XCovid-19:Important Updates for Worship, Church Operations and Staying ConnectedRead more

Sermon Archives

James and John and Jesus in 2012

Rev. Reebee Girash
Sun, Oct 21

Shelter Sunday
Text: Mark 10:35-45

It happens once in twelve years: this gospel passage appears in the lectionary during a national election season. As I considered this passage over the last week, it seemed that every conversation I had with people turned to the election. I talked to folks volunteering for candidates, folks who disagreed with their neighbors on the election but still shared dinner together, folks who worried about the divisions among us, folks who are boggled by the issues that aren't even mentioned and folks covering their ears till it's all over. I am particularly proud and inspired by those of you at First Church working hard to bring crucial issues into the political dialog, through the recent GBIO forum and the upcoming 350MA climate vigil. And I know I don't have to preach on voter turnout because I know every one of you who can, will vote, and will do so thoughtfully and faithfully. The most recent Sojourners magazine1, focused on the election, was on my mind, too. My guess is every UCC preacher in the country had a similar week. And so I imagine many preachers having the same daydream I had this week, while brushing my teeth: conflating this dialog between Jesus and two of his followers with the 2012 political season.

Here's the scene I imagined.

James and John have dropped out of their regular lives running a fishing boat off Gloucester in order to travel the country by bike and train with Jesus. The crowds that gather to listen to Jesus are getting bigger. James and John come up with a great idea.

Teacher, we have something to ask you, they say. We think you should run for office! It will be great, so many more people would hear your message. And, if you get elected, Jesus, it'll be great for us, too. I can be your Vice President, says James. And I want to be your Press Secretary, ok?, says John. It'll be so cool!

Jesus, who has explained this many times, sighs. James. John. Y'all have missed a meeting.

Three times I've said, my path heads toward a cross, not a mansion.

But okay, just for a second, let's say I did run for office: I wouldn't even get into the debate. I wouldn't even get on the ballot. My talks have no soundbytes and I don't pose for photo ops - although I do like smiling at babies and children, I'll give you that.

The thing is, guys, I have the wrong constituency. The folks I'm reaching out to are those with no electoral power. Remember that sermon on the plain, where I said, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God...but woe to you who are rich or full?" (Luke 6) What about that time I said, "just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' " (Matthew 25) My constituency includes a lot of folks who sleep in church basements, not corporately funded superPacs.
My focus isn't on the middle class, like every Republican and Democrat wants to - it's on helping the poor, the children, the widow, the sick. Feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner. Welcoming the folks that many call stranger and other and outsider. Saving my Abba's creation seems more important than growing the economy, and as to numbers....53/47/99/1...how about we're all God's children, and maybe the 1 percent I'm worried about are the bottom one percent?

Also, it doesn't poll well to invite prostitutes, tax collectors and fishermen to dinner.

So, I'm not going to get elected. But that's ok. I'm not interested in being at the top of the pile. I came to do something different: to be salt and light and turn things upside down. I came to show that the last are first when it comes to God's vision. It turns out when people use my name to gain glory and power it doesn't always work out so well, and the least of these get left out.
So I'm not here to play in the regular power system. I'm here to help you imagine a different system. I came to serve, not to be served. I came to work, not get elected.

James, John, the question I have for you, is can you drink this cup? Can you be servant leaders? Can you walk outside of the system, can you give up the idea of getting close to glory in order to serve our brothers and sisters? Can you deal with persecution - because they are going to laugh at you, and tell lies about you. If they pay attention to you at all. Are you ok with never getting coverage by the Globe or the Times or the Herald or the Post, will you keep working even when you have to write letters from jail? Will you keep calling in, from outside the system, when it seems that no one is listening?

Before you answer, I need to remind you that the people on the right and left of me will be on crosses before they are in a marble hall.

This is what I keep telling you. Nothing is going to be easy. There won't be red white and blue balloons falling from the ceiling in the room you're in on election night. There will be days you think your work is going nowhere, no one cares, no one hears you. And yet.

And yet somehow, the Reign of God will come anyway. My power, and your power if you join with me, is that my service ransoms many, and builds towards a better future. The miracle is, God is here and God's reign is at hand. If you are my followers, you are about building the kingdom, and the kingdom is outside of the current political system. The kindom, kingdom, reign of God will not have an oval office but it will have a huge banquet table. And you will know when you've built it because around that table you will see the folks who sleep in church basements and folks who are unemployed and the folks who are hungry and you will see ex-offenders and you will see climate refugees and you will see widows and you will see orphans and you will know you are in the right place.

And then one miraculous day, the folks who are insiders, who have power and glory - they will realize they want to be around that table, too.

God is with you, here and now.
God’s power is yours if you choose to claim it.
You are God’s strong back and calloused hands.
You are God’s muscled legs and tender heart.
You will usher in the realm of God by sharing your power in God’s name2.

So let me down off this pedestal, and let's get back to work. Amen.

1. Indeed, I am indebted to ideas from Jim Wallis' article "How to Choose a President" in the November 2012 Sojourners Magazine, and I commend it to your reading. Currently available online at http://sojo.net/magazine/2012/11/how-choose-president

2. This is a reference to Responsive Litany based on Isaiah 25 by Fran Bogle, from earlier in the service.

Looking for ways to support our community during this unprecedented time of need? The Missions and Social Justice Committee has compiled and vetted a short list of organizations looking for assistance to aid in their work in the COVID-19 response...

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Shelter has expanded into Sage Hall to allow for greater social distancing, and is now open to guests around the clock, thanks to additional funding from the Commonwealth. They would very much welcome...