Saturday, October 16, 2021

Ridiculous Request - Mark 10

Ridiculous Request

Tony E Dillon Hansen

Sermon based upon Mark 10:35-45, Psalm 104, and Isaiah 53:4-12

Opening Prayer

Let us put some context to today’s reading.  We skip over a section of Mark 10 where Jesus again tells the path of the Messiah is not one of wealth and power but one that must endure a brutal and violent end. They are headed to Jerusalem - closer to that end. For a third time, Jesus describes what he will endure and that ought to put pause in many hearts.  

Why would Jesus do this? Why would Jesus say these things? What does that say about me as a follower?

That is a good question.

It is then that James and John make this request of Jesus to set them above the others at the right and left hand of Jesus.  Now Jesus just told you (reminded you) that his death was going to be quite vicious, but your first inclination is to request privilege.

Over my lifetime, I have observed many times when people make ridiculous requests.  Why would you go to a coffee shop and ask for a smoothie?  (Until Starbucks makes them).

In restaurants, I hear people get annoyed by specific dietary needs like no gluten or no nuts until you see a person with the allergic reaction that requires a hospital. 

Some get annoyed with black and brown people arguing over use of language and privilege like it is made-up construct.  Maybe, those black and brown people are tired of having to endure the continuous white privilege that has lorded over them for generations. Maybe instead, they are worthy of the same love, grace, benefits and access as white people.

A ridiculous request is diluting “black lives matter” with “all lives matter.” That is saying color doesn’t matter when it clearly does all while refusing to acknowledge more must be done.

Jesus flips this political request on them.  Jesus warns them that politics, titles and privileges of a broken world lead to tyrants when people “lord it over them.” We know this to be true because power corrupts and power erodes well-intentioned hearts into people willing to do anything to keep power. 

Power is addictive and tempting.  Power and privilege can lead to blindness of others because they refuse to see worth, dignity or a child of God. Culture, language, wealth and status can keep us from seeing worth of people but instead seeing people as obstacles, problems and annoyances.

This is the truth that Jesus preaches. That preaching is powerfully revolutionary for then - in the midst of a cruel Roman occupation that lords over them. Why will Jesus death be brutal - because power wants to make examples of defiance. Thus, Jesus’s death was a savage murder intended to silence these challenges to political structures and ideas. Jesus was a protester. This reminds us today to really challenge the TV talking heads or other folks casting privilege, expectation and power.

This is a challenge to our discipleship that is not about status in a broken world or some other false narrative but instead a call to a life of service because as we heard before “for many, the first will be last and the last will be first.”

Service is, as Stephen Colbert once wrote, “love made visible” because we serve what we love. If we love friends, we serve friends. If you love community, you serve community. If you love money or self, you serve money or self. Life isn’t about winning a zero-sum game but loving.  Loving others and serving others and perhaps finding others to serve together. 

So let go of privilege and pretense of this world. then, see a whole world that is made for us and with us.  When we drop our judgments and practice service, we find immeasurable grace.  It rewards us in so many ways and cannot be fully appreciated unless you allow yourself to experience it.

A life of service is not a detention or repression of hearts and minds, but Jesus’s life of service starts with a willing heart and mind to see worth in people - rooted in the command to love. That helps us observe that there is grace in our neighbors whether they have money or not, good health, clean clothes, same race as me, same country, or who they love.

That is actually seeing people on the street with the signs.  I may not have cash handy, but I might be able to provide them with a meal, water, scarf, hat, gloves or other needs.  Why because how close have been to being where they are and how close I could be? No, because they too are a child of God and I get others to help.

We can find time in our schedules for people suffering because we know suffering ourselves.  We can walk with people marching for equality and fairness because it is what Jesus did. Then, we might understand that black lives do matter.  

Thus, we don’t have to worry about reputation and wealth as measures of broken beings.  We can witness and experience the love of God in our hearts and in the people around us because we serve and love people, whoever they are and wherever they are on their own journeys.

Beloved, you won’t be making ridiculous requests but living with people and living with God -  instead of in spite of people.

Thus, live your life of service not judging, not expecting and not jealous but experiencing the love that is service. There you will find the kingdom and the whole world that Jesus promises -right here for you. 

Thanks Be to God.

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