Time after Pentecost Mark 10:35-45 October 17, 2021

A Broom to Clean the Church

I have a son. He’s 19. Since he was young, he has always been involved in sports. He’s played baseball, basketball with his schools and travel team, ran cross-country and track. He excelled in each of these sports and was well-liked by his coaches and fellow players. While he no longer plays any of those sports, he is now a freshman at UNC-Charlotte where he was accepted into the School of Architecture.

As a mom, you can imagine how proud I am of him for all of his accomplishments. And as we all know, social media is a platform to showcase those accomplishments. So, throughout all these years, I have posted things about his ballgames, his cross country runs, Honor Roll, his service in the church (acolyte, crucifer, assisting minister, youth, confirmation), birthdays, graduations, his acceptance letter into college. You name it and I have probably posted about it.

When he was younger, he did not think anything about me posting stuff on Facebook or Instagram. However, as he got older, he would come to me and ask me not to post something. I did not think much about it and would post it anyway.

Well, one of our biggest arguments about this was during his Senior year. It wasn’t about Facebook or Instagram this time. The school was selling those yard signs that you see in people’s yards about such and such, class of 2021, and so on. Well, one of the parents on the basketball team has a photography business and was making a sign for each Senior so I purchased one.  I brought it home and proudly placed it in my front yard. When I got home from work the next day, the sign was gone. I thought surely someone did not steal my sign. I came in the house and told my son and he told me he had taken it. I asked why and he said he didn’t like the picture.

Well, I took the sign and told him not to remove it again. I placed the sign back in the yard. The next day I came home and the sign was gone again. I came storming in the house and confronted my son. He had taken it again. I proceeded to tell him that I had purchased that sign, it was mine and I wanted it in the yard. I was perplexed as to why because all I wanted to do was show my friends and family how proud I was. My feelings were really hurt and my words expressed my anger at him. After things calmed down, we sat down and talked. That’s when he told me that he felt by having that sign in the yard it was sort of like he was bragging. He felt like he was saying to everyone that passed by “Look at me. See what I can do.” I didn’t see it that way, but he did.

 

And I think the world could perceive many of the churches today as just that as well, bragging. Look at how many members we have. Look at this great big building we built. Look what we did. Look, look, look. But what exactly do we want people to “look at” when it comes to the church? Do we really what them to see all that we have or all that we can do in this broken world?

Do we really know what it means to be like Christ?

Well, I don’t think James and John really knew what that meant either. I don’t think they knew what they were asking. I know Jesus had to get frustrated with his disciples. They had followed him almost to the end of his ministry here and still they don’t get it. They are asking for places of power and authority. After all, today’s scripture tells us that when the other disciples heard what James and John had asked for they became angry with them. They began to fight about status amongst themselves.

And even in the church, there are many things that we argue over. The type of music that is used during the worship service, the way we use money, the length of time we have a worship service, etc. And as followers of Christ, we can have that same mindset as the disciples. We are looking to “get something” out of the church for all that we have done for the church. Some kind of recognition.  I serve on this committee; I am a member of church council; I teach Sunday school; I have given x amount of dollars and the list can go on and on.

Have you ever watched little children, like kindergarten age, when they are told to line up? They come running as fast as they can to be the first in line sometimes shoving others out of their way without even knowing what they are lining up for. It doesn’t matter; they just want to be first. And you may hear them arguing, I was here first but so and so broke in front of me.

And that’s kind of like what the disciples were doing. They were running to Jesus trying to be first in the line. Now I am not saying what the disciples were doing was necessarily wrong. I mean we have all done it at some time in our lives. But, instead, it shows how power and prestige is a temptation even for good people.

While I did not post stuff or place that sign to “brag”, it could have been perceived like that by some. Look at my son, look at what he has done. And, essentially, the disciples were kind of doing the same thing with their bickering.  Jesus look at me, look what we have done. We should be the first ones in line. We should be the ones to sit beside you.

But Jesus sits down with them and tells them be careful what you ask for. Do you really want to be on my right or my left? Do you know what that looks like?

Their bickering about who should sit where was a foreshadowing of what was to come. We have to remember that Jesus was not just on a journey across the lands. He was on a journey to death on a cross. There were two people besides Jesus – the thieves that hung on their crosses at the time of the crucifixion. One on the left and one on the right.

The disciples had followed Jesus and proclaimed the Good News to nations and yet still did not know what they were really asking. He has to explain to them again and again this is not about you!

One of the oldest and simplest truths is Jesus came to serve not to be served.  Here is Jesus – the Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent God incarnate and instead of having others bow down and worship him, he bows and washes their feet, he serves them supper, he prays for them and showers love upon them. And in the end, he performs the greatest act of service – by giving himself so that others may have eternal life.

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:

“I urge you, then – I who am a prisoner because I serve the Lord; live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called you. Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you…Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given.

…It was he who “gave gifts”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.”

We all have unique gifts, skills and abilities that we perform every day but none of those things show your obedience to the greatest commandments of loving God and others. The primary way others will acknowledge your relationship with the Lord and the established priorities in your faith walk is through your humble service.

Humbled service means I can perform some of the menial tasks others may not want to do. Humble service means I don’t care who sees me washing the walls, sweeping the floor, taking out someone else’s trash or doing the small things and even sometimes the unpleasant things. Our focus must not be placed on other’s opinions or our inward appeal for importance, but our love for Almighty God.

While I was preparing this sermon, I read a story about St. Francis of Assisi. The story said that when he went into a church, he always had a broom with him to “clean the church”. Maybe that’s what we need to do today. Clean the church. Not physically, but spiritually. Maybe we need to figure out what is keeping us from showing others Christ in us rather than showing what we have accomplished. This passage and the Holy Spirit seeks to get us believers to pick up whatever shaped broom he designed for our hands and to get busy.

We heard last week that the first will be last and the last will be first.  This week we hear “The greatest shall be the least and servant of all.”

Mark tells us Jesus came to serve. How amazing is a God who would come down to our human level and get involved in the ordinary happenings. What love this speaks of, what compassion and care.

A pastor at a church told of a conversation with one of his parishioners who said, “You preachers talk a lot about ‘do unto others,’ but when you get right down to it, it comes down to basin theology.”

The pastor asked, “Basin theology? What’s that?”

The man said, “Remember what Pilate did when he had the chance to acquit Jesus? He called for a basin and washed his hands of the whole thing. But Jesus, the night before His death, called for a basin and proceeded to wash the feet of the disciples.”

“We get two things daily: a Chance and a Choice. Use them both wisely and accordingly.  Amen.

 

Sermon offered at SMLC by Lay Preacher Rebecca Moretz on October 17, 2021.