READINGS: Galatians 5:13-23; 1 Peter 4:7-11; Mark 10:35-45
SERMON 23 October 2016
I found this comment written about me by an ex-student when I was a school chaplain – it was posted 4 years ago this past Friday.
(student) to Robin E Palmer
21 October 2012 at 14:36 · Wellington ·
robin, aka mr palmer. i liked how you were REV at school when i was there. i liked how you you weren’t high strung like most of the teachers i had. whenever i used to see you in the corridor either going from class to class or to the staffroom no matter how busy you were you always took time to ask me how my day was or just used to smile and greet me wholeheartedly.
At our Jubilee service a year ago I spoke about what people remember about you. I put that sermon in the capsule this week. It’s entitled “Monuments or Footprints”. Here’s the quote about teachers (and adults generally):
“People don’t remember everything you said or taught them. But they do remember how you made them feel.”
I am sure that Jesus made people feel amazing – even though they themselves may have been pretty bad people.
My student remembered that I wasn’t highly-strung like some of my colleagues. That in itself is interesting. But listen again to the rest of his comment:
whenever i used to see you in the corridor either going from class to class or to the staffroom no matter how busy you were you always took time to ask me how my day was or just used to smile and greet me wholeheartedly.
It doesn’t cost much to be like that. And it wasn’t a strategy – like churches sometimes promote – like courses on “how to make friends and influence people.” If you have a heart for people, you take an interest in them. And you’re there for them. They know that if they’re in trouble they can call for help. You are there to serve them.
I love this story in Mark’s gospel about James and John, the sons of thunder.
Boys are very different from girls. I always watch to see which parents get uptight when boys charge around being boys. It’s almost always the ones who raised girls. They have no idea.
These two are always up to something. Poor Zebedee. Listen again:
Mar 10:35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Seriously?)
Mar 10:36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. (Patient again)
Mar 10:37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
Jesus’s response is interesting: Mar 10:38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” Mar 10:39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, Mar 10:40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
They get full marks for enthusiasm and passion. And being clueless – about status.
But before we get impatient with them, look at how the rest react:
Mar 10:41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. What were they thinking? Probably – what about us??
Teaching time. Jesus has to spell it out. Team talk. Huddle up boys.
Mar 10:42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Mar 10:43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, Mar 10:44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. Mar 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Serving others – being there for them – is clearly central in this Christian life.
The Galatians reading has this line: serve one another in love (5:13).
Peter puts it this way, after reminding his readers to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling:
1Pe 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms…
The wonderful thing about the local church – when it is healthy – is that people don’t have to tell you what their status is. Their position – not their on-line status!
They simply share the gifts – the graces God gives – with others – in service.
The first 50 years of this congregation had a lot of hard working people who served here. We give thanks for them and remember them with thanksgiving. They weren’t perfect – like James and John. But they showed up and pitched in.
So the next 50 years are there – for us to be part of one way or the other. Remember what I said a couple of weeks ago about planning to leave a bequest to the work here so that the next generation will be blessed – just as we have been by the previous generations giving and sacrifice. That’s one aspect of this.
More importantly – how will we be remembered? As people? When someone opens the capsule in the future and sees your photo or name?
I am remembered at least by my old student as someone who was friendly and smiled – asked how he was. At least he knew he could contact a friendly person in a crisis.
How about you? Jesus, Paul, and Peter all speak about us serving others.
You can only really serve by being involved.
And many of you are – and I commend you for the way in which you do serve.
But it’s not just doing your turn on the tea duty roster. It’s about relationships – you have to really know each other to be there and make a difference!
I encourage those who are yet to get involved – to sign up somewhere.
You can’t serve one another from a distance. Often it’s easier just to go straight out the door here – and remain an observer. Or to serve in an advisory capacity – telling people when things aren’t to our liking.
There are things we can do:
- Join a home group – best place for really growing and making friends.
- Stay for tea and meet some new people. Invite them for coffee through the week.
- Pitch in to help – share the load. We need everyone rowing on this waka. Offer to help in practical ways. When you’re not on the roster.
- Equip yourself to be more effective in your Christian journey. Read. Learn. Ask questions.
- Take on something new which will stretch you. You don’t have to be as crazy as me – learning Mandarin. I really want to be able to greet my neighbours and be friendly in my street.
And when in the new year we have a weekend where we will learn new things about connecting with people out there – we agreed at our AGM to adopt our mission plan which included inviting Jim Wallace along to teach us – come along. Book the 11th of March in the meantime. It’s a Saturday through to after lunch. A time to upskill as Christians.
