Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sermon for March 28-29

The Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 28-29, 2009
Text: Mark 10:32-45

Dear Friends in Christ,
Did you hear that their going to make a new Three Stooges movie? They’re still working on the casting of Moe, but Jim Cary is going to put on forty pounds and shave his head to play Curly and Sean Penn is going to play Larry. I always thought Sean Penn was a stooge. We’ll see if this one ever sees the light of day. Hollywood is like that. There were several attempts to put Lord of the Rings onto film. Two saw the light of day. An animated version flopped, but the recent one scored big. Dark Shadows was the most popular daytime show ever. Only one attempt to bring it back ever saw the light of day - and it lasted a half season on Friday nights. But the Three Stooges, well, that’s another one of those iconic acts that it would seem natural to recreate. But one wonders if it takes more brains to be that dumb than Hollywood has these days.

Long before Larry, Moe and Curly were on the silver screen, there was Peter, James and John. Even though we have three names, we know that in reality, in the Bible there were twelve stooges. That’s okay, because there were really six stooges on the silver screen - Larry, Moe, Curly, Shemp, Joe, and Curly Joe. And the actor who played Curly Joe was so much younger than the others he had actually grown up watching them.
Peter, James and John were really the originals. They to have patented the idea of putting their foot in their mouth.

Christ says: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” What did Jesus just say? He said He’s going to die. He’s going to die horribly - painfully. This is not going to be fun. Then two of the stooges come up - James and John, - brothers, kind of like Moe and Curly. They ask: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” About now I’d be asking them to go to the doctor and have the wax cleaned of their ears. You want to scream: “Haven’t you been listening? He’s going to Jerusalem to die.” They’re still thinking of an earthly Davidic kingdom. They’re still thinking in terms of earthly glory.

They say patience is divine. Certainly Christ showed more patience than I would have. Christ poses to them a question: “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” He’s asking them if they understand what is to come. They insist that they are, but they are still pretty clueless. Christ then tells that they will indeed drink of the same cup. By this Christ is saying that they would indeed suffer and be abused in the same manner as He Himself. James would be the first. He would be beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I. Peter would be imprisoned. His life would be saved when an angel would lead him out of prison. There is a rather humorous account of this that we read in the book Acts. “He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision...they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me..." When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, "You are out of your mind." But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, "It is his angel!" But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.” (Acts 12) Peter would later be crucified in the city of Rome by Nero. John would live to a ripe old age and some even claim that he was bodily assumed into heaven. But in his old age he would be imprisoned on the Island of Patmos by the Emperor Domition. Each of these men would indeed suffer on account of Christ.

This goes to very nature of Christ’s mission and the nature of the Christian life. Christ came to serve. He came to die in service to mankind. He came to be the ransom price for our release from Satan’s power. We see this in laid out so clearly in Chronicles of Narnia. The devil makes the bargain. He thinks that with Christ dead, He will be able to destroy man, even if he temporarily surrenders his hold over us. But the devil does not understand the resurrection. He doesn’t fully understand the power of God in Christ. And so when Christ rises from the dead, Satan is undone. He cannot hold man, since the law has been satisfied.

The Christian life flows out of this reality. Without the foundation of Christ’s death and resurrection, our lives are worthless. This is why these WWJD bracelets were wrong headed. They were focused upon what Jesus would do in a superficial way. They didn’t take into account that much of what Jesus did, we cannot do. Nor was it clear what Jesus had done. That is where we must start. Christ served us. He made us His children. He gave us life that we did not have. Then from this foundation, we seek to serve our neighbor. This does not earn Christ’s favor. But it is a reflection of the fact that we know that we have Christ’s favor. Serving our neighbor flows out of understanding how Christ has served us. If we try to motivate Christians in any other way, we will create self righteous hypocrites who are on their way to hell. The Christian life must flow from the cross of Christ. What He has done for us, must be the starting point. Any thing we do is must be in response to that reality.

Christ came to earth to die. He states that clearly. In this He is serving mankind. He is paying the price of our sins. He is breaking Satan’s power over us. Christ is not a king with earthly glory. He comes in lowly pomp to die. When we seek earthly glory, it is a false glory. Earthly glory is never about Christ. Christ is about eternal glory. Our lives also need to reflect this. Christ has served us. We serve others as a reflection of what Christ has done for us. Christ’s true glory is service. So as Christ has served us so we serve our neighbor. That is what it is to be truly great in the kingdom of God.

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