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Sermon For Ordinary 29 - Year B
Isaiah 53:4-12; Mark 10:35-45
"The Caring Servant"


READING:  Isaiah 53:4-12; Mark 10:35-45  
SERMON :  "The Caring Servant"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or28sn.y-b 100997

    This sermon has a few dated comments in it due to its
   age.  But it worth preaching then and and so I offer it in the
   hope that you may be inspired by the Spirit that first
   moved in it to shape a message for your faith community.

   
A few years ago as I sat thinking about how James and John, the
sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus if they could rule with him in
heaven, one on his right hand, the other on the left, I wrote a
prayer.

The prayer was this:    "Lord, when I dream of power,
         let me dream of the power to help others".

This week as I considered the same scripture text
         I felt under a lot of pressure:
          the pressure to care.
             and I have begun to think that perhaps something
                 needs to be added to that prayer I wrote.

I think we all feel the pressure to care at times -
         clergy are not special in this,
          although we do get a little bit more mail asking us to
          care, and asking us to get our parishioners to care.

Let me give you a short list of some of the things we are being
called to care about.
 
First for today:
         - we in the church are being called to care about the world
         food situation.  This Sunday is World Food Day.
         - we are also called to care today about world Peace - this
         week leads into what is known as the International Peace
         Sabbath.
That's just two things - not too hard perhaps - despite the
desperate need there is for people to care about these things.

Today also marks the beginning of Foster Family Week in Canada,
and the newspaper yesterday reminded us quite clearly of the
increase in child poverty in Canada as a whole and our region in
particular.  Surely we ought to care about this as well...

And today too, well today is set in the midst of a decade
         in which we are called to remember the special plight of 
          woman around the world - a decade called the International
             Decade Of Churches In Solidarity with Women."

Further, I was asked to include in the bulletin today a handout
that came to us from the President of Amtelecom.

It also speaks of caring - caring that has been done by Gideons
International and which asks us to care enough for our children
and for the people of the Soviet Union to pray for increased
distribution of the bible to our schools and to that Nation.

Then again, the last issue of the United Church Observer also
points out things that we should care about -- things ranging
from Aboriginal Land Claims and African Missions all the way to
the administration of the church and Agriculture in Canada -- and
that is just in the letter A.

Quite frankly it all seems too much,
         and many of us - if not all of us,
          get awfully tired of all the things we are being called
             to care about - it is so overwhelming!..
                 and to top it all off 
if we do not already feel guilty for not caring enough,
there are an abundant number of people around whose whole purpose
in life it seems is to ensure us that we will not long escape
that sense of guilt.

At least that is how I feel at times.
And I think that is how a lot of other people feel as well.

We get tired of all the people who ask us to care,
         we get tired of the guilt we feel for feeling this way,
          and we get tired of the fact that there is so much
             that needs caring for.

So what are we to do?
         What are we do in the face of the needs of the world?
         What are we to do in the face of Christ's demand that we
serve one another, that we care for one another?
         What are we to do in the face of the guilt trips that we
either lay on ourselves or which get laid on us by others?

I think we need to reclaim for ourselves the good news of Jesus
Christ in all this.  And we need to do this in three ways -

FIRST    - we need to understand what Jesus wants us to do in daily
         life
SECOND   - we need to understand what Jesus has done and is doing
and THIRD - we need to understand what is being done by the
          Spirit of Christ in the entire church.


FIRST    what does Jesus want us to do in our daily lives.

There is no question that Jesus wants us to care.  Nor is there a
question that Jesus calls us to be, as he was, a servant of
others.

We are not to be like James and John, sons of Zebedee,
         seeking glory, or power, or self advancement -
          or simply seeking to avoid the work of caring,
             rather we are to do what is right - we are called to
                    truly care about others and to help them.

A story that is often told in the States helps illustrate what we
are to be like with regard to caring:

         During the American Revolutionary War a company of
         soldiers under the command of a captain was building a
         fort out of a pile of heavy logs.  While wrestling with a
         log which was to form the capstone and was really too
         heavy for the men to handle, the captain kept yelling at
         his men "heave it up", while he himself stood by with his
         hands on his hips.

