Pentecost 22 October 21, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

PENTECOST 22 Proper 24 RCL Year B

Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 91:9-16; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

James and John . . .

What were they thinking?

 

Jesus had just told his disciples

for the third time

what would happen to him

in Jerusalem:

arrest, torture, crucifixion, death . . .

 

What were they thinking?

 

That his dire predictions

were just his usual exaggerated way

of making his point . . .

 

that it would be dangerous

but he would triumph

in the end . . . ?

 

The end being,

in the imaginations of James and John,

the overthrow of

the Roman occupiers

and the establishment

of a new regime

 

with Jesus as King,

and themselves as

his highest political appointees

one at his right hand

and one at this left.

 

The self-centered ambition,

the insensitivity,

the obtuseness

of James and John . . .

 

and the rest of the disciples,

who surely were only angry with James and John

because they got there first . . .

 

you think?

 

 

“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand

and one at your left, in your glory.”

 

What glory would that be?

 

They had not heard him at all.

 

Jesus’ reply:

“You do not know what you are asking.”

 

or, being translated,

“Be careful what you pray for . . . ”

 

 

And what was it we prayed for,

just a few minutes ago,

in the Collect of the Day,

the prayer that completes

our gathering for worship,

 

that collects, focuses,

our individual intentions

into one communal prayer?

 

Did we really know

what we were asking

in that prayer?

 

Here it is again:

 

“Almighty and everlasting God,

in Christ, you have revealed your glory

among the nations;

Preserve the works of your mercy,

that your Church throughout the world

may persevere with steadfast faith

in the confession of your Name . . .”

 

Your church throughout the world . . .

that would include us . . .

 

may persevere . . .

press on against any and all obstacles . . .

 

in the confession of your Name . . .

proclaiming You,

whose glory has been revealed

in Christ . . .

 

A glory that has nothing to do

with the majesty and splendor and power

of the empires of this world –

the glory James and John

desired for themselves . . .

and the other disciples

wished they’d asked for first . . .

 

and we, God forgive us,

sometimes

think might be kind of wonderful.

 

The glory revealed in Christ

has nothing to do with

majesty and splendor and power,

fame or fortune,

 

and everything to do with

following Jesus

along the arduous way of service,

a way of humility and self-offering

for the sake of others.

Jesus, the son of God,

“did not count equality with God

as something to be exploited,”

as Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians,

[2:6b-7a;7c-8]

“but emptied himself . . .

. . . being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death,

even death on a cross.”

 

He humbled himself,

drew to himself

the sad and poor ones of his society,

embraced them, loved them,

served them.

in this, he revealed God’s glory.

 

He went to his suffering and death

sorrowing but willingly

without promise or hope of resurrection,

 

(for this phrase “and in three days rise again”

after each of his predictions of his fate

is surely added by the Gospel writers,

who, after the fact, knew what had happened.)

 

He went to his suffering and death

experiencing the desolation

of one seemingly abandoned by God,

and in this, he revealed God’s glory.

 

 

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,”

Jesus asked James and John,

“or be baptized with the baptism

that I am baptized with?”

 

“We are able,” they replied.

 

What were they thinking?

 

 

To drink the cup . . .

 

the cup of the Last Supper,

the cup of the New Covenant,

 

the cup of the Cross,

the cup of his life’s blood.

 

Cup of sacrifice / Cup of salvation,

 

Cup of repentance / Cup of forgiveness,

 

Cup of sorrow / Cup of joy,

 

Cup of the mystery of life and death,

 

Cup of the strange and unfathomable glory of God.

 

If we go about this world

proclaiming the God

whose glory

is revealed

in the life and death

and resurrection of Jesus –

 

a message the world desperately

needs to hear

but not necessarily one it

wants to hear . . .

 

we will drink that cup,

deeply,

with all its myriad meanings . . .

 

Are we able?

 

 

To be baptized with Jesus’ baptism  . . .

 

his forthcoming death . . .

and the participation in his cross

that will be the lot

of all the baptized . . .

 

 

How distorted and impoverished

our understanding of baptism

became across the centuries . . .

 

From a deliberate, whole-hearted yielding

of one’s self and life

to God’s purposes . . .

 

to a cheap ticket on the train

out of this world

to heaven.

