Pentecost 22 – James and John

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Title:Pentecost 22 – James and John

 Pentecost 22, Year B, Oct. 21, 2018 (full size gallery)

This past week was busy on Wednesday with Bible Study and the Village Harvest and then on Thursday Catherine’s presentation of “An Afternoon in Guatemala”. During those days Catherine captured some beautiful late afternoon photos of the church.

Sunday was cool with a front coming through and a steady wind. Sunday had bright sunshine but it was in and out. We had 43 at church with several young families and guests.

Catherine brought here lei from Molokai, Hawaii which was mailed to her after visiting the Episcopal Church. Molokai was once a leper colony. She did a sermon about 3 years ago on Father Damien worked to improve conditions on the island and cared for the orphans he encountered, created a building program and taught those well enough how to farm.

The sermon on Oct. 21 focused on the psalm, Psalm 91. (All the readings are here)

From Psalm 91 – “Because he is bound to me in love, Therefore, I will deliver him. I will protect him, Because he knows my name.”

“Jesus knew God by name. Remember how Jesus taught the disciples to pray, to begin by calling God not the Almighty and Transcendent Creator God, Ruler of All Things, or the Great and mysterious I AM, but instead Father, Abba, as a little child would petition his or her father. Abba, Daddy, Papa, Padre, the person the child knows and loves intimately and specially.

“Jesus wants us to know God that intimately, as the One who gives us life itself and provides for us; the One who would have us rest, nestled in as a nursing child rests safe and protected in its mother’s encircling arms—the child and the parent bound together in love…”

“Every Sunday, Jesus invites us to his table, for the intimate privilege of drinking from his cup. In this cup Jesus shares with us not only the joy of salvation, but also the woes of the world.

“As we take his cup and drink in the joy of salvation, we also receive the intimate knowledge that Jesus has of the deep sorrows that threaten destruction.

“So in gratitude for being bound to God in love, we find ourselves facing into the sorrows of this earth.

“Having shared the cup that Jesus has offered, we find that we too have a deep and earnest desire to be the servants that God hopes for us to be in this world—servants who know God’s name, servants who will be a source of rescue, protection and deliverance for those who need God’s help the most.

“God says, “Because you are bound to me in love, I will deliver you, I will protect you, because you know my Name. I will answer you, be with you in trouble, I will rescue you and bring you to honor. I will satisfy you with a long life and show you my salvation.”

“When you drink from the cup today, remember. Remember God’s name—Father, Abba, Daddy, Papa, loving parent.

“And remember that because we know God’s name, we are bound to God in love, and we are bound to one another so intimately that together we make up Christ’s servant body here on earth. ”

Today’s readings confront us with the reality that the call to discipleship means service and sacrifice. In Isaiah , the “suffering servant” of Israel, though innocent, takes on the sin, sorrow, pain and oppression of God’s people. According to Hebrews, Jesus, the full embodiment of the “suffering servant,” identifies with humanity and offers himself as final high priest and ultimate sacrifice. In the gospel, Jesus reverses our understanding of greatness: those who would lead must serve.

In the Isaiah reading, Isaiah 53:4-12, the servant’s role as representative is made clear. What was ours (infirmities, diseases, transgressions, iniquities) was made his, though he was righteous.

Disaster and affliction was thought to be evidence of God’s judgment on an individual’s wickedness. Yet the life and death of the servant was in God’s hands, and his experiences were a part of God’s plan. Ultimately the righteousness of the servant will be made clear.

Psalm 91:9-16 is a wisdom psalm; that is, a psalm of torah, of instruction. It is a meditation upon God as the protector of the faithful from both human and demonic foes. Against this fear is set the belief in guardian angels (vv. 11-12), but the emphasis is on abiding in God, dwelling in God’s presence. God is a protective shelter (v. 1), a refreshing shadow (or shade, as from the scorching desert sun), a refuge and fortress from all destructive forces (v. 2), and a secure habitation (vv. 9-10). Those who so abide are securely protected from disaster (vv. 14-16).

In Hebrews 5:1-10, the author demonstrates Jesus’ superiority to angels, the messengers of the law. Then he discussed Jesus’ superiority to Moses, the greatest Jewish leader and prophet. In chapter 4, the author begins his discussion of Jesus’ superiority to the Jewish high priest.

Priests came from the tribe of Levi. The high priests were descendants of Aaron, who was appointed by God. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, but as the quotation from Psalm 2:7 demonstrates (5:5), he was also chosen by God, not self-appointed. His priesthood transcends the Levitical priesthood because it is modeled on that of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), whom the author later demonstrates as being superior to Abraham (7:1-10) and thus to Abraham’s descendant Levi and the Levitical priests.

Jesus sacrifice is superior because he did not have to offer sacrifice for himself as well as for his people. His unique role as the final high priest was made clear through his suffering and his choice of obedience to God’s will. Entering completely into the human condition, Jesus is able to fully represent human need with perfect sympathy.

Te Gospel reading, Mark 10:35-45 consists of two parts: the story about who would be greatest in the kingdom and Jesus’ teaching about greatness and power. Jesus’ answer to James and John draws upon the Old Testament image—”drinking the cup”—for participating in joy or woe, including the cup of the Lord’s wrath (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17) and the baptism (‘washing, flood’) of calamity (Psalm 42:7; 69:1).

Jesus uses the occasion to expand on his earlier teaching (9:35), in which he reverses the natural order of hierarchy and power. The Gentiles honored the rulers and “great ones.” Within the Church, however, the most humble slave was to be most highly regarded. Jesus’ own example sanctified the lowly and humble role of discipleship. Like him, the truly great person in the kingdom is the one who pours out his or her life in the service of others.

Verse 45 refers explicitly to Isaiah 53:10-12. The “ransom” is literally a payment for the liberation of a slave or hostage. Jesus assumes all of the implications of the figure of the suffering servant in the Old Testament.

David Lose writes this week about James and John. “Perhaps the greatest irony of this story.. to be insecure, to be tempted again and again not to trust but to fear, to put our confidence not in God but in our own abilities, to look out not for neighbor but for ourselves.”

The positives – When they rely on themselves, they are a sorry lot: self-seeking, argumentative, downright stupid. Yet Jesus can see beyond all that and can assure them of fellowship with himself. How? Perhaps he sees them as they would become, filled with the Spirit after Pentecost: transformed into courageous witnesses whose dreams of greatness had been replaced by the humble goal of serving the Lord they love.

Lose points out the ironies of this passage:

“First, and lest we forget the verses just before these, James and John make their secret request to Jesus for greatness just after his third – and most graphic – declaration that he will go to Jerusalem where, among other things, the religious authorities will “mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him.” Just what kind of glory are you thinking he’ll be giving you, James and John?

“Second, two will indeed be seated at Jesus’ right and left in just another week or two. Well, they won’t exactly be seated, but instead will hanged, crucified with Jesus, “one on his right and one on his left.” They are the two thieves, of course, hanging in the place James and John longed to be, except James and John never would have longed for that. Are you sure you want to be on Jesus’ right and left?

“Third, Jesus doesn’t want the cup that he is to drink, but James and John do. Again, because they have no idea what they are asking. Jesus will share a meal, including a cup of blessing, with his disciples soon. And then will come the other cup, the one he doesn’t want, when he is not only hanged but offered wine while he hangs on the cross. Is this the cup you want to drink, fellas?

“Fourth, the first time Jesus was baptized he was immersed in water and then driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. In the second baptism, he will be immersed fully into our human condition, even to death, and so be driven to the extreme of what it means to be human. Again, James and John have no idea what he is saying or they are requesting. Drowned in death, really guys, are you sure you want this?”