Dr. Carol S. Franklin
Dr. Carol Franklin is a retired higher education professional and is a member of Christ Church.
You know that old saw that it is difficult to serve two masters? Well this Sunday, I feel pulled in multiple directions. First of course is the pull of today’s lessons and how God illuminates them for me. Second is the fact that I was asked specifically to preach today as part of an Outreach Sunday event. But then a few weeks ago Peter reminds me that it is also stewardship season, and finally he encouraged me to be short and succinct. My response to him about that last bit was it depends on how she chooses to speak to me. Thankfully she did speak, revealing that the heart of today’s lessons was about serving and giving. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together and all the stars seemed to align for this Outreach and Stewardship Sunday? Now let’s see if I can be succinct.
As I read the lessons appointed for the day, especially Mark’s Gospel, the first thing that popped into my head was “Clueless in Jerusalem.” With their minds more preoccupied with petty thoughts of self at the top of the table, the disciples couldn’t see Christ’s true purpose or understand his service and his sacrifice. Clearly, clueless the sons of Zebedee and the rest of the crew just didn’t get it, didn’t get the difference between worldly greatness and spiritual greatness. Then it struck me that many of us, even those of us in the church, can fall prey to that clueless syndrome.
There is a sharp disconnect between the messages of the culture in which we live and the kingdom of God to which we aspire. Too frequently, we in the world value celebrity over substance, idolizing the rich, the powerful, the beautiful and the athletic. Then there are those purveyors of a prosperity gospel that preach earthly rewards in return for our faith, focusing more on what God will do for us rather than what we are called to do or be in and by that faith.
Clueless that’s what we are, expecting seats at the top of the table and the finest of wines rather than seeing where the cup and the baptism of Christ would lead him and us. The truth is, we didn’t choose God, God chose us. Let’s be honest, who among us at first blush would choose anything, any seat or any cup from someone who asks so much of his children, of someone who could send his own son to suffer a horrific death? But we do accept because we realize that such an act demonstrates a singular truth that we are the beloved of God and that He would pay any price, including the life of His son, to ransom our lives. We are who we are and what we are because of who God is. God came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ to show us the meaning and power of His love and to remind us that we are His.
The real question is, are we ready to confront what it means to be chosen? When we take the cup, are we really ready for the service and the sacrifice? In his sermon last week, Peter said something that struck a chord with me – in essence if we accept that we are known and beloved of God, we can’t stay the way we are. We must discover what God desires us to be and what it means to walk that Jesus walk. With Jesus as our model, we see that God’s kingdom rejects the world’s measures for esteem, for true greatness flows not from dominating others but in giving of self and serving others. Thus acceptance of the cup and of baptism is acceptance of God’s way. It is accepting Jesus’ invitation to change ourselves and the world we live in by joining him in serving and giving to others. By following Jesus, we are lead directly into the heart of God, where we find that the message of Christ’s journey is not about worldly riches or a place in the spotlight, it’s about love.
The Lord instructs us to love and To Love is a verb. It requires action, for loving God is not measured solely or simply by the law or our adherence to it. Jesus practiced what he preached, breaking down barriers, loving the outcast and welcoming those on the margins. He was a rule breaker who moved beyond conventional wisdom to open our eyes and hearts to see a new path and a new life. We can do no less than to love one another as Christ loved us. For me it means that loving God is not measured simply by being baptized or going to church or praying regularly or professing to be a Christian. It’s love that must abide as we gather in worship and in giving of our self, our time, our talent and our silver to the work that God and Christ have called us to.
Last month, I ended my sermon by stating that “At the end of the day when asked ‘Where is the love?’ I hope we can respond, here in this place, as we reach out to love as Christ loved and heal as Christ healed.”
Now I could give you a litany of the ways in which we in this parish seek to reflect the priorities of God that Jesus proclaimed. It would include our outreach and giving, our work to reimagine and renew our parish life and role here at the crossroads. But if I did, I’d miss the mark on that last injunction to be succinct.
On this Outreach and Stewardship Sunday, take a moment to explore the many ways in which we in this parish live out that call to serve and to give. Talk to someone about our stewardship of time, talent, silver and this edifice. Ask about the ways in which we reach back and lift up those in our community and throughout the world through our outreach initiatives. I think you’ll discover that we in this place are not clueless, and you will be amazed to learn that we can indeed be known by our love as we walk in Christ’s purpose.