The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

Readings – Job 38: 1-7, 34-41; Psalm 104: 1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5: 1-10; Mark 10:35-45

As you may know, I enjoy watching sports, as many of you do, too.  I especially enjoy watching in person soccer, baseball, and basketball.  It is very exciting when points are put up on the board by our grandson or granddaughters.  And sometimes they do a little celebration on the field.  An old coach of mine used to say, enjoy the moment, and get back in the game, act like you’ve done it before, and will expect to do it again.  As I watch on TV, I think some celebrations are getting out of control, players posing for the cameras.  Some teams even have scripted routines.  In my day we used to call those celebrations, “showboating”; we used to call it “grandstanding”.  If done by the opposing team, it was fuel for our team to play better.

In today’s Gospel reading, James and John, sons of Zebedee, fisherman of Galilee, approached Jesus and asked him to place them in the spotlight; they want to be on his right and on his left in his glory.  They want to be celebrated; they want to be honored; they want to be recognized by all as the favored ones. 

Jesus might have responded in a way similar to God’s addressing Job in our first reading—

       Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements? Who laid its cornerstone?                                   

Instead, Jesus asked them about baptism, could they drink the cup he drank, could they be baptized with the same baptism he was.  Jesus shared with them the key to a life of faith, how one becomes “great” among the people of God—                    

whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

Jesus then goes even deeper, speaking of himself as the Son of Man–for the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

To live into the glory of God, the glory that James and John were seeking, is to serve.  They wanted the power; they wanted the prestige; they wanted the recognition.  The path for James and John that Jesus outlined is the baptism into service, to be “slave of all”, giving one’s life as a “ransom” for others.

The same path Jesus pointed to for James and John, he points to us as well.  We all have been baptized to serve others.  James and John wanted the glory, and they wanted to sit at his right and at his left.  Jesus said not so with the Kingdom of God.  No sitting in glory, rather acting in service of others is needed. 

Sometimes when the tradition is infant baptism, we lose the impact that adult baptism provides.  We are baptized into service. Parents and Godparents pledge to raise the child into service of others for the Kingdom of God, whether it be as a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker. 

In our day and age, many people are searching for God.  Jesus made it clear that God is to be found in the service of others.  That’s where Jesus is to be found, and in serving others we are serving beside him, pouring out our lives as a ransom for many.  That is where the glory is to be found as we partner, as we enter the yoke of service side by side with Jesus. 

In many ancient cathedrals, there appears the stained-glass image of a pelican, piercing her own chest with her pointed beak.  Flowing from her punctured chest is her life’s blood.  Sometimes the art depicts her young at her feet.  She is giving her life’s blood for the next generation.  The pelican is a model of self-giving love for the future. 

We have been baptized into the servanthood of Jesus and into the Kingdom of God. 

We have been called to partner with Jesus in serving others. 

It is in serving that we will find Jesus serving beside us.

It is serving that we will discover the glory of God’s Kingdom that James and John sought. 

As we pour out our lives in serving others we will receive glory, and we will receive eternal life here and, in the world, to come. 


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