22nd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24, Year B)
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But 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?” They 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; but 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.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So 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. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Faith from the Margins to the Web contributors: Mary, Charles and Richard
I saw Mary and Charles as soon as they had wrapped up their interview with Richard, a local college student who had recently signed up to be a part of this project. Both of them were beaming: “Oh, we had a great time and a great conversation!” they said. Richard was equally excited about how the project had unfolded that day. His happiness turned to a little bit of panic, though, as he said good-bye then looked at his voice recorder and realized that something had gone awry.
I always learn something from these interviews, and today’s lesson was: don’t panic! I gave that advice to Richard who decided to sit down and tell me as much as the conversation as he could remember and the lessons that stuck with him.
It all began, according to Richard, with a statement from Charles: “saving is through prayer” to which Mary added, “Sometimes people need the experience of a teacher” as one of the ways in which prayer works. In this case, James and John are asking for Jesus’ intercession, but they receive some instruction in answer to their prayers. Charles emphasized that it’s up to those who are ready, who are seeking a teacher to hear the word and to respond.
One thing that stood out to Richard is that all three of them…Mary and Charles and Richard…all spoke about the ability to sense and feel God’s presence in their lives. It can sometimes seem as if, when we come from very different places and social locations, that we wouldn’t all have a common experience of God’s presence. But this was an area where they all agreed and experienced the same thing.
The three focused on the final portion of the scripture, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Mary interpreted it that you have to come up through the “lowest of the low” in order to get a high place. Or, in other words, we have to move through all the hard places in order to finally get somewhere great. So, this story makes us wonder if the disciples wanted to side step that and just get there without having to truly live into what that meant. In other words, they were asking Jesus for an easy way up.. Mary said she might interpret the passage an entirely different way from how some people might because of that (which, as Richard said, is totally ok!).
The interview ended with each of the three describing someone who to them was great in their willingness to serve. Both Mary and Charles named their grandmothers are people who were truly great, for showing them stability and taking them to church and helping them see and know and experience God in new ways. Richard named his Grandfather for showing him a life that he didn’t imagine was possible, and his Grandmother for showing the strength of service in the church, through the ways that this Gospel seemed to be opening up.
Who says we need digital recorders?! Thank you to Mary and Charles and Richard for sharing your stories and wisdom. You have taught us much about the power of connection and ways in which God is made known in our midst.