“You Want Some of This?”
21 October 2012 - Proper 24B
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
I used to be a big fan of the HBO series, The Sopranos.
Tony Soprano was a New Jersey crime boss who ruled his crime family with an iron fist.
His captains: Christopher, Sil, and Paulie …
Each climbed their way to the top
And all three of them were maneuvering to be Tony’s favorite
A good boss has a succession plan, and Tony Soprano was no different.
He was constantly testing and grooming his captains.
On numerous occasions Tony and one of his boys
Would get into a BIG DOG confrontation,
Tony would emerge triumphant,
And ask, “You want a piece of me?”
As he pinned them to the floor and showed him his clenched fist.
“You want some of this?”
The message was clear: if you want to be the Boss, you have to best the Boss.
I must confess,
Our Gospel message for this morning made me think of The Sopranos.
1. You want some of this? You must be baptized into Christ, and be tempted by the Devil.
“So, John and I were thinking,” James stammers.
<Eyes shift left and right>
“Can we ask you a favor?”
“What is it?” Jesus asks, knowing full well the answer to his question before he asks it.
<Eyes roll back>
“Can we sit at your right and left hand when you are crowned king?”
Silly James and John had expectations that didn’t include a cross.
They were hoping for a throne instead.
“If you want some of this” Jesus points to himself,
“You have to join me in my baptism.”
On the surface, this sounds like a simple request.
James and John fall for it at once,
“We are able.”
They were probably thinking of that glorious moment
When Jesus rose from the water,
The heavens parted,
The dove descended and
The voice of God spoke from the heavens,
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
“We are able,” they boldly proclaimed with sugar plums dancing in their heads.
<Jesus closes his eyes and shakes his head>
My guess, this is not what Jesus was thinking.
My guess is that Jesus was thinking back to
What happened as the result of his baptism:
The launch of his public ministry began
With being driven into the wilderness,
Going hungry for 40 days,
And enduring multiple, repeated, merciless temptations from the Devil himself.
You want a piece of me?
Those who are baptized in Christ,
As each of us are here today,
Will face the same trials and temptations as Jesus did.
We will not be sheltered, protected, or hidden away by God.
Rather, being baptized in Christ,
Disciples of Christ are given the assurance
That the same Jesus who bested the Devil in the wilderness
Will be the same Jesus who is right by your side when you face your 40 days with the Devil.
I’m counting on it.
I don’t know about you;
But I’m not strong enough to endure it alone.
I can only get through life with Jesus by my side.
Since Labor Day I’ve been swimming laps at the Webster Aquatic Center.
I make no promises for the future;
I simply swim one day at a time.
My goal is not to lose weight or count laps.
My goal is to discipline my mind and focus upon Jesus for 40 minutes at a time.
I have two strategies.
The first is to say the Jesus prayer one time for every two or three strokes:
“Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
Have mercy on me.”
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Pull, breath, glide, repeat.
The second strategy is to recite in my mind as much of the Gospel narrative as I can remember:
Starting with the descendent list from the line of Jesse to Jesus
And ending with “Low, I will be with you always,” as the risen Jesus ascends into heaven.
There is a lot in between.
It takes me multiple days to complete the narrative.
Recall, recite, repeat.
As you go through your regular routine,
Why don’t you give it a try?
It is amazing how much can be reconstructed after a life time of reading, studying, and preaching the Gospel.
This past week I spend one swim thinking of nothing but Christ and his crucifixion.
2. You want some of this? You must drink of the cup that Christ drinks, and die with him on the cross.
“Yes, we’d like to sit at your right hand and your left hand,” James and John requested.
You want some of this?
Then “you must drink of the same cup that I drink,” Jesus responds.
One thing about Jesus,
Is that when he hosts a gathering and he shares a meal
He does it the same exact way each and every time.
Remember when he fed the crowds with five loaves and two fishes?
He took the bread,
Gave thanks to God,
Broke the bread,
And Shared it with the people.
It was the same formula in the Upper Room.
It was the same formula after a day on the road to Emmaus.
And it was the same formula remembered and written down in Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth.
Undoubtedly, Jesus had fed his disciples, including James and John,
Numerous times, both recorded and not recorded,
Following the same Sacramental formula.
