Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
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What I Want

October 28th:

What I Want
Call:   Job 42: 1-6
Text:   Mark 10: 35-45
Read:   W&S 77

                                        What I Want

A Clarkson math major could not possibly calculate the number of times
        That I have reread a familiar scripture
        And discovered that there was something in it
                That "wasn't there the last time I read it."

This week, it happened again.   [read   Mark 10: 35-45]

For years I have had such a reaction to parts of this scripture
        That my entire focus has been on them
        And I have never even noticed a section in the middle
That not only makes the parts I focused on more powerful
But also is a valuable lesson in and of itself.

In my defense,          I think that my failure is understandable.

For in the first part of the text
        We encounter James and John going to Jesus to make a demand
                "We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you."

Can you imagine going to Jesus and saying,
        "Do for me what ever it is that I want!"
And while you and I do ask Jesus for favors all the time
        We would never dream of asking Him what they did.

For what James and John asked was outrageous
        They demanded to sit on His right and on His left
                In his kingdom.
Giving us a remarkably arrogant demonstration of their sense of self importance.

These two brothers wanted to sit in the two places of honor
        Placing them    above Peter and Andrew
                                Above Thomas and Bartholomew
                        And     above the other six of the special twelve.

It would have been bad enough if naïve strangers had asked him
        for those positions of honor
                Perhaps offering to make a large donation.

At least then our outrage could be tempered
by the recognition that the stranger simply did not understand
what Jesus had been teaching by his words and his example.

But James and John      they should have known!
        They been with him since they pulled their nets out of the Sea of Galilee and followed him
        They were part of Jesus' twelve key disciples
        In fact, they were part of Jesus' three closest associates
"Peter, James, and John?"
If anybody should have grasped what Jesus was all about
                It was those three.
But in this part of the scripture we find that 2/3 of them didn't.

In the past when I have reflected on this scripture
I have had two powerful reactions,

First, I got ticked off at James and John
Second. I was awed and impressed
that Jesus handled them so much better than I would have.

I wanted to tell them off
Or at least tell them to get out of my sight until they had had time
to reflect on what a ridiculous request they had made
        to reflect on what kind of trouble their request
(even though not granted)
                Could cause among the rest of the disciples
And     therefore, how damaging it would be to Christ's ministry.

But instead of getting ticked off
        (or at least instead of responding in a way that would let them know he was ticked off)
Jesus simply took this as a teaching opportunity, telling them

 "The leaders over the gentiles lord it over them
                Their great ones                are tyrants

But that is not how we do things.
In our community of believers
For in our community
                Whoever wants to become great           must be a servant
                Whoever wants to be first among you     must be slave of all"
       "Jimmy and Johnny," I hear him saying "you are my followers
                        And I came not to be served     but to serve
                        And to give my life as a ransom for many."

                The greatest of my followers will be servants to the others
                        Not persons seeking honors and glory."

As I read His words,
I can hear the patience and heartfelt desire to teach them:

        He handled his self important disciples
                        calmly  and without losing his temper.

Jesus gave a far, far, far better response than I would have
        To the demands J&J made on Him
                Because He lovingly instructed them
rather than harshly scolding them

His answer and His example continue to ring loud and true
To us sitting in the pews and standing in the pulpit
You know, the ones often saying "Jesus, this is what I want."

My frustration with the two miscreants
And my awe at Jesus' calm response
Were so powerful and moving
        That they obscured another message in that response.

For before asking them what they wanted
        Jesus, told them that they knew not what they were asking
And He asked them,
        "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?"
        "Are you able to be baptized by the baptism I am baptized with?"

And these two seemingly self centered disciples responded,
"We are able."

In other words, Jesus asked the two brothers
whether they would be willing to suffer what he was to suffer
And both James and John said that they would

Jesus believed them and He said,
        "The cup that I will drink,     you will drink."
        "With the baptism with which I am baptized,
you will be baptized."

And James and John did not withdraw their answer
even when Jesus said to them,
        That those promises would not earn them the right and left hand seats.
        Those seats were for whomever God chose.

        Being his followers would earn them
                Not     glorious positions of honor
                But     the cup and baptism of death"

Even knowing that, James and John continued to follow him
And while we don't know what happened to John.
Acts 12:2 tells us that James was martyred in Jerusalem
                Put to death by Herod Agrippa.
These two brothers were sincere followers
        But like their successors in today's church
                They got sidetracked by human desires
                And needed Christ to bring them back to the message.

And thus Christ, in speaking to James and John,
        Was speaking to you and me.

For even today, if we really want to be his followers
        we had better be servants to each other - and to all;
        we cannot allow ourselves to be motivated or inspired
by human desires for  positions of honor, glory, and fame;
and     we have to be prepared to suffer and sacrifice along the way.

Instead of focusing on chastising James and John for their demand
        You and I had are better off hearing and obeying
That lesson of suffering and sacrifice
        so we can truly be followers of - not demanders of  -
                Jesus the Christ

Our attitude must be one of
        What we can do  for Him and each other
        rather than an attitude of      "What I want."