Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Today’s gospel starts with disciples obsessing over who will be closest to Jesus, leading to Jesus teaching his followers about God’s take on importance and power. Here Jesus makes it explicit that the reversal of values in God’s community is a direct challenge to the values of the dominant culture, where wielding power over others is what makes you great. When we pray “your kingdom come” we are praying for an end to tyranny and oppression. We pray this gathered around the cross, a sign of great shame transformed to be the sign of great honor and service.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
whose teaching is life,
whose presence is sure,
and whose love is endless.
Let us confess our sins to the one who welcomes us with an open heart.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God our comforter:
like lost sheep, we have gone astray.
We gaze upon abundance and see scarcity.
We turn our faces away from injustice and oppression.
We exploit the earth with our apathy and greed.
Free us from our sin, gracious God.
Listen when we call out to you for help.
Lead us by your love to love our neighbors as ourselves.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
By the gift of grace in ☩ Christ Jesus, God makes you righteous.
Receive with glad hearts the forgiveness of all your sins.
Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth. Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom, and make us desire always and only your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Isaiah 53:4-12
This reading is from the last of four passages in Isaiah that are often called “servant songs.” Christians are probably most familiar with this servant song. In light of Christian faith, the servant’s healing ministry and redemptive suffering are understood to be fulfilled in the life and death of Christ.
4Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
9They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
11Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Psalm: Psalm 91:9-16
You have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation. (Ps. 91:9)
9Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
and the Most High your habitation,
10no evil will befall you,
nor shall affliction come near your dwelling.
11For God will give the angels charge over you,
to guard you in all your ways.
12Upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13You will tread upon the lion cub and viper;
you will trample down the lion and the serpent.
14I will deliver those who cling to me;
I will uphold them, because they know my name.
15They will call me, and I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and honor them.
16With long life will I satisfy them,
and show them my salvation.
Second Reading: Hebrews 5:1-10
Using imagery from scripture and from Jewish worship practices, Jesus is presented as the great high priest who was obedient to God’s saving plan. Through his suffering and death he has become the source of eternal salvation.
1Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; 3and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. 4And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
5So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
6as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
Alleluia. The Son of Man came not to be served | but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Alleluia. (Mark 10:45)
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
On the way to Jerusalem the disciples ask Jesus to grant them seats of honor. Jesus responds by announcing that he and his followers will “rule” through self-giving service.
32They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, “You 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. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
James and John start the Gospel by trying to paint Jesus into a corner. They want Him to do anything they ask. It’s like they want Him to make a blind promise to subvert His will to theirs. Seems more than a bit arrogant to me. Then when they reveal what they want from Him, to sit on His right and left side when He comes into His Glory, not only are they being presumptuous, they’re showing that they really don’t understand what they are asking. If things play out the way they are thinking, Christ will be receiving some kind of earthly throne and they will be His top lieutenants. In their minds, it seems, that they’ve already done whatever is necessary to justify such a position. And when Christ tells them that they have no idea what they are asking, He asks if they are able to drink from the cup that He will, or to be baptized with the same baptism as Him. They say that they are, but Christ still thinks they don’t know what they are talking about. It seems to me that James and John are attempting the ultimate overreach, for a human.
Jesus has told them and the rest of His disciples more than once that He is going to Jerusalem to suffer and die a terrible death. This is the cup that He will drink and the baptism He will receive. I think it is rather ironic that, as Jesus is coming into His Glory, as He is dying on the Cross, the positions that James and John covet are granted to two criminals. One on Christ’s left and one on His right.