Silly James and John had expectations that didn’t include a cross.
They were hoping for a free meal instead.
“We are able,” they said together,
Like a soon to be ordained candidate for ministry
Giddy with anticipation
Of the new privilege about to be entrusted to them.
What an incredible privilege it is to be the celebrant at a Eucharist.
It is humbling, fearful, exhilarating, and filled with awe.
“We are able,” James and John declared.
What a guy.
What a pair.
When we share in the cup of Christ,
We also share in his death.
Death is not nearly as cool as giving thanks, breaking and sharing bread and cup.
Twelve hours is a long time to hang and bake in the hot Middle East sun
With flies buzzing all around
And the crowd watching for you to take your last breath.
That is a long time to hang there and think
About what you’ve done and what has remained undone.
It is a long time to have a dirty sponge filled with vinegar shoved into your face,
To feel the sweat rolling down your head, torso, and legs.
Have you ever set vigil with someone dying?
There is fear of what is coming.
Anxiety comes with a diaphragm that is losing its tone.
There are words that need to be said.
There are good-byes to be made.
There is darkness that descends.
And the abyss comes into view.
I’m a pretty brave guy
- except when it comes to snakes and heights and death.
I know I don’t have it in me to face my death alone.
I would be a puddle in a bed if I only had my thoughts with me
And I step through the curtain that defines the end of life,
Hoping on a wing and a prayer that eternal life is on the other side.
My guess is that I’m not alone in my fears of my personal death.
This is what I know:
I know I have to have Jesus with me.
That is why I drink of his cup.
When we share in Christ’s cup
We welcome Jesus into our lives
To walk by our side,
To be our companion,
To be with us when we face our mortal death.
Jesus has died the death we fear.
He has stepped through the curtain to the other side into God’s glory.
Jesus knows the way.
Jesus is the one I have to have with me when I die.
And I hope and pray that you believe likewise.
The Apostle Paul tells disciples of Jesus
To live prepared to die.
That means we invite Christ to journey with us,
Right by our side,
Every moment of every day of our life.
Regardless, if our death is quick and painless,
12 hours in the hot sun,
Or 12 years suffering greatly from the agony of cancer;
By our side,
Is the only way to step through into eternal glory.
3. On the right and left of Christ in his glory, is reserved for servants, who like Christ, have given their life for many.
You want some of this?
“Are you able …” Jesus says,
To become a servant and slave of all?
Oh, yes! “We are able!” James and John proclaim proudly.
‘One will sit on the right hand side of the throne,
The other will sit on the left.
We’ll even arrange for some scantily clad Egyptian women
To stand behind us and cool us with palm branches,’
They are probably thinking to themselves.
Not so fast!
Jesus cools their jets.
“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,” Jesus tells them,
“And whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”
Dismiss the Egyptian slave women,
Pick up their palm branches,
And begin to cool the people and your King.
Oh, yes, we want Jesus to be at our side,
Right by our side,
Every moment of every day,
Because, well, you know;
“That time” will eventually come.
God’s grace might be free, but it isn’t cheap.
Jesus is telling his disciples,
And us here today,
That if you want me by your side,
Then dedicate your life to be at the side of others.
As Jesus serves you,
So must you serve others.
As Jesus taught us,
So must we teach.
As Jesus showed us how to live,
So we must follow in his example.
As Jesus forgives,
So must we forgive.
As Jesus loves,
So must we love.
Dedicate your life to be at the side of others:
Don’t pass by on the other side of the road; stop, come to the side of the bloodied man in the ditch and see to his recovery.
Don’t ignore the hungry; stop and feed them.
Listen to the blind calling out from the side of the road, stop, and heal them with God’s love.
Reach out to the prostitute who wants to be made clean, and offer her living water.
Cast out demons from those who have the Devil in them.
Give your life, and I’ll give mine, for the service of others,
Just as Jesus has done for us.
‘You want some of this?’ Jesus is asking us today.
If you want some of Jesus, invite him to your side.
Invite Jesus to travel life’s journey with you.
He will be with you during the dark nights of your soul
And he will be with you when you step through the divide into God’s eternal glory.
Journeying with Jesus
Means we dedicate our lives
To the service of others
That, all of us together,
Might taste and see
God’s eternal glory.