Here is our worship service video for October 17, 2021, the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, that will be live streamed on that day starting at 10am (PDT)! It is viewable after, of course, but you are invited and welcomed to participate in worship in real time.
The worship bulletin can be found here. The bulletin will have the liturgy, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the sermon in full. The sermon is also included under the video.
In preparation for worship, you can have a lit candle in your space, and something small to eat and drink for communion. This is optional, of course, but meant to help you as you worship from your home and assist in your connection with all of God’s people. Please do what is most comfortable and helpful for you.
May God’s grace and mercy inform your faith and guide your journey, this day and always!
O Lord, by the power of your Spirit, lift us up into your presence that we be able to hear the promise of your word and know the joy of your salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Anyone here get road rage? I’d like to think that I don’t, but if I’m honest, some of my pet peeves have to do with driving with other drivers on the road. You know, drivers that drive too fast or too slow for the conditions, drivers that just can’t figure out how 4-way stop signs work, drivers that take their kids to school so close to the bell that makes traffic awful at the exact time when I’m dropping off my kids.
It’s not road rage per se, but it’s a definite annoyance and a hair-pulling event for me when some other driver on the road makes it perfectly clear that they have no idea what they’re doing. Ok, maybe it’s a bit of road rage, but at least I’m not running people off the road or getting out of my car with a baseball bat or anything like that. I usually just mutter under my breath or maybe point a digit or two up in the air… actually it’s mostly the muttering… yeah I just mutter.
But what is it about drivers that road rage is even a thing? Is where we’re going to that important that we can get so mad to the point of violence at those who get in our way? Is the road so very precious to us that anyone who defiles its rules and regulations need to taste our own unique brand of street justice? Are we so very special that everyone else needs to cater to our every whim and want?
Well, no to all of those, but somehow road rage still happens. Curious, isn’t it?
I guess it’s curious for me until I heard from Dr. Phil I think it was, explaining what causes this kind of road rage. Dr. Phil (or whoever it was) said that when we’re driving, we’re in control of everything. The music, our speed, what lane we’re in, we’re the boss and we have ultimate power. But when something happens, like someone cuts us off or drives too slow or can’t even figure out that it’s not their turn to leave the stop sign yet, then that power is taken away from us. We are stripped of our authority and are reminded that actually, we’re not actually all-powerful like we thought. And that loss of power could send us over the deep end.
It would seem that the only solution for road rage then is for each of us to have our own private road to and from wherever we’re going. Either that or get rid of the roads altogether. Or maybe, we just have to get rid of the other drivers. You know, take away all that compete with us for our power. Remove anything that might stand in our way. Or maybe get real chummy with whoever is in charge, and then perhaps maybe we can have everything go our way.
I wonder if this is the thinking that James and John had in today’s gospel lesson. They go and ask Jesus straight up if they can get the most coveted places of honour, one at his left and one at his right. And I’ll be honest, every time I read this, all I can think about is how badly I want to call those two out for their foolishness and greed. I mean, even if we just look at this particular passage on its own, we can totally hear the arrogance and the entitlement oozing from these two brothers. But if we look at the wider context, we would remember that Jesus had already explained to them how the first will be last and the last be first, and that the disciples had already been chastised by Jesus for arguing who among them was the greatest, and the fact that this is the third time that Jesus told them how the Messiah isn’t the grand military leader they expected to save their people from oppression but rather a humble servant to many. This passage on its own makes these sons of Zebedee look dumb, but looking at the greater context shows us how they’re actually idiots.
I mean, who did they think they were? How did they have the nerve to assume that Jesus would choose them over the other 10? Why couldn’t they just understand what Jesus was saying about humility and service?
Well, it’s that power thing again. Not just their own personal power, not this time at least. But they were concerned about the power of their people, their nation, their God. We’re all somewhat familiar with the history of Israel before Jesus showed up on the scene, right? I mean we know that they’ve been revealed to be the chosen people of God, but they had a rough go with slavery, wandering the wilderness, and being exiled a couple times in there. And we also know that Jesus is the promised Messiah, come to save them from their plight of current Roman occupation in their land.
At least, that’s what they were led to believe. That is what they thought. That is what they looked forward to in regaining that power they heard they were supposed to have all this time but it kept getting stripped away… by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and now the Romans. That sounds frustrating.
It sounds like if I were to get in my car, fight traffic to take the kids to school, battle the other parents for a parking spot, then have a headache trying to leave that spot with all the parents dropping their kids off in the middle of the road, and then making my way to Metrotown for a little light Christmas shopping and having to battle those drivers for parking spots, right of ways, and even the ability to move forward. That would be a road rager’s nightmare.
And that is basically what Israel went through. They just wanted relief from their enemies. They wanted release from hardship. They wanted redemption from all that oppressed them.
So when this guy Jesus came, and confirmed to them that he was the promised Messiah, hot dog that would be good news. Finally, the open road for Israel at last. And the best thing to do is cozy up with this Messiah to ensure that you’ll be on easy street for the rest of your foreseeable future.
So I guess I can’t really blame James and John for this request (more like demand). And I can’t blame the rest of the disciples for being angry that they didn’t call dibs first. I can’t blame anyone for just not being able to get what on earth Jesus meant by greatness defined by service, which is what he told his disciples in response to this request/demand.
I mean service doesn’t give us control, it gives those we’re serving control. Service doesn’t give us power, we are submitting to those in power. Service doesn’t make us great, it just shows us how not great we are. What could Jesus have meant here?
Well, Jesus is saying that greatness isn’t found in power, so we can stop doing whatever it takes to get it. He is saying that God’s chosen people aren’t meant to be rulers so there’s no need to lord it over others. He is saying that our control or lack thereof has nothing to do with our position in God’s kingdom, God’s family, God’s love.
Rather, God chooses to love us regardless of how much power or authority we have. God chooses to save no matter how much or little control we have over our lives and the lives of others. God chooses to forgive us even when our worst road rage might blind us from the truth of God’s gracious promises to us and to all people.
And while this might sound like that hope of an open road free of traffic and bad drivers is being taken away, I think it is actually freeing us, liberating us from the controlling need to control things and strengthening us and empowering us to humbly serve God and each other. Not because it will give us power and make us great, but because we have encountered the living Christ who showed us by example just how great God’s love is.
So you see, true greatness isn’t found in being better than rest, having power over others, or being able to control things that clearly aren’t ours to control. But true greatness is found in the grace of God, openly given to us by God’s own volition, humbling us from our privilege and entitlement, and revealing to us the width and breadth of God’s love for us all and reminding us that we are made worthy by God to serve and to be served, living together with one another as the one body of Christ.
In this season after Pentecost, may we be humbled by God’s grace shown to us, that we might freely and wholeheartedly serve God and neighbour for the good of the world in need. Thanks be to God. Amen.