In the second part of the Gospel, when the other disciples learn of James’ and John’s request, they aren’t very happy with them to be sure. After all, hadn’t they done the same things as James and John? If James and John are entitled to such a position, aren’t they as well? But rather than reassuring them that they are, Jesus calls them to a life of service to others. “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” Christ, of course, set the perfect example for them in the giving of His life for all of humanity. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Humility is a difficult state to achieve, but I think that’s what today’s reading is all about. Some people spend their entire life bragging about their achievements and how great they are. Others spend a great deal of time trying to feign an attitude of humility but are still going about pointing out all of the kind and charitable things they are doing saying “but it’s no big deal”. I’ve heard this referred to as humble bragging. True humility, however, comes when we give of ourselves without calling any attention to it at all. It reminds me of the passage where Christ is telling us to give alms in secret and reassuring us that our Father in Heaven, who sees all our secrets, will remember and repay us.
Pride has long been recognized as one of the seven deadly sins. It seems these days that pride has been turned into a virtue. Pride and arrogance are conspicuous among the rich, the powerful, the successful, the famous, and celebrities of all sorts, and even some religious leaders. And it is also alive and well in ordinary people, including each of us. Yet few of us realize how dangerous it is to our souls and how greatly it hinders our intimacy with God and love for others. I think pride was also part of the problem for the rich man in the reading the other week. He was proud of how fastidiously he had kept the law and of all the wealth he had accumulated. This got in the way of him being closer to Jesus.
Pride was on full display when I worked in the prison. Some of the inmates, who you would think would have very little to brag about, given their circumstances, often held themselves up as being the best, or the toughest person in the cell block. I remember one guy who had a picture of himself sitting on a shelf in a frame which proclaimed that he was Cleveland’s favorite son. One day he got out of prison. He returned within a few months and I asked him what had happened. He told me that he stole from another man so he could take care of his family, despite the fact that his mother ran a lucrative business and could have helped him, because “a real man doesn’t ask for help”. His pride had certainly done a nasty trick to him. Instead of humbly admitting that he needed help, or going out and finding honest work, he took the property of another person which they may have needed for their family. I’ve heard it said that pride is our greatest enemy and humility is our greatest friend (John R. W. Stott). That certainly seems to be the case with this individual.
I’d make the argument that pride is the worst of the sins. Pride led to Lucifer’s fall. It was also pride that lead Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. They wanted to be like God. Pride has done things as big as starting wars and as personal as causing one man to kill another, such as in the story of Cain and Abel. It can even cause families to break apart when one of the partners refuses to admit that they were wrong and humbly ask for forgiveness. Christ calls us all to choose a different way. He calls us to be a servant to those around us.
Prayers of Intercession
Set free from sin and death and nourished by the word of truth, we join in prayer for all of God’s creation.
A brief silence.
Holy One, for the gift of the church handed down through the ages and for all who carry on the servant ministry of Jesus, we praise you. Send your Holy Spirit upon all who are discerning calls to ministry in its many forms and equip them with your gifts. Bless Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor, that they may continue in their service to us & You. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Creating One, for the lush and abundant habitat you provide for all your creatures, we praise you. Provide healing for the earth so that waterfowl, reptiles, wild horses, dolphins, and all living things flourish as you intend. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Suffering One, for all who work toward peace and who lead nations with a servant’s heart, we praise you. Bring justice for all who suffer violence, persecution, discrimination, hunger, poverty, and homelessness, and create places of refuge for all people. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Merciful One, for all who do the work of healing in mind, body, and spirit, we praise you. Surround and comfort all who struggle with depression, anxiety, cancer, diabetes, dementia, or any illness especially those on our prayer list, that all may be healed. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Sustaining One, for all who volunteer for the vitality of this congregation, we praise you. Strengthen and encourage greeters, ushers, office volunteers, bakers, counters, committee and group leaders, teachers, students, evangelists, singers, builders, nurturers, and all who serve with generous hearts. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Risen One, we thank you for those who have shaped your church and shared your gospel. Through the witness of your saints, continue to inspire us with hope until we all are gathered at your eternal feast. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Confident that you hear us, O God, we boldly place our prayers into your hands; through Jesus Christ, our truth and life.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
People of God,
you are Christ’s body,
bringing new life to a suffering world.
The holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
bless you now and forever.
Go in peace. The living Word dwells in you.
Thanks be to God.