Sermon for Trinity 21 – St John the Baptist Felixstowe
21st October 2018
Text: For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10v45)
They say ‘Gordon Bennett’ is a name you can swear by. Some Gordon’s however simply swear.
Gordon Ramsay is famous for…
Having a potty mouth
Turning around businesses
Being rather good at producing a plate of food
And using the word ‘Service!’ in such a way that customers sit to attention whilst eating.
Whether you agree with his methods or are offedned by his language he has learnt one lesson that the disciples of Jesus still have not learnt – Service is at the centre of success.
As we continue our journey through Mark’s Gosepl we find ourselves this week at the heart of it all.
Mark has an unusual shape. It begins after the birth of Jesus, starting the gospel with the encounter with John the Baptist and ends before the Resurrection, the woman at the tomb run away amazed and fearful without meeting the risen Lord.
There is no cute beginning in a stable, there is no triumphant proclaimation of the death of death. Instead, just about in the middle, as Jesus turns his face towards Jerusalem we find this manifesto, this is is Mark’s gospel in a verse:
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Mark10v45)
Mark paints a picutre of Jesus consistently putting others before Himself and calling those who would follow him to do likewise.
The disciples, we have seen in the past few weeks, consistently refuse to listen, attempt to thwart the call of their Master, and put stumbling blocks in the way of those who would come to Jesus to be served by Him.
And today James and John go one step further and ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ The other ten are just as culpable – there anger at the brothers seems founded in them being miffed that they didn’t think to ask Jesus first!
You can almost hear the minds of James and John ticking over.
‘If we follow him whereve he goes, if we give up everything we have, if we let anyone and everyone – even children and foreigners, lawbreakers and babies – come to Him, surely we will get a reward? After all sitting on His right and your left as “co-judges” in Paradise is not too much to ask surely?’
The disciples have not learnt a single thing since the Transfiguration a few chapters earlier have they?
Jesus’ response, to be honest is quite gentle. Perhaps He knew that they would come around in the end so Churchill-like makes the statement ‘I have nothing to offer but blood. toil, sweat, and tears’ For surely that is the consequence of his statement. ‘Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’
There is only one game in town, Service!
Sadly, down the centuries, despite frequent reformations and the incredible dedication of those we call the saints, the Church often forgets her Master’s lesson and ends up on the side of those in charge. It seems that is not only the Twelve who have not taken to heart the words of Jesus:
For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
So here are a few lessons in learning how to serve others?
1) There are no ‘others’: All people, the foreigners, the ones who get things wrong and especially ‘the little ones’ who have no voice of their own are our family. When we serve them we serve ourselves. Just as we would spend ourselves for those closest to us so the call of Christ is to serve those who are furthest from us as well. There is no ‘us and them’ only us.
2) Do not be like the Rulers: “lording it” over others should not be part of our vocabulary. In the Old Testament when the children of Israel rejected God as their King and wanted a king to be ‘like the other nations’ the propehet Samuel warned them that it would cost them dearly, and it did. Whenever we put ourselves in places of power and grab control we fail at the gospel.
3) Put others first: When one of us puts ourselves first, or even competes to be the first, we all lose. The rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis has this to say, ‘We are ready to accept the lowest place when asked, and to volunteer to take it.’ Be careful though, offering to help can easily become control masquerading as care.
4) Do not be surprised if being a servant hurts: after all Jesus did say, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized’. We need to become used to ‘stretching our hand out to feed others only to find it being biten.’ That’s what hunger and sin does to people. The only way we can solve this sickness is to not shrink from service and extend our bloodied hands to help again.
5) Finally this means we must be prepared to give everhtying away: borrowing some words from Luke’s gospel, ‘So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” (Luke 17.10). Slaves have no property of their own but belong to others and we out of thankfulness and joy, have willingly given ourselves to be bond-slaves of our Lord Jesus. To serve Him means to meet Him amongst the Least, the Last and the Lost.
Let me end with a parable:
Andrew and Philip, Penny and Elizabeth and Terry and all the people of the parish of Felixsotwe, came forward to Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him…
‘Make us to be slaves of everyone who lives in and works in, plays in and visits this parish’.
‘Make us show our love for you by being always loving and serving of everyone regardless of who they are.’
‘Make us to be “Open to God and Open to All”‘