The brothers James and John come o Jesus and ask him for a favor. They ask that when he is king they can sit at his right and his left in places of honor.
Jesus tells them they don’t understand what they are asking. He asks them if they can drink from the cup he will drink from or be baptized as he will be. Of course they respond enthusiastically (because they still don’t understand).
He tells them that they will indeed drink from the same cup and have the same baptism, but it is not for him to say who will sit by him because God has prepared those places.
The other disciples were angry at James and John for their lobbying tactics. Jesus called them together and explained that they would not function like the rest of the world and its rulers.
Whoever wants to be your leader must be your servant.Whoever wants to be first must serve the rest of you like a slave.Follow my example: Even the Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.
Mark 10:43-45 (Easy-to-Read Version)
Again Jesus is teaching us how to follow him, and it flips the script on society’s norms (the society of his time but also ours). Even a couple thousand years later, his words are revolutionary. Serve to lead; lead by serving. There’s no looking out for number one or grabbing all you can to get ahead. Live by love and live for others. How would it change your plans for today and the days to come if you lived by these words?
Today’s Advent reading is the very start of the Christmas story–the angel Gabriel comes to young Mary in Nazareth. Gabriel tells Mary she is very special to God. She is surprised and confused. I mean, who wouldn’t be?
The angel tells her not to be afraid, because God is pleased with you. He tells her she will be pregnant and have a baby boy, whom she will name Jesus. I love this part because my middle son has played Gabriel twice in our church’s Christmas pageant, and he does an almost British accent and rolls the R when he says grandly, “He will be grrrrreat and will be called the Son of the Most High; and of his kingdom there will be no end!”
Mary asks how it will happen since she is still a virgin and the angel tells her the power of God will cover her. The baby will be called the Son of God. He also tells her that her cousin Elizabeth, considered too old to bear a child, is also pregnant, because God can do anything.
Mary says, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let this thing you have said happen to me!” Then Gabriel leaves her.
I love this story. It’s supernatural but also very human. A young woman having an out-of-this-world experience. She’s shocked but she’s also accepting. I hope that in every encounter with God we can also be so willing to be servants. Cherish the mystery but be willing to say yes to it, too.
In this parable, Jesus describes God’s kingdom as like a man who leaves on a trip and before he goes he leaves his servants in charge. He gives them each different amounts of money and they each responded differently. Some invest it but one just digs a hole and leaves his master’s money in a hole. When the master comes home he calls in his servants to see what they did with his money. he’s pleased with those who increased it, but he’s really angry at the one who only buried the money he was given. He takes money from that one and gives it to the one who made the most money. The master says, “Everyone who uses what they have will get more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what they have will have everything taken away from them.” (Easy-to-Read Version)
The master in this parable is really giving very large amounts of money to these servants (not for their own use but to keep safe for him and also to increase for him). It’s a big responsibility for each of them. Those who took the money and invested it were given even larger sums of money–so the reward was actually more responsibility to use it wisely. The one who hid the money was afraid to even attempt to invest it–his fear reminds me of Christians who hide away in their own church communities and don’t step out in faith to invest God’s love in the larger world to grow it more. God will come back and say, “What did you do with what I gave you?” and they can only look around at their own small world that they haven’t expanded. We have to step out in faith and use God’s love to change the world, not only to dig a hole and bury it in fear of his wrath. God’s love is meant to be shared, and then it will only grow.