Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sermon for Lent 5

Lent 5B/03.29.09/Fort Q & IH/Mark 10:35-45
“The Upside Down God”

What is greatness? What is glory? To me as a kid growing up Wayne Gretzky was greatness. To me growing up Joey Walters, the wide receiver for the Riders, was glory. I even would have said Dieter Brock of the Bombers was great – but I would have been gritting my teeth in saying it. Most of what I considered great and glorious had to do with sports as a child.

Sports stars, movie stars, rock stars, celebrity of all kinds. We associate this with greatness and glory. If someone is wealthy we consider them successful and accord them a certain amount of glory as well. We tend to associate greatness and glory with fame and riches. But this is not necessarily how God looks at it

We have an “upside down God” - Look at what Jesus says to His disciples,
“You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”
Ugh. I don’t know about you but I don’t like this one bit. I’d rather be served than to serve. And so would the Disciples. And Jesus needed to teach them another way. "It shall not be so among you."

James and John thought they would do an “end around” - They thought they might have a little chat with Jesus and that He would then put them both in positions of honour and power. You see the Disciples still figured that Jesus was going to end up being a powerful ruler. And they wanted a front row seat, they wanted a piece of that - And James and John wanted to be in prominent positions. That’s why they ask: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They wanted to be #1 and #1a in Jesus’ Kingdom. They wanted greatness and glory through power and might.

But we have an upside down God. Greatness and glory are not from being in positions of authority. Greatness and glory are not from wealth and riches. Greatness and glory do not come from celebrity and fame. Jesus says: "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

We have an upside down God. Well, upside down according to our perspective. The truth is – we are the ones who are upside down. We are the ones that have it all wrong. The truth is – greatness and glory in God’s view comes through serving your neighbour. Greatness and glory comes through humble service - Through putting others before yourself. Jesus said: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In God’s eyes, in the true reality, greatness comes through Service. Greatness comes when we put our self-interests aside and focus on the needs of others. To us it is upside down. To God – it is the only way.

We like to say “Practice what you preach” - We don’t like it when people are telling us what is right and wrong, how we should or should not act, and then they go out and do the opposite. We have a word for that – hypocrite. In fact that is what a lot of non church going unbelievers will say about the church- it is full of hypocrites. If someone ever says that to you – don’t argue with them! Why not? Because it is true! But you may want to make them aware that we always have room for one more…
Well, from one hypocrite to another I say – there is only One who truly practiced what He preached - And that is Jesus. "But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus was our servant. He practiced what He preached. He put your needs and my needs before Himself. He thought of you before He thought of Himself. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary – He became man. He took upon Himself the weakness of human flesh. He endured temptation not because He had to – but because He wanted to serve you. He lived a perfectly obedient life – not for His sake but for yours. He wanted to serve you. He fulfilled the Law – not for His sake but for yours. He wanted to serve you. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Not for His sin for he had none. But for your sin. He wanted to serve you. And because His sinless service on our behalf was accepted by the Father – He rose from the dead. Our risen and triumphant Lord sits in power and glory. But His service is not yet complete. He still wants to serve you.

Even this very morning Jesus serves you. You are not here to serve Him. He is here to serve you! "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus comes to serve you this morning through His Word and Sacraments. Jesus, stoops down with towel and basin to wash your feet. Jesus through His Word and Sacraments serves you. He washes you, He cleanses you, He feeds you, He gives you what you need.

Jesus “practiced what He preached” - He still does. He instructs us in the way of greatness. Humble service to others. Seeking nothing for ourselves. This is greatness. This is glory. To us, it seems upside down. But we have an upside down God. But He is at work in us. Even this morning He is at work in you. He is slowly turning us – so that we will come to see that He is right side up!

May God help us to see right side up. May God help us to see glory in service and greatness in humility. "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

2 comments:

Kraxpelax said...

Personal announcement!

My Art:

http://screenfonds.blogspot.com/

My Poetry:

http://singleswingle.blogspot.com/

My Philosophy:

http://winmir.blogspot.com/

My photographies from Stockholm:

http://holmstock.blogspot.com/

- Peter Ingestad, Sweden

Mike Keith said...

Peter - that seems a lot like spam. My sermons have caused many different reactions.... but never spam. How intriguing. Is writing spam as a response like throwing rotten vegetables?