1 Peter 4:7-11 and Mark 10:35-45
In just a few short weeks we will begin to see people in uniforms in front of stores ringing bells collecting donations for the poor. They are doing the work of the Salvation Army.
In 1878, when the Salvation Army was really beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. A man who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop in another denomination crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist in the Salvation Army instead. His name was Samuel Brengle. Brengle left a fine pastorate to join William Booth’s Army. At first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, “You’ve been your own boss too long.” In order to instill humility in Brengle, he made him work by cleaning the boots of other trainees.
Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, “Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots?” Then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, uneducated fishermen. “Lord,” he whispered, “you washed their feet; I will black their shoes.”
Samuel Brengle went on to establish the Salvation Army in America. At the time of his death, the Salvation Army was thriving in both the United States and in Canada.
Just before his death Brengle sent out a short memo to all of his top leaders. This memo had one single word written on it: “Others.”
In our gospel reading from Mark, James and John were not thinking of others, they were thinking of themselves. They come to Jesus, “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (v. 35) A little demanding, don’t you think? Yet, don’t we do the same thing? Give me this, give me that, if only I had this I’d be happy.
“What do you want me to do for you? He asked. ‘They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in you glory.”’ (vv.36-37)
None of the disciples understood how Jesus would gain his glory. They, and everyone else in Jesus’ day thought that Jesus would be king here on earth by freeing Israel from Roman oppression. James and John wanted an honored place when he did. What they didn’t understand was that Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world: it is not centered in palaces and thrones, but in the hearts and lives of his followers. They would not understand this until after Jesus’ resurrection.
Mark 10:38-39, “But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” (Life Application Study Bible)
They didn’t understand what they were going to have to endure as followers of Jesus. James would die by execution of the sword. He was the first apostle to die a martyr’s death. John would be at the foot of the cross and witness the suffering and death of Jesus. Jesus entrusted to him the care of his mother Mary. John would die of old age exiled on the island of Patmos, after he was plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffered nothing from it. Many people in the Colosseum who witnessed it, were converted that day. The Roman authorities were probably afraid to execute John after that. He is believed to have written the book of Revelation, after seeing a vision of Jesus.
We say we are willing to stand up for Jesus, to love as he loved, to serve others as he served. Yet are we really? Are we able let go of ourselves and our preoccupation with trying to stay in control? Ever since Genesis 3 every human being that has ever walked the earth has resisted drinking the cup of suffering or being baptized with the baptism of suffering. We want to run our lives the way we want. We can’t help but ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Every human being that has ever walked the face of the earth has resisted making such self-sacrifice. Except for one. Except for the one who said, “—whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 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.” (vv.43-45).
Jesus lived his life serving others, loving the unlovable and dying for many for the forgiveness of sins. He died for you and for me.
Jesus lived his life filled with a strange sense of confidence. He knows who he is. He knows God is his Father. He trusts his future to him. There is no reason to hold on to his life, as if somehow he must save himself. Instead he gives himself away, even all the way to death on a cross.
In 1 Peter 4:9-10, we read, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he or she has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
Many of you serve your families, friends, this church, and the community around us, with the gifts you’ve been given from God. You ask nothing in return. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I’ll share the devotion in the Upper Room for Wednesday October 17, 2018; in hope of inspiring others to use your gifts to love and serve God and your neighbor.
Mary Hunt Webb shares what inspired her. “My mother had the gift of hospitality. Even when we had very little money, she would whip up a spaghetti dinner with lots of steaming pasta and flavorful sauce and just enough juicy meat to add flavor. Then she would make a big green salad and a lovely cake. At times we would have as many as 15 people squeezed into our tiny home for a meal. I’ve tried to imitate her way of hosting people, but feel inadequate. I admire my mother’s way of showing hospitality; it’s just not my gift.”
“However, I have taught English to a classroom of 30 adults from other countries, including some that did not speak any language that I know. I have taught Bible, Spanish, and American Sign Language as well. Teaching is my gift. As long as I can feed people information instead of food, I do well. Once I quit trying to imitate my mother and started using the gifts God gave me, I relaxed and became more confident. Over time I have realized that we each have unique abilities that we can use to serve God and others.”
Each of you has a gift you can use to love and serve God and your neighbor. If you haven’t discovered it yet, pray and ask God to reveal it to you.
It may require a sacrifice of your time and giving up some things you want or want to do.
1 Peter 4:11 reads, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
When we are serving others, we are serving Christ and bringing glory to God.
Let us pray: Most Holy God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Reveal to us the gifts you have given to us, that we may use them to love and serve others. May your love flow through us in a way that our desire is to love and serve others sacrificially. Help us to live out our faith every day. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut