Pentecost 22 – Sunday, October 21, 2018

October 21, 2018  

Mark 10:35-45

Last Sunday my niece Tara gave a wonderful sermon on our call to follow Jesus. If you weren’t here to hear it I hope you take some time as I did, to watch and listen to her message online. And while you are at it, if you missed Mark Zellmer’s “temple talk” on stewardship… watch it online. His words were encouraging and hopeful.

Building on both messages, this morning I’m reflecting on the disciples James and John, and their desire for greatness.

To understand their desire, first we need to understand the longings of the Hebrew people as a whole—longings they had been living with for centuries. You see—God had made a promise to the Hebrew people. God promised them a new ruler, a Messiah, a leader who would be the King of kings and Lord of all. As the Hebrew people waited for this promise to be fulfilled, they dreamt of what it would mean for them to have such a leader. They dreamt of a leader who would free them from suffering; they dreamt of a leader who would liberate them from bondage.

James and John and the others who followed Jesus believed, as we do, that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise. They believed, as we do, that Jesus was the new Messiah, that Jesus was the King of kings and Lord of all. Believing as they did they expected that, at some point, Jesus would take his rightful place as the leader of  nation of people. They expected Jesus would have all power, all might, and they wanted to be right there with him, sharing his power and might.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King preached a sermon on this text, and in it he referred to James’ and John’s desire as “The Drum Major Instinct” (from sermon with same title). The Drum Major Instinct is a common human desire for greatness. King believed we all have this desire. In his sermon he took that desire for greatness, and gave it an interesting twist.

Rather than say “No, no, we shouldn’t want to be great, to lust for power” King said “Go for it.” He said (and I quote) “Don’t give up the instinct. It’s a good instinct if you use it right. It’s a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do” (King’s sermon).

As you answer God’s call to follow, as we as a congregation answer God’s call to follow, King’s words are vital:

I want you to be first in love.

I want you to be first in moral excellence.

I want you to be first in generosity.

God wants us to “Say Yes!”

How? How do we do these things? How do we “Say Yes!”?

Jesus provided the answer when he said to the disciples “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said “everybody can be great because everybody can serve” (his sermon cited above).

He’s correct. Everybody CAN serve.

Everybody CAN give. What we give is up to us, but we can do it.

Everybody CAN love humanity. Everybody CAN love the world. Everybody CAN allow love to guide their decision-making.

We CAN allow God’s love to inspire our giving.

Listening to Tara’s sermon from last week, hearing her say that she knew she could follow Jesus by becoming a minister because it is something she saw me do made me think about when I felt called to become a pastor.

I became a pastor because of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Forgive me if I have told you this before. When I was just about 10 years old King died. I saw that he had been shot. I knew in that moment, other people needed to continue to tell the world what he had been telling the world. I knew then—that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a pastor and share God’s word of love.

And so I said “Yes!”

After everything that has happened in my life and ministry, I continue to say “Yes!”

As do you. You are here because you have said “Yes!”

Saying “Yes!” is easy. We are saying “Yes!” to serve.

And as The Rev. Dr. King said “Everybody can serve.”

Amen.