Jesus calls us to be like him.
- To serve one another in love.
- And to love others with that same love – so that they genuinely want to know why we are different. So engaging, positive, hopeful, and willing to serve. That’s Christian witness.
Then Peter’s recommendation applies again:
1Pe 3:15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
1 Peter 4:11 If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 10:38-42
So how are you when it comes to balancing your life?
Work and pleasure Exercise and rest
Crowds and solitude Noise and silence?
Busyness and devotion? Doing and being?
Being a Martha or being a Mary?
Hospitality has been a big issue in Luke’s gospel as we’ve travelled along through the story.
You will remember the sons of thunder wanting to call down fire on that Samaritan village which was not hospitable to Jesus. They wanted heaven to “nuke” the lot of them.
You may remember the 72 being sent out – and Jesus’ instruction for them to shake the dust off their feet when they did not find children of peace in a place. You only had dust on your feet when people were inhospitable – otherwise they would have washed your feet when you arrived at their place. We have hospitality-lite in New Zealand – people take their shoes off and we are let off the hook.
And of course the forgiving Samaritan who rescued a half-dead Jewish enemy arranged hospitality and paid for the man’s stay in a local inn – extravagantly caring for him. You can’t always sit by someone’s bedside when you have work to do – but you can sponsor someone else – in our day like a hospital chaplain.
Our team today is helping getting patients to the chapel service at North Shore Hospital.
So perhaps Martha is just as right as Mary in this event. We read in verse 38: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.
There would have been no place for Mary to sit at the feet of Jesus had Martha not opened her home. And I bet they had yummy food.
So there are some simple lessons today.
1. We’re all different – and that’s okay
We’re different in personalities, in gifting, in strengths and weaknesses.
It’s the nature of the body of Christ that the different parts have different functions. Read 1 Corinthians 12 to remind yourself of that.
And you know – and I know – that our bakers and chefs are critical in church growth – even if we are at risk of the wrong kind of expansive growth.
Hospitality is crucial. Martha was good at that. In fact, she is doing Christian ministry – she is serving. Both the word “preparations” and “work” in verse 40 come from the word diakonia – where we get the word deacon from. That’s the role of our board – it’s real ministry doing the practical caring – and the fixing of things..
There are a couple of verses that commend hospitality – including this one from 1 Peter:
1Pe 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1Pe 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
It reminds me of the family who invited church friends around for a meal, and the mum said to the little girl “please say grace”. The child responded: “I don’t know what to say”. Mum replied: “just say the last prayer you heard your father pray”. She did – and prayed: “o Lord why did we invite this lot over for tea?”.
Having said that:
2. Food and entertaining isn’t everything
I think I understand the Martha thing in this sense – you can really go over the top.
Martha seems to be a bit obsessed with all the detail – and frustrated enough to ask Jesus to take sides. Ah the joys of sibling rivalry. “Tell my brother to do this dad! He won’t listen to me” In Jesus’s words she was “worried and upset about many things”.
There’s a good approach to enable you to be more hospitable – people have to take you as they find you. And if they don’t like your chaos – too bad.
If you saw the movie “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce, you would have remembered the hosts of people eating at his place, and the fact he had to remove a pet – I think it was a hare – to find a seat for someone.
Biblically – perhaps the key verse to balance this should be this one uttered by Jesus at his temptation: Mat 4:4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
3. Mary chose the what is better – only one thing is needed. (v42)
The quote Jesus uses is from Deuteronomy chapter 8 – here it is in context:
Deu 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. Deu 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
To get back to Luke 10, this account is not about women essentially – although it was unusual for women to be in a rabbis group of followers. It’s not primarily about siblings or catering either.
It’s about discipleship. Following Christ changes our focus.
And many other things also crowd out our time – time we need to take to be really still and listen to Jesus’ teaching.
Whether here on a Sunday – or in our personal devotions – or in the invitation he extends for us to take longer time out – retreat days and extended periods of quiet.
Too much of everything else can choke out God’s life in us.
We become dry and spiritually barren.
The active life and the contemplative life are both important.
But it’s better when what we do flows out of who we are.
Being has precedent over doing. We are human beings after all – not human doings.
If we don’t attend to this contemplative life, and listen, study and digest the words of Jesus, we burn out. And we’re no good to anyone or ourselves. “This little light of mine” that we are supposed to shine – goes out.
RISKS FOR THE CHURCH
Apart from our individual lives and walks with God, we also get distracted by the details here.
Keep focus people. Remember that lovely song:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
There is a second verse of the song which goes like this: “keep your eyes upon Jesus”. Let’s do that.