 

 

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer

brought baptism back to earth,

giving us back

the centrality of baptism

to Christian living in the here and now,

opening to us the wealth of meaning

in this great sacrament of God’s mercy,

 

in which we are

plunged into the waters of the font,

drowned into Christ’s death,

set free from the power of sin,

 

to be reborn

as members of Christ’s body

sharing in his resurrection,

 

dying to self-centeredness

rising to Christ-centeredness,

 

re-oriented from

preoccupation with our own well-being

to

passion for the well-being of the world.

 

The promises of baptism

require

a complete re-ordering of our lives

for the re-ordering of the world . . .

 

require giving ourselves completely

to the Christian faith and life:

 

continuing

in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,

in the breaking of bread

and in the prayers;

 

persevering in resisting evil,

and whenever we fall into sin,

repenting and returning to the Lord;

 

proclaiming by word and example

the Good News of God in Christ;

 

seeking and serving Christ in all persons,

loving our neighbor as ourself;

 

striving for justice and peace among all people,

and respecting the dignity of every human being.

 

cherishing the wondrous works of God,

and protecting the beauty and integrity

of all creation.

 

[paraphrase of the 5 promises of the Baptismal Covenant BCP pp. 304-05,

and the 6th proposed promise for the care of creation]

 

We’ll renew those vows on All Saints’ Sunday,

two weeks from now,

as we do

on each of the four baptismal occasions

during the church year,

re-turning – turning again

to these commitments

to discipleship.

 

In these two weeks,

we might take time to consider

how we are doing

with those promises . . .

that we may renew them

with deeper intent.

 

 

When we bring someone

through the waters of baptism,

we, all of us,

the Church in this place,

welcome them into new life in Christ

with these astonishing words:

 

“We receive you into the household of God.

Confess the faith of Christ crucified,

proclaim his resurrection,

and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”

 

[BCP p. 308]

 

“share with us in his eternal priesthood,”

the priesthood of all the baptized . . .

 

 

And what is this priesthood

but a life lived according to those promises,

a life lived in the pattern of Christ,

the great high priest,

who came not to be served

but to serve,

not to win glory for himself,

but to reveal the glory of God.

 

Ancient baptismal fonts

were often cross-shaped,

signifying that baptismal life,

the baptism into which

we are baptized with Christ,

is cruciform . . .

 

shaped by the cross

in daily rhythms of

dying and rising.

 

Baptism into the strange

and unfathomable glory of God.

 

 

Our passage through the waters

of baptism

is a one-time event.

 

Our living of it

is a process, life-long.

 

Are we able?

 

 

If we go about this world

proclaiming the God

whose glory

is revealed

in the life and death

and resurrection of Jesus –

and living that proclamation,

 

we will be baptized

with the baptism of Jesus,

with all its myriad meanings . . .

 

For this proclamation

seems like foolishness

in a culture that shapes us

to seek personal fulfillment

at the right and left hand

of the rich and famous,

the powerful, the trendy,

the most attractive;

 

to seek personal security

in position and possessions

and provable certainties.

 

But to us who are willing

to drink the cup that Jesus drank

to be baptized with his baptism,

 

it is the wisdom of God.

 

 

 

Our understanding is limited,

perhaps not quite as limited

as that of James and John,

 

but limited nonetheless . . .

 

for drinking this cup

being baptized with this baptism

is the beginning of

a lifelong voyage

into the unknown . . .

 

 

Born into a transformed life

at baptism,

infants all,

no matter our age

when we pass through the waters . . .

 

we spend the rest of our earthly years

in a kind of baptismal midlife,

ever growing up into Christ,

 

and it is like this . . .

 

a poem called “Midlife . . .”
“Midlife”

by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

 

This is as far as the light

of my understanding

has carried me:

an October morning

a canoe built by hand

a quiet current

 

above me the trees arc

green and golden

against a cloudy sky

 

below me the river responds

with perfect reflection

a hundred feet deep

a hundred feet high.

 

To take a cup of this river

to drink its purple and gray

its golden and green

 

to see

a bend in the river up ahead

and still

say

yes.

 

[Repeat From “To take a cup  . . .”]

 

Midlife, by Julie Cadwallader-Staub

from The Writer’s Almanac October 21, 2012

 

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