Toorak Uniting Church

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To be a Saint

Mark 10: 35 – 45
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
18 July 2010

We all know that what happened on that day two thousand years ago would never happen in our Church. But that’s because we, in contrast to James and John, know more about how Jesus’ life came to an end, and because we have, of course the benefit of two thousand years of practice at being servants rather than people who are interested in power and lording it over others.

I am sure that none of us would ever get it into our heads to want to be someone of more importance than the person sitting across the Church from us. Fortunately this desire for power, this longing to move up in the world is completely alien to our Church. As it should be, two thousand years after Jesus laid down his life.

Leadership in our Church is marked by the imitation of the way of our Lord. We share generously, love recklessly and give more than we can afford, trusting that everybody else will do the same and never take advantage of it. We are not afraid to make ourselves vulnerable, because we know the Church is a place where vulnerability is treated with respect and met with care. We work together, respectfully listening and looking for value and meaning in the words of another. We don’t bear grudges. We always assume others are in there with the best of intentions and working as hard as we are to make the way of Christ a living reality in the world. We’ve mastered the art of being a positive, loving, uplifting, caring community where people are built up and inspired to grow and discover their strengths in the service of the Lord. And where they get an opportunity to start again when their weaknesses get the better of them.

There is never blood on the floor here, or on the wall, or on the ceiling or anywhere else for that matter. We serve, and we care, and when we join for worship on a Sunday that first prayer of confession is really only a remnant of a bygone era we might as well skip.

And should there ever be something like that happening, it is never our fault is it? Never!

Am I laying it on too thick?

Perhaps I am. But we all know how it really is, don’t we?

Gently Jesus puts the brothers James and John in their place: "I don’t know about places of honour" he says, "I am not the one who hands them out. But beware what you wish for. You may not want what you now so badly desire: to be where I am, to live my life, to be closest to me."

James will die as one of the first martyrs. His heritage will inspire thousands and thousands over a period that has been going for over two thousand years now to walk the way to Santiago and reflect on what their priorities are in life. To seek forgiveness through penitence as they hoover up the miles beneath their feet. Honouring his heritage, his story, the gentle rebuff he received and the way he managed to serve his Lord to the end. Enjoying community and solitude, sunshine and rain, hardship and laughter along the way and learn what it is like to live like Jesus. Carrying no more than the essentials, identified by nothing more than a shell and a cross to say who they are and what they are after.

I am sure there are conflicts there too, and people who do it just a bit harder, go a bit further, want to be a bit better than others too. I am sure even on the way to Santiago pride, envy, bitterness, anger, egoism, self serving desire for power get in the way of what a life on a level with Christ is really about.

As it does here, in Toorak and I am sure also in other congregations.

Let’s leave it behind us for 15 minutes and come to our Lord’s table. As people who know full well they could do with a little more of those fruits of the Spirit as they are named in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: Faithfulness, Self-Control, Patience, Goodness, Gentleness, Joy, Kindness, Peace and love. Know we all need the forgiveness and boundless love of God to hold us and smother us in compassion and care. That we are all people who depend on the hand of God to pull us out of the mud and put us back on track, again and again and again. So we can continue to travel on his road and learn to grow into the likeness of Christ, day after day after day.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2010

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