Do We Want to Be Close to Jesus?  

DSC05182Alan Alda, the United Church’s Statement on Ministry, sales training, photosynthesis, responses from people on the question: why I come to church, the reading from Mark… let’s see if they all hang together by the time I am finished.

I asked people to share why they come to church and a number of you responded.

This from Joan Gallant:

• I come/go to church to develop and deepen my relationship with God; theoretically I would like to do that with other, like-minded people….
• Years ago, I likened my attendance to church on Sunday as a ‘bath’…..a ‘cleansing time’ to remind myself, what I should be thinking about, and how, and when and why, etc….I found it to be a bit of a ‘realignment’ process for me….perhaps like checking in to a clinic (addictions?!) to weigh/measure one’s progress – or not!
• I was especially happy to take my young son, so that he could grow up, with other folks around him….with similar thoughts, questions, dreams, etc. – and felt somewhat comforted, that he would encounter all ages of people – from a great variety of backgrounds, in his process of learning, developing and growing – physiologically, and with his faith, and with his own relationship to/with God.
• Finally, it HAD to be the United Church – who welcomes ALL people – that part is NON-NEGOTIABLE!

This from Niccole Brooking:

• I go to church to be closer to God, my grandmother and other loved ones who have passed on. I feel closer to God and my grandmother when I walk in the church.
• I feel an inner calm and peace that I can’t find anywhere else.
• I feel overwhelming emotions at times just being there and being in the presence of others who trust in Him.
• It is the one place that I truly feel surrounded by His love and that I am the person He expects me to be.

This from Alan Gallant:

• I have attended this church for fresh insights on positive ways to be in the world.
• We have always had well thought out sermons which I have enjoyed. Every Minister that has graced our door has had something different to offer.
• Coming from a Catholic upbringing, where the bible is taken very literally, the United Church provides a well-rounded thought provoking interpretation.

This from Paul Bolivar:

• I was baptised in the United Church in June 1939 and except for a few years in my late teens and early 20’s I have been active in the United Church in many capacities.
• With my many career moves I have been a member of the church in 10 different locations. I am a part of the church and the church is a part of me. That is why I go to church.

This from someone who wished to remain anonymous:

• The folks here seem real, not fake or phoney/pompous, we feel welcome… it would have been in Jesus time
to sit at his feet and listen to stories, sermons, old testament quotes on how to truly live Christ like values out here in the real world.
• You all laugh………A LOT…… express positivity, the choir, the readers, the many times when the congregation shows up to bake, cook, serve, sing , party, swim, men cleaning pots/pans or spend time recognizing youth…there is always an uplifting vibration/atmosphere, smiles, welcoming.
• We have moved and now worship and listen elsewhere now but Jesus lives in your church, we share bread, we are the body of Christ to be broken and shared with others.
• Church for us has to be “real” not symbolic of Jesus’ teachings and go about your day or week. It has to be living, breathing Christ-like.

And this from Reeta Sweeney:

• One of the wonderful moments for me at church I have found in the New Creed.
• I find the words God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.” to be a feeling of being wrapped in God’s warmth and strength.
• When I say these words with everyone I know my week will be okay.

James and John wanted to be close to Jesus… in other words, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves.They get a bad rap in this part of the story
Listen to how the story unfolds in Mark 10:35-45:

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

10:36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”

10:37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

10:39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;

10:40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

10:41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.

10:42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

10:43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

10:44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

If we left out the first two verses of that reading, there would be little to condemn the disciples for.

They want to be close to Jesus, one on the right and one on the left. Don’t we come to church because we want to be close to Jesus? But why do we want to be close to Jesus? For reflected glory? For inspiration? For comfort? Jesus seems to think that James and John want to be close to him, not in service, but in order to exercise power in his name. It’s tempting isn’t it… we all like to be close to those who have authority and influence.

But is that what Jesus’ life and ministry calls us to? Jesus’ life and ministry actually calls to a life of servanthood… of giving of ourselves… to something greater than ourselves… You know the two greatest laws, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart and mind… and your neighbour as yourself…” But, what if you don’t feel it? What if you don’t feel like loving your neighbour as yourself?

