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Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the water skins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together?
“Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?
Every 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.
He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So 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”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”
In 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.
Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
The Blank Check
17 October 2021
The Rev Dr Dianne ES Carpenter
Have you ever been approached, as Jesus was, by someone asking for a blank check? Who would dare ask for a blank check? Do you even use checks instead of money transfers? It’s a metaphor… That’s what the sons of Zebedee did one day when they said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Who would dare approach any of us ask any of us for carte blanche? Well, our children, our grandchildren… zoey… the IRS no they have a formula.
Jesus did what I would do… He asked for a little more information, “Well, what do you want?”
And they said – without embarrassment – “We want to be greater than any of the other disciples! We want more power than the other 10 disciples… We want to be Great among men – oh and by the way you can choose who is at your right hand and who at your left, but just keep it in the family and that will be fine with us.” Translation from the Greek…
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, had traveled with Jesus for three years and still they wanted to assume positions of leadership that would give them great prestige, satisfy their egos, and give them power over others. They were filled with themselves and confident. They sure didn’t need any courses in self-esteem, did they? And yet, they are not very different from many of us who desire nothing more than to follow Jesus, if only He will give us what we want and not challenge us to change the way we live.
Jesus says, “Sorry… not up to me- there is no vacancy to apply for and no appointment to be made.
But the wheels have been set in motion. The others heard the request and began to ask: “Who do they think they are?”
Great! A recipe for discord 101! – Ambition to grab the glory, regardless of your colleagues. Nepotism, hiring relatives who are not particularly qualified because you can.
But Jesus did go on to describe the job vacancy that was all too vacant. People who want to be in control need not apply, the only opening at this time is for workers, servants, people with hands on gifts and minimum wage aspirations! People who love the Kingdom call and God more than they love themselves. That’s the job description! Being co-workers with Christ.
While Jesus was modeling humility, the Zebedee brothers were jockeying for the best job, lifetime security with benefits! If anyone was going to be in the top 1% it was going to be them… Sign the check and leave the glory to us…
Ever heard: “It’s lonely at the top?” I know, I’ll cope somehow…
“You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. And then he asked, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” There’s the challenge… give away your shirt, walk the extra mile…
“We are able,” they said.
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, it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Little did the sons of Zebedee know, at this time, that Jesus was speaking of his own death as well as of their martyrdom. But these two men, who were so interested in assuming positions of leadership, did go on, after Pentecost, to become martyrs. In other words, they eventually drank from the cup that Jesus drank from — and they learned what it means to serve.
But that’s just the point.
Jesus called his followers servants. If we are truly striving to be a follower of Jesus – if we are striving to be a successful follower of Christ – we must become servants. As Christians we are striving to be successful servants. Aspirations of being #1 have no place in servanthood.
- Develop a Servant Mentality: not our social training – take control, ignore the need of others VS My purpose on Earth is to serve God
- Have a determination to serve: To be the one who gives – not necessarily from abundance
- Make a commitment to Following God: We all follow something – science, authority al a military [If I was supposed to have a wife…] commitment is more than coming to God. Baptism as an infant was not our commitment so we ask teens to take on that commitment at confirmation. Getting married is great, exciting – how many have recommitted their vows years later.
- Start serving where we are: Now, Do people know why you serve the world – have you told someone about Jesus… Talk about our faith
Last week we heard about the rich young man who wanted it all — the worldly wealth and prestige he already possessed — as well as the gift of eternal life. You can have eternal life if you follow me, Jesus told him, but first you must sell all that you have and give the proceeds to the poor. A sacrifice was required of him, just as it was required of the sons of Zebedee, and just as it is required of us.
To become a servant takes sacrifice. Not somebody else’s sacrifice, but our own. Leadership in this world is often based on who you know, on fame, on wealth or access to wealth, and a willingness to make what are often referred to as “tough decisions.” This usually means the decisions you make are tough on other people, but good for you.
Corporate CEO’s are often called upon to make tough decisions and they do. They will lay off hundreds or thousands of workers, close manufacturing plants in America and open up new shops in foreign countries. These decisions result in great profits for the CEO and for stockholders, but they lead to joblessness and homelessness for their former employees. Very brave people in government make tough decisions all the time about American troops, while the decision makers are thousands of miles away from the front lines, and we see their bravery as they march from one press conference to another.
We might say, “Well, I am not interested in being great,” and that’s wonderful — but if we want to follow Jesus we will still have to learn how to become a servant and to make the sacrifices that have been appointed, for us to make.
Paul tells us that Jesus Himself had to learn obedience and it was a painful experience, even for him. As Paul says in v. 8 of today’s lesson: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” And though He has taken our sins upon Himself, He has not relieved us of our responsibilities. …., “And having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Obedience & faithfulness — these are flipsides of the coin that belongs to God — the coin of the realm — the currency of the kingdom. No blank checks even for the omnipotent, powerful God who takes on our human form.
“The story in today’s gospel, with two brothers jockeying for positions of power in the Kingdom, takes place five days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Four days before his betrayal and trial. One day before the clearing of the temple, and a few hours before the Triumphal Entry. If the Disciples were going to start practicing the teachings of Jesus in their lives it ought to be now. But it doesn’t happen. Moments before the most crucial events in their life they are a bickering, petty, bad-tempered quarrelsome lot. We need to learn from this not-so-flattering moment in the life of the disciples.
How is it that critical moments can be so close at hand and we are off wondering what’s in it for me?”
Today Jesus is inviting each of us to let go of all of those things — those desires for things we think we just have to have — those things we think we most definitely deserve — and to come and walk with him.
Instead of saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you,” we still have time to say, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” A number of cups are laid out before us — wealth, power over others, prestige, bitterness, resentment, or the cup that Jesus drank from. The choice is yours and Jesus is simply asking you and me today: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
The greatest sacrifice, and the only sacrifice that leads to our salvation was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And the greatest sacrifice that we can offer to him is the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart — a heart softened by the love of God. It is easy to stand up for Jesus and carry signs condemning the sins of others. But to stand up for Jesus and serve the least among us, with joy in our hearts, that is the mercy that Jesus Christ desires. All the money, power, and prestige in the world cannot prepare you for this adventure — but with His love burning in your heart, there’s no telling what might happen next. . . Let the journey begin, in Jesus’ name, Amen.