Well, here it is: Another Thursday and its time once again to wrestle with a text to create a message for the weekend that will be witty, relevant, comforting, challenging, Biblically accurate, no more than 20 minutes long, effectively speak to Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers, GI generation and people of every imaginable situations in life. Not an easy task.
One day, a long time ago, I heard a voice - not an audible voice, but a voice nonetheless - and it was God calling me to ministry. At the time, I didn't realize exactly what that might mean. Had I been able to foresee the challenges and struggles of being a pastor, perhaps I would have ignored that voice. But God was gentle and helped me ease into my calling much the same way a person wades into a cold lake for a swim. It was step by step; inch by reluctant inch; part by part until now, I feel fully immersed. And, I might add, like I am barely able to tread water at times.
This week, I want to preach on what it means to serve others in Jesus' name. My text is from Matthew 20 where James' and John's mother comes and asks that her sons be given the places of highest honor in Jesus' coming kingdom. Isn't that just like a mother? Always looking out for ways to protect and elevate her children.
Jesus reply was not to her but to her sons. "Can you (not will you) can you drink the cup from which I am about to drink?" They not knowing, like I didn't know, said yes, we can drink from that cup. I don't think they really knew what they were signing on for. Acts 12 tells us James was beheaded or run through by the sword at Herod's command. John, we know was exiled to the isle of Patmos and church tradition tells us that he too was martyred.
Jesus' point was not about honor, ambition or doing good enough to ascend to a place of honor. It was about accepting the fact that anyone desiring greatness in God's kingdom has to, first, become a servant (or as Dale Brunner puts it, 'a table waiter) for the others. Greatness in Jesus' view comes not from self-advancement or vain ambition. It comes from selfless, humble service to others. "Can you drink from this cup?"
Can I drink this cup? Am I really ever ready to accept the responsibility and obedience of service that Jesus calls me to? I think I am today. I hope I did yesterday! I am not sure about tomorrow. I will have to commit to that tomorrow. I pray I will not just hold the cup at a distance. I ask that I will not just give lip service to my devotion and sip from His cup as though it were some bitter, foul-tasting brew that's too hot, too cold, too awful to ingest.
I gulp from cups of joy and blessing when they come. I take mighty swigs from the cup of self. If my own interests were cups of Starbuck's Coffee, Starbucks stock would be much higher than it is today. But drinking from the cup of Christ ---that's tough!
But I know I want to serve. I want to give the best sermons possible. I want to be available to any and every person who asks for my time and energy. I want to be less self-serving and egotistic. I want to be more like Jesus but it is hard.
So here I sit, wondering what I can say to people this weekend about drinking from Jesus' cup and being servants. Hmmmm, maybe I have just said it.