and healed and preached the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy – because that is who Jesus is.

Jesus helped and served to show the world God’s love and that is why we serve too. We serve to show the world God’s amazing love for everyone.

When you volunteer at a local school or bring in food for the food pantry at FCHUM – or send a card to someone – God’s love shines through you.

When you donate blood – support Sunday school – pitch in with cleaning the church – or help out with our church Halloween Party – you are sharing God’s love.

When you pull a few weeds in the church flower beds – go to the Ronald McDonald House – drive a neighbor to the doctor or to the store or rake some leaves for a shut-in – you are sharing God’s love.

When you make a pot of chili – pray for someone on the church prayer list – help on a church work day – or serve as a reader during worship you are being just who God called you to be.

Jesus called you to serve. And when you do – you are sharing God’s love.   Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

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