Message from Our Pastor
A fellow member, whom I did not personally know, came up to me one morning, while I was getting some orange juice, and asked if I knew the question of the day.
“No, I don’t.”
He proceeded to ask, “Do you know the name of your guardian angel?”
I promptly responded, “Yes. Michael.”
After a brief moment of surprise that I actually had an answer, he shared that his angel’s name was Sebastian, and we went our separate ways.
A few minutes later this same person showed up at the table as I was eating my breakfast. He asked my table mates the same questions: “Do you know the question of the day?” and “Do you know the name of your guardian angel?”
The breakfast gang was a little more taken aback by the queries. Our brother went on to explain that a former spiritual director had first posed this question to him years ago. When he didn’t know the answer, he decided to start asking. So, he prayed, asking about his guardian angel, until he felt the name, Sebastian, was given to him in answer.
I have to say there were some uncertain, and skeptical, glances passed around our table after our brother walked away. But something stuck with me from that encounter, and I’ve pondered it daily ever since. I’m not sure if these words were spoken out loud in the exchange, or if they just popped into my own head. Either way, they continue to challenge me: “You can’t know if you don’t ask.”
James and John are arrogant. Peter is bold, and sometimes, in his boldness, foolhardy. But James and John, the sons of Zebedee, the brothers of thunder, are just outright arrogant. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
There is not a single teacher in any of my 21 years, or four degrees, of schooling, I would go to and say, “Teacher, I want you to do for me whatever I ask of you.”
And, to ask the Son of God? Who were they kidding? Who did they think they were?
Perhaps, of course that was the problem. They didn’t think. Or, maybe they did.
You can’t know if you don’t ask. And, if you are going to ask, you might as well ask big. “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand, and one at your left, in your glory.” You’ve seen movies. You’ve read books. You know your Old Testament. In the days of kings and queens, and Pharaohs, the sovereigns are flanked by their most powerful leaders. Only those with the worthiness, indeed, only those who have a legitimate right to succeed the ruler, would even dare approach the level of the throne, let alone sit to it’s right or left. Earlier in the gospel, the disciples were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus put a stop to that feud saying, “ ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then taking a child and putting it among them, said, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ ”
Basically, James and John wanted Jesus to certify they were the best and greatest among the twelve, that should anything happen, James and John wanted Jesus to say, “These are my number one and two.” And, even more so, when things go according to plan, when Jesus is revealed to be the Messiah, sitting on his throne ruling over all (that’s what it means to be the Messiah in their minds), James and John want to be right there, watching everyone taking a knee, bowing at the very name of Jesus. They want to be able to say, “We knew him when. We knew all along.”
I read this text about James and John and I don’t just want to slap them along side of the head, I want to kick them in the seat of their pants for their arrogance. I too would be angry, if I were one of the other ten.
But I also believe that Jesus must have looked at James and John, and all of the disciples, and loved them before saying, “42You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”
Jesus says to be great, to be noble, to be at the head of the line, you must voluntarily give yourself to others. This is not the possessions you can sell. This is not the money you have saved up so you can give it away. This is the giving of your very self.
And what does it look like to be a servant of God’s children, or a slave of all. As always, we look to Jesus for the answer.
It looks like welcoming children, valuing people of all ages; it looks like feeding the hungry, eating with sinners; it looks like clothing the naked, washing the wounds of the sick; it looks like helping the homeless, inviting in the stranger; it looks like making room for the poor, washing the feet of your enemy; it looks like offering forgiveness when you would much rather curse; it looks like daring to love when you would rather hate.
The question today is: “what is our response?”
How will we, how do we, respond to Jesus’ words calling us to serve, not just our brothers and sisters in faith, but all who have been created in God’s image. How do we respond as individuals, and how do we respond as the church, the Body of Christ for the world today? Amen.