This is where Alan Alda and my sales training comes in. On my way to Sydney this past week, I was listening to an audio book by Alan Alda, of M*A*S*H fame. The book was entitled, Things I Overheard When Talking to Myself. In it he shares some words of wisdom from the many addresses he has given, along with anecdotes from his life as an actor. He spoke of how when you are acting, you have to find the action in the writing, and until you do, the most inspired words will fall flat.

He also spoke of a scene in which he was chasing a woman on a beach, he was the killer and she was running for her life. They had rehearsed the lines, but until they added the action, they were just lines. They did several takes of him chasing her on the beach, but his heart wasn’t in it. Then suddenly, in one take, as he was chasing her, he WAS the killer, he WANTED to kill her, and the actress really was running for her life!

The feeling came AFTER or DURING the action.

It was the same in my sales training… we read, we studied, we practiced… and we were invited to ‘act as if’ we were already experienced and effective sales people. And in the behaviour, suddenly we became experienced and effective salespeople. It was the behaviour that made the difference… even if we felt ill equipped and unexperienced…

Now, what does all this have to do with the gospel reading? When James and John want to be close to Jesus, they are challenged by Jesus’ words, In other words, Jesus tells that unless they are willing to be baptized in the same way, suffer in the same way, etc., they will not be close to him In other words, until they want to embody the kind of life Jesus is live, until they are prepared to face persecution and sharing and welcome they will not be close to Jesus.

Do we want to be close to Jesus? Do we want to share in his life, suffering, death and resurrection? For that is what we are called to be.

What if we started ‘acting’ loving? Hospitable? Caring for others? Whether or not we actually feel it? What if we took our negativity and turned into opportunity? What if we entered this place with the words, “What can I do to create a community of faith and friendship? What if when we said, “The peace of Christ be with you” we looked directly in the other person’s eyes as if they were Christ himself? We may start of by feeling self-conscious and awkward, but I bet if we ACTED loving, we will feel loving.
If we ACT welcoming, we will BE welcoming. If we ACT with generosity, we will feel generous!

The United Church’s Statement on Ministry, and this is not about ordained ministry, but the ministry of ALL, calls us to ACTION. It was written by a cross section of United Church people: lay, ordained and diaconal, and approved by the General Council in 2012.

The church is a community of believers (ecclesia) called into existence by the presence of Jesus Christ and the call to continue Jesus’ ministry in the world. Through the Spirit, who enlivens and renews the church, all members (emphasis mine) are empowered to share in Christ’s ministry, the work of the church. The church is about God’s mission in the world—living out the gospel message through action—that there will be shalom for God’s creatures and healing for God’s creation. Ministry serves God’s mission in the world.

It is the responsibility of leaders to seek to be humble and authentic, to act with personal integrity and courage, and to be passionate for God’s love for creation. All leadership requires adequate preparation and a discipline of spiritual growth and life-long learning.

The church is about God’s mission in the world. Therefore the Holy Spirit continually calls the church to renew its understanding of ministry, opening itself to new expressions that serve the needs of the present day.

My last point.

This is a beautiful time of year isn’t it? The brilliant colours of the leaves. But did you know that the colours have been in the leaves all along?

Each leaf on a tree is like a tiny solar panel, gathering sunlight the tree uses to make food. Sunlight helps turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose, a sugar that the tree uses for food to grow.

This process of converting water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose is called
photosynthesis. A chemical called chlorophyll helps he process of photosynthesis
occur. Chlorophyll is also what gives plants their green color.

As summer ends and autumn begins, the days get shorter and shorter. With fewer daylight hours, leaves are not able to make as much chlorophyll as they can during the long daylight hours of spring and summer.

You may be surprised to learn that each leaf has small amounts of other colors in it year-round, even if we can’t see them. During the spring and summer, chlorophyll
overpowers the other colors, and all we see is green. In the fall, with less chlorophyll to give the leaf its vibrant green color, we begin to see the other colors, such as orange, yellow, and red, which have been there all along.

This community has had some struggles… some conflict… some hurt feelings… before I arrived and during my time with you.But I KNOW that underneath whatever struggles, conflicts and challenges we have, there is a radiant kaleidoscope of colours. A phantasmagoria of love and faith and caring. The bright, true colours are here.

There you have it:
• Get close to Jesus and seek to imitate his life.
• Act loving and caring
• Don’t worry about feeling awkward
• Let your colour shine!

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of being close to Jesus. Amen.

Mark 10: 35-45 – Kent
October 21, 2018

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