Sunday Sermie

Today's gospel text was Mark 9:33-35 which reads: 

"Then they came to Capernaum; and when Jesus was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’

Here's the sermon outline:

• Jesus redefined greatness in today’s gospel.

• Everyone around him thought greatness was about power, authority, and being the best, brightest, and strongest. Everyone assumed real greatness was about being #1. That’s not so far removed from our modern day understanding of greatness.

• But then, in our gospel lesson, Jesus said the opposite of what people expected. He said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

• He said that to be first was actually about a willingness to be last. And to be really great was to be a servant of all.

• It’s one of those sentences from the Bible that sounds so nice and familiar that it’s easy to almost skip right over it. If it were a food, it’s almost seems like a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum. Delicious. Another great Jesus quote. We can almost swallow it without even thinking.

• But actually, this amazing verse of Scripture is more like corn on the cob. It’s certainly still tasty. It’s healthy. And most important of all: it’s challenging to eat, it needs to be chewed thoroughly, and we still find pieces of it lodged in our teeth hours later.

• Verses like this one have to be chewed and chewed and chewed. And they stick around.

• Let’s say it together: Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.

• It’s the kind of Jesus’ talk that is meant to leave us pondering and deeply convicted. It’s meant to leave us wondering, “Whoa! What does that mean?” What does it mean for my life? My family? My church? Our world? Today – I especially invite you to think about what greatness means in terms of our congregation. Zion Lutheran Church.

• What kind of greatness are we seeking as a family of faith? I imagine we all probably have a wish list of things we’d love. Financial stability? A full sanctuary? Overflowing Bible studies?

• All those may well be great qualities. But they aren’t quite what Jesus is talking about in today’s lesson. Instead – Jesus is talking about being servants.

• His words are both inspiring and challenging for our congregation and for every family of faith everywhere. To be a truly great congregation is to be a congregation who serves – not just now and then. But all the time.

• Today we have a few moments to think about what do we want to be known for at Zion Lutheran Church? What kind of greatness do we seek? There’s a lot of fantastic qualities a church can have. But from Jesus’ perspective, it sounds like what he’d most want any family of faith to be known for is there willingness to serve. And everything else springs from that. Service is a cornerstone and a foundation.

• We are on our third week of exploring our 3rd guiding principle: “We serve one another following the example of Jesus.” We’ve decided as a church that service is a central principle. And it has been since Zion first began. Thanks be to God for generations of servants. Profound history of teachers, visitors, service trips. The roots of service run deep.

• And now – in this moment - we have a time and place to chew on this verse for awhile and think about where we’re at in 2013.

• If greatness is about being a congregation who serves - what might that mean for our worship? Church budget? Our activites? Resources? Staff? Programs? Volunteers serving within the church? Volunteers serving outside the church? Not questions with clear answers – but they are worth pondering.

• I find it comforting to know that people have been trying to figure out what it means to be a true servant for the last 2000 years. Jesus said these words about being a servant because of the struggles of his very own first followers. Some of the disciples were walking in groups. And a few of them got into an argument.

• We don’t know the specifics. Maybe it started out as a discussion about who knew Jesus better or who was more likeable. Maybe it was about how they thought they needed to be spending their time or who was the best at helping. Whatever it was, they were arguing. Jesus knew it.

• "What were you arguing about?" They were embarrassed. Something inside of them knew that there arguments were ridiculous. They knew that they’d gotten off-track, which can actually happen to all of us. It’s easy to forget what real greatness is about.

• Jesus calls all 12 over. He has a really important truth to share. That’s when he says it: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." He didn’t want his disciples wasting precious time and energy on anything else. The only thing that mattered was a willingness to serve.

• Jesus isn't saying: Everyone be a doormat and let people walk all over you. Jesus isn’t saying that at all. Being a servant isn’t being a doormat.

Being a servant is being thoughtful, intentional and humble. It’s about letting the Spirit work within us so that we’re able to look beyond ourselves. It’s about putting other people’s needs before our own. Servanthood means looking outside ourselves. 

• When does it work best? When everyone is doing it. If everyone lived by that sentence; “To be first must be last of all and servant of all” – what a world. We the opportunity to start to living in and creating that world NOW.

• Service is a central part of our church history. It’s also our present – and with the Holy Spirit’s guidance – we can figure out what service will look like in our future.

• Two questions to keep chewing on this week: How is God calling us to serve? Who is God calling us to serve? Variety of sign-ups on the tables that provide service opportunities. Swing by.

• This summer we have explored what it means to be OPEN – to WELCOME – and now, to  SERVE. These words describe who we are – and who we want to be. And in the midst of this – we can trust that the Holy Spirit will keep blowing and moving and challenging us.

• We're a congregation who serves one another following the example of Jesus. May it indeed be so.

• Let us pray (please repeat after me): God of grace,/we are ready to serve./Please show us how./Amen.

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