Oct. 17, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth. Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom, and make us desire always and only your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.Amen

Job 38:1-7 [34-41]

1The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3Gird up your loins like a man,
  I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
  Tell me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
  Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk,
  or who laid its cornerstone
7when the morning stars sang together
  and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

34“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
  so that a flood of waters may cover you?
35Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
  and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
  or given understanding to the mind?
37Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
  Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
38when the dust runs into a mass
  and the clods cling together?

39“Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
  or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40when they crouch in their dens,
  or lie in wait in their covert?
41Who provides for the raven its prey,
  when its young ones cry to God,
  and wander about for lack of food?”

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35b

1Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, you are | very great!
  You are clothed with majes- | ty and splendor.
2You wrap yourself with light as | with a cloak
  and stretch out the heavens | like a tent.
3You lay the beams of your chambers in the wa- | ters above;
  you make the clouds your chariot; you ride on the wings | of the wind.
4You make the | winds your messengers
  and flames of | fire your servants. 
5You set the earth upon | its foundations,
  so that from now until forever it shall nev- | er be moved.
6You covered it with the deep as | with a garment;
  the waters stood a- | bove the mountains. 
7At your rebuke the | waters fled,
  scattered by your | voice of thunder.
8They went up into the mountains and descended down | to the valleys,
  to the place where | you assigned them.
9You set the limits that they | should not pass;
  never shall they return to cover the | earth again.
24How manifold are your | works, O Lord!
  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full | of your creatures.
35bBless the Lord, | O my soul.
  Hal- | lelujah! 

Hebrews 5:1-10

1Every 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. 2He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
  5So 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”;
6as he says also in another place, 
 “You are a priest forever,
  according to the order of Melchizedek.”
  7In 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. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James 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.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But 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?” 39They 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; 40but 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.”
  41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So 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. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Sermon – Meggan Manlove

It is easy to be hard on James and John in this morning’s scripture passage. Jesus has just predicted his death for the third time, the most detailed description, and they ask about being seated at his right and left hand, in Jesus’ glory. What are they thinking?

The truth is that this is not strange behavior, even or maybe especially for revolutionaries. Remember, that’s what they believe they are witnessing–a revolution, a change in power, and they are not completely wrong. It’s just that Jesus’ way of turning the world upside down is not what they anticipate, even when he has just spelled it out for them.

Consider those jockeying for power shortly after this country’s revolution. If you have seen Hamiltonon stage or on the screen, picture everyone in the first act. They may have their differences, but they are all so passionate about the revolution, being finished as colonies and continuing the American experiment. Act One ends with Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr both on stage singing to their newborn babies: “You will come of age with our young nation. We’ll bleed and fight for you. We’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation. We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you.” There seems to be so much unity.

Alas, Act Two is all about Hamilton, Burr, and Thomas Jefferson jockeying for power. There is palpable tension between their love for the new nation, the vision for what could be, and who is going to leave the greatest legacy, or as the song goes, “who’s gonna be in the room where it happens.”

We could think it’s just revolutionaries like James and John and the Founding Fathers who get caught up in the desire for glory. On careful reflection, this passage hits a little close to home. I remember the first year Trinity New Hope affordable housing participated in the Avenues for Hope campaign, a state-wide online fundraiser for nonprofits involved in housing and homelessness. Prize money is given to organizations who have the most dollars or most unique donors statewide and by region. 

There were a few days towards the end of that first campaign that Trinity New Hope was neck and neck with a nonprofit from Boise, for third place in our region. Getting third would have meant another $1000. I got just a little obsessed with the glory of third price. I finally laid back on my pillow and decided it was ridiculous. We were all working to impact housing and homelessness after all! It was a strong reminder of the allure of glory.

James and John are not the only disciples enticed by visions of their own glory or of a triumphant reign. The other ten disciples fume over the brothers’ bid to be the most prominent. Jesus corrects their vision by holding up the conventions of the Roman Empire’s political authorities as negative examples. They regularly “overpower” and “tyrannize” others. They rely on coercion and control to maintain their dominance.  

Earlier in Mark we read the story of John the Baptizer’s death. In John’s case, the authorities’ self-interest, and self-protection trump justice to ensure John’s death. Jesus’ trial will display a similar kind of strong-armed political theater.

In absolute contrast, greatness among Jesus’ followers is measured by their ability to live as servants. That life will probably also include suffering oppression at the hands of those who wield power. Jesus will embody weakness in his trial and death. He will affirm the promise of his glorification and at the same time relinquish the power to prevail over others.

Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus’ death will be an example for such a way of living. His death will exemplify a radical rejection of authority and privilege. What makes the rejection so radical is the identity of the one who does it. It is Jesus, God’s own uniquely authorized agent.