         Suddenly a stranger in everyday clothing rode up on
         horseback, and seeing the soldiers sweating and struggling
         with the log, he stopped and asked the captain why he was
         not helping his men.  "I AM AN OFFICER" was the reply.

         With that the stranger leapt off his horse, took off his
         coat, and helped the men put the heavy log in place. 
         Then, as he was about to ride away, he said to the captain
         "Next time you need help, just call on me.  My name is
         George Washington and I am Commander In Chief of The
         United States Army!"

Brothers and Sisters: each of us is called to do what we can as
the opportunity arises.

We are called to have the servant attitude,
         rather than to assume, as far too many people do,
           that everyone exists to serve us.

This means that when we see a job that needs doing,
         or a job that needs doing better,
          we do not complain about the quality of service,
             or about its lack,
                 but rather - if it is a real issue for us,
                    we help out, for that is what caring is about.

If we keep hearing about the environment and its needs,
         and if we feel that more needs to be done about it,
          then we do what we can, where we can, instead of just
             complaining about the rich corporations who rape the
             earth each day or about how bad things are:
                 - we recycle,
                 - we use green boxes,
                 - we create less garbage
                 - we buy friendly products,
                 - we teach our children and witness to our
                 neighbours.
                 - we help and care and serve
                 where we are and in the ways we can.

This is what the good news of Jesus Christ is about in our daily
lives: having a servant attitude - a servant who cares about his
or her job and wants to do it right - and then does it.

I call it good news because it focuses on what is within our
grasp,
         and although work is required,
          and some sacrifices, often costly ones, need to be made,
             it makes caring a personal matter,
                 and the results of that caring are immensely
                 rewarding at both a personal and a social level.

SECOND   we reclaim the good news of Jesus Christ when we
understand what Jesus has done and is doing.

Jesus paid the price of sin.

Jesus, as the reading from Isaiah put it, 
          "took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows;
          he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed
          for our iniquities"

          Indeed "he bore the sin of many, and made
          intercession for the transgressors"
 
Jesus cared for us - he knew the needs of the world,
         and he not only asked us to care about those needs,
          he himself came, and walked with us,
             and showed us how to love truly and well.
                 and then he died, an innocent man,
          so that all people who seek to be faithful, but who fail,
             as we all fail, may be still united with God,
         so that all people who seek to be faithful as he was
         faithful, may enjoy the blessings of God.

My friends - if you are trying to care as you are called to care,
         if you are trying to serve as you are called to serve,
          then no one out there
          especially those who claim to speak in the name of God,
                 should make you feel guilty about what you have
                 not done.

The good news of Jesus Christ that we need to reclaim is that we,
         who have committed ourselves to the gospel of love, 
          can approach the throne of God with confidence 
             and that there WE WILL RECEIVE MERCY 
                 and there WE WILL FIND THE GRACE WE NEED TO HELP US
                    IN OUR TIME OF NEED.

As we believe and we try to live by love in and through Christ,
         God forgives us and helps us,
          for God knows that we are human,
             and that we can only do so much.

All we are asked is that we try to do it,
         and when we try - Christ himself intercedes for us and gives
         the blessings of God's mercy and grace in our time of need.


THIRD AND LAST   - we need to reclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ
by  understanding what is being done by the Spirit of Christ in
the entire church.

My friends - there are a million issues out there,
         a million issues that we as the church are indeed called to
          care about,
             but the church is composed of millions of people,
                 and each one has their own gifts from God,
                    gifts meant to be used, like ours,
                        in loving service.

When Jesus came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for
many, he called the church into existence,
          and in when he did so he gave us a magnificent gift -
             He  gave us the Holy Spirit and one another.

I care, my friends, about the singing we do in this church,
         but I would not do you any favours, as you all know,
          if I decided that I had to be your song leader each Sunday
             so that we could all sing better,
                 and thereby uplift all those who attend.

That is for Kim, and Florence, and Colleen and Russell.
That is for Kris, and Jennifer, and Mary and Marie, and the
others.

I can care by doing what God asks us