Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pentecost 17 - Proper 20

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
10653 N – 550 W
Decatur, IN 46733

A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith
Acts 2:42

Chartered February 25, 1838
Celebrating our 174th Year

Pentecost 17 - Proper 20
23 September 2012
Mark 9:30—37
The Marks of Greatness
O God, whose strength is made perfect in weakness, grant us humility and childlike faith that we may please You in both will and dead; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

What are the marks or the measure of greatness? The disciples certainly had definite criteria for marking greatness. As the talked amongst themselves, they began to argue, for each of them had their own individual standards. They were more concerned about their status and position. They were affected by their importance and their reputation. They were gauging themselves and their personal accomplishments, their closeness to Jesus as the mark of greatness.

There is a definite measure of greatness according to the world’s standard. We measure the greatness and the success of our national leaders through national opinion polls. We award successful movies with an Oscar award.  Our human nature is focused on competition. Half of most news programs focus on sports while schools devote much of their resources to sports programs. Businesses spend vast amounts of advertising money trying to gain an advantage over their competition. Cities and states compete to attract businesses. Employees compete for better positions. Young adults compete for dates and recognition. Children compete for their parents and neighbor’s attention. It is a natural human behavior.

The problem is, it is natural. It is an outgrowth of our carnal, sinful flesh. Galatians 5:17 warns; “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” Competitiveness often leads to conflict, strife, and envy. I Corinthians 3:3 declares, “You are still worldly. For since, there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? "It arises in the church as well, as we see with the disciples.

There is a definite measure of greatness according to Jesus’ standard. That standard of greatness is found in verse 35 of our text, “If anyone wants to be first he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” By Jesus’ standard, greatness is found in serving. Serving places others before yourself. Paul put it this way, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.” (Philippians 2:3) Striving to be served is the goal of this self-centered world. Servant-hood is a mark of the Christian.

Rank or stand in God’s kingdom is not determined by strips on a sleeve or at the bottom of a balance sheet, or whom you know of what you’ve done. There is not one person here who is better or worse than another is. We are all sinner. We deserve nothing but punishment. Yet, by the grace of God found in Jesus Christ, we have each been given a gift of His divine grace.

Jesus tells us that the greatest mark of servant-hood is for one to lay down his life for another, which is precisely what He had done for you. The Father serves up His son on the cross that we in turn might serve each other.

Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

Humility and servant-hood in the life the Christian go hand in hand. Jesus has proved for us the Gospel power to be first by being last and servant of all. The world will continue to tell us that social rank and status determined by the bottom line and personal accomplishments is the mark and measure of greatness. Don’t listen to these competing voices. Listen to the voice of your Shepherd. Being last and the servant of all is the measure and mark of greatness in His kingdom. That is the difference, and it can only be comprehended and understood by faith. May our prayer today be simply this, “Lord, humble me, and teach me to be a servant.” 

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