 Consider all that that one word means—ransom.  Jesus’ mention of a “ransom” means that his death will be more than just an inspiring example or a martyr’s tragic protest against an unjust system. The word suggests that his death does something; it secures a release. “Ransom” does not mean a specific type of payment, as this passage has often been interpreted.

Jesus is talking with his disciples about power and servanthood. A ransom is a liberation created by divine strength, not by payment. Jesus declares that God, through Jesus’ death, will free people from oppression and captivity to another power. How this happens is a bit of a mystery, but the liberation is no less real.

Discipleship will finally mean more trouble, not less. Following Jesus is likely to be disruptive. True discipleship is characterized by a costly pouring out of one’s life for another. It may be an aging parent, a difficult spouse, a special child, another member of the Christian fellowship who has unusual needs, or any person whose situation calls for neighborly service at personal cost. Jesus came to serve and to give his life. His followers are also called to servanthood.

There are disciples all through the Christian family album, past and present. As archbishop in San Salvador in the 1970s, Oscar Romero spoke out against social injustice and violence amid the escalating conflict between the military government and the insurgents that led to the Salvadoran Civil War. He was again and again the voice advocating for the poor, those caught between the violence. 

In 1980, Romero was shot by an assassin while celebrating mass. This made him a martyr, but Romero would have been the first to profess that he was not the or any messiah. Jesus was the one and only savior. It was only Jesus, the son of God, whose death could do something–provide liberation.

This notion is crystalized in words often attributed to Romero, “We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

This afternoon, some of us are participating in the Crop Hunger Walk in Caldwell. Every October, we remember the workers or ministers who left us this legacy. Have you ever wondered what that CROP in CROP Walk stands for? 

CROP began in 1947 under the wing of Church World Services. CROP was an acronym for the Christian Rural Overseas Program. Its primary mission was to help Midwest farm families share their grain with hungry neighbors in post-World War II Europe and Asia.

On October 17, 1969, a thousand people in Bismark, North Dakota, walked in what may have been the first-ever CROP Hunger Walk. They raised $25,000 to help stop hunger. Several other CROP Hunger Walks occurred soon after. Before long, there were hundreds of Walks each year in communities across the United States.

Today, 25% of the funds raised stay in each Walk’s community. The other funds help provide food and water and resources that empower people to meet their own needs—seeds, tools, wells and water systems, technical training, and micro-enterprise loans. In sum, this afternoon we continue a legacy born out of the compassion of Midwest farmers who knew they had been blessed.  

They had made it through the Great Depression. They had surely rationed food so that soldiers overseas would have enough to eat. Coming out the other side of both the Depression and the war, they decided to share their abundance with hungry people across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They were prophets of a future not their own.

I think they had some idea of the reign of God Jesus Christ wanted to usher in.  They glimpsed a different kind of glory—self-sacrifice and unconditional love, even for those who they had never met in person. I doubt they were glorified by society then. Surely they would not be today.

Might we be inspired by those farmers, committing their grain to hungry people across the globe.  In every generation, in every place, discipleship takes on new specific forms.  

For us, as in past generations, it will mean a change in our worldview and the values ingrained in us. But we contemporary followers of Jesus hear the same call, and the same offer, that our ancestors did long ago. We are set free from the powers of this world by a God who lay in a manger and died on a cross. We trust the promise that we will never walk alone.

Prayers of Intercession (from Sundays and Seasons)

Set free from sin and death and nourished by the word of truth, we join in prayer for all of God’s creation.

A brief silence.Holy One, for the gift of the church handed down through the ages and for all who carry on the servant ministry of Jesus, we praise you. Send your Holy Spirit upon all who are discerning calls to ministry in its many forms and equip them with your gifts. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Creating One, for the lush and abundant habitat you provide for all your creatures, we praise you. Provide healing for the earth so that waterfowl, reptiles, wild horses, dolphins, and all living things flourish as you intend. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Suffering One, for all who work toward peace and who lead nations with a servant’s heart, we praise you. Bring justice for all who suffer violence, persecution, discrimination, hunger, poverty, and homelessness, and create places of refuge for all people. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Merciful One, for all who do the work of healing in mind, body, and spirit, we praise you. Surround and comfort all who struggle with depression, anxiety, cancer, diabetes, dementia, or any illness (especially), that all may be healed. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Sustaining One, for all who volunteer for the vitality of this congregation, we praise you. Strengthen and encourage greeters, ushers, office volunteers, bakers, counters, committee and group leaders, teachers, students, evangelists, singers, builders, nurturers, and all who serve with generous hearts. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.Risen One, we thank you for those who have shaped your church and shared your gospel. Through the witness of your saints (especially Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch), continue to inspire us with hope until we all are gathered at your eternal feast. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Confident that you hear us, O God, we boldly place our prayers into your hands; through Jesus Christ, our truth and life.Amen.

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