October 20, 2018

Faith is Measured in Sacrifice and service (Proper 29. Year B)

We are living in an unhappy narcissistic culture best described as the me generation. We do not value excellence or goodness in products or other people. It’s my store, my dentist and my bank. This is the opposite of the Biblical call to show our faith in Jesus Christ by following His example of obedience, self-sacrifice and service to others. The Gospel (Mark 10.35-45) reminds us of the paradox of Jesus the fully human, who was God with us, modeling obedience, suffering and self-sacrificial love. As His followers we are all expected to live lives that demonstrate our obedience and faith not just as knowledge; but as personal sacrifice and service that is life-giving to others - and to us.

1. Jesus modeled obedient, sacrificial love

Jesus obedience did not come out of fear or a sense of duty. It was an obedience that came out of deep love for the Father and a strong desire to remain close to the Father whatever the cost. Jesus was also fully human. He did not want to die. The Bible reminds us that "... He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death..." (Hebrews 5.7). We are told that Jesus learned obedience through suffering (v.8).
         This should encourage us - we have all suffered.
         Suffering challenges us to chose and grow spiritually in faith
         Suffering is a test of our love, faith and obedience.
         Suffering in service to others is a sign of real love and faith

The self-examination question we could ask ourselves is "In what ways have I suffered in obeying Jesus this week?”.

2. Jesus modeled the servant who gives his life for others
Jesus went way beyond the usual understanding of what a servant does. When I was in Kenya we had a cook who was very much like a servant. Linus would give up all his time to taking care of the house so I could have a richer life and devote myself to my work as a teacher.
         House was kept clean, groceries bought and meals served.
         He enriched my emotional life as a father figure / care giver
         One day he stood with hands across his chest, blocking my way out, to remind me that we were out of something I had agreed to buy. His being a servant gave emotional life in the sense of being cared for.
         Jesus moved being a life-giving servant a step farther.
         First he gave up the comforts of a secure family life to walk from town to town as a servant telling people the good news of God’s love and showing them God’s healing grace
         Second, He modeled self-sacrificial love and obedience in His sacrificial death that created a new way for individuals to become free of the power of sin and death over humanity

3. Readings challenge us to celebrate our sacrifice and service
We have all had times when we felt like failures. The Good News is that Christianity is an upside-down religion where success is measured by how much you have given up - not by how much you have gained.
         Others have temporary times of happiness followed by sad empty, meaningless lives and nothing.
         We have temporary times of sacrifice  and suffering followed by an eternal spiritual lifetime of meaning, purpose, love and joy.

Thanks be to God!

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