Sunday, October 21, 2018

Big Gulp and little sip

October 21, 2018
Mark 10:35-45

Jesus has several times announced that he will be arrested, suffer, die, and be raised. The disciples don’t fully understand what that means, because it hasn’t happened yet. When Jesus says he will be raised in glory, they imagine a king sitting on a throne with princes and managers sitting on the dais with him. They want some of that glory for themselves. And now, they go to ask Jesus to honor them by giving them those seats. 

Jesus says, “Are you willing to drink the same cup I am to drink?” James and John are positive they can do that. Jesus agrees that they will drink the same cup, but the seats at his right and left hand are not for him to give out.

Both spent the rest of their lives telling others about Jesus. Acts records the death of James by order of King Herod. John lived into old age, according to tradition. Some traditions say all of the disciples died for their faith, other traditions say only Peter, James and Paul were martyred for their faith.

Now, I wonder, what cup is Jesus referring to? Is he talking about the cup of death?  Or the cup of servanthood, which is what Jesus talks about next. To be really great, he says, one must be the servant of all.  I think it is both, a willingness to die while following Jesus. And a willingness to commit our lives to serving Jesus by serving others.

I got to thinking about this matter of drinking the cup while following Jesus. At 7-11, the Big Gulp drink is 30, 40 or 50 ounces of liquid refreshment. I know people who purchase a big gulp in the morning and sip on it all day, while others go through the big gulp in just a few minutes.

Others of us purchase – or pour at home – 8-12 ounces of coffee or tea and let that be enough. For today, I want to use the image of an 8-ounce cup compared to a 50-ounce big gulp as a way of describing the way we follow Jesus by serving others.

A few of us are big gulp people, but most of us are 8-ounce drink people. We fit following Jesus in and around the rest of our lives. We have jobs, families, doctor appointments, shopping, house cleaning, car maintenance and so forth, that prevent us from giving ourselves 100% to following Jesus. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to do more, but we live in the real world and have a lot of commitments to fulfill in addition to serving Jesus by serving others.

You know I am a Franciscan and studying the life and teaching of Francis of Assisi as a way to deepen my own faith life. Francis was a big gulp follower of Jesus.

Once Francis realized God was calling him to rebuild the church, he committed his life 100%. He came from a wealthy family, and gave away all he had. He realized that when we have possessions, we spend time and attention and energy holding onto those possessions, so he refused to own anything. He went to extremes most of us would not even consider. For example, in the middle of winter, he would give away his only tunic to someone who didn’t have one.

Another big gulp follower was Mother Theresa, who sought to see Jesus in the poorest, smelliest, sickest people on the streets of Calcutta. She persisted in this ministry despite years of doubt that Jesus even existed.

A third big gulp follower was Bishop Oscar Romero, who was recently proclaimed a saint. He defied the government by preaching about justice for the poor people of El Salvador. He made such an impact, he was assassinated while saying mass one Sunday morning.

Martin Luther King Jr. was another big gulp follower. King ended up losing his life because of his work for justice for all people. You know his stories.

Big gulp followers of Jesus  are not very common. But there are lots of 8-ounce cup followers, sitting here in this room. We do what we can, when we can. And, I can name a few who are 12 ounce cup followers. They are not pastors, they are lay people like y’all. Here is just one story. You can tell others, I am sure.

Ruth was a member of Saron Lutheran Church. Ruth hadn’t been active in church before she came to Saron, but she went once to help at our day at the soup kitchen. And she was hooked. Soon, she became the leader of our day, the 4th Thursday every month. Then, she became the substitute when the main manager was away. In a few years, she was the manager of the soup kitchen, and spent every day there. Ruth became an advocate for the hungry in our town and passionate about gaining grants and other assistance for them.  

And now, I ask you, how deeply do you drink of the cup of service when you follow Jesus? How is he part of your life? How do you serve Jesus by serving others?

Here are some suggestions:
·         Let others go first in the grocery line
·         Say please and thank you
·         Look in the eyes of cashiers and restaurant servers and get to know their names
·         Say a table prayer in the restaurant
·         Bring food for the food pantry, and fun things for the Ocali School
·         Donate a gas card or Walmart Card for the office to give to a needy person
·         Offer to pray for a friend who shares a worry or illness
·         Say the name “Jesus” in public, like, “Jesus loves you”
·         Increase your financial commitment to Ascension by 2% or more
·         Volunteer your time with Interfaith Ministries
·         Visit the homebound people. They are always grateful for some company
·         Advocate for a cause you care about – hungry people, health care, voting rights, etc.
·         Vote. Think about how you are serving Jesus with your choice, and vote!
·         Be generous with what you have

In order to drink of the cup of service, we need to be nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Blessing. Each week, we come to the table and drink—not deeply, but enough – to be filled with God’s love and call to service as Jesus served. Come soon and be filled, and go out to serve others.

Please pray with me. Jesus, you call us to serve others as you have served us. Show us the way to drink deep of the big gulp of servanthood. And refresh us always at your table as we eat of your body and drink of your blood. Amen