Sermons

XVIII Pentecost

September 23, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

On a recent visit with my family in Pennsylvania, I found out that I share an obsession with one of the members of the family.  I am obsessed with “The Game of Thrones”.  Whether or not you are familiar with it, the stories in this series are really all about power -- Overthrowing or killing other rulers so that you might take their kingdom from them – that is “The Game of Thrones”.

Power is an interesting thing.  People will often do whatever they need to to gain power or to keep it.  I have heard of churches that have great problems because of power struggles between people.  Certainly we know that politics can often be a play for power.

I began thinking about power and its effects on people as I read the Gospel lesson for today.  Jesus has told His disciples that he “… will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise."

This is followed by the statement, “But (the disciples) did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him.”

But immediately following this it says that “…they came to Caper'na-um; and when (Jesus) was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’  But they were silent; for on the way they had discussed with one another who was the greatest.”

It bothered me that they were talking about who was the greatest among them.  Why were they doing that?  Then it struck me that there could be a corollary between the discussion about who is the greatest and the fact that Jesus had told them that we was going to die. 

The confusion that the lesson talks about the disciples having was not with the concept of death – they understood what death meant.  The confusion was about why Jesus was going to die or how he was going to die.  But they understood that Jesus had told them that He was going to die.

It was interesting to me to think about this corollary.  Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to die, and then they begin to talk about who is the greatest among them. 

Was this discussion about power?  Jesus is going to die, so who among their group is going to take over when He is gone?  Which one of them is the greatest?  Which one has the ability to carry on this ministry begun by Jesus?  Which one is going to have the most power?

Jesus is very fond of turning things on their head.  I sometimes think of Jesus as the “Prince of Paradox”.  He finds out about this discussion about who is greatest and then He turns things on their head:

“‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’  And (Jesus) took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’”

Jesus does not say, “Well I think that Peter has the best skill set to take over when I am gone.”  Jesus does not look at power the way we do.  Jesus lives the beatitudes that He teaches us –“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

For Jesus, those who seek to follow Him, and particularly those who want to lead others have different criteria which are not about power, but about servant hood, it is about serving the least of these.  It is not about serving ourselves.  It is not asking, “What is in this for me?”  It is not about asking, “Will this give me some benefit?”  It is about serving the least.

What a different world we would have if we all lived this way!  Our calling is to witness to this way of leadership.  I pray that we are up to the task.

“‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’  And (Jesus) took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’”  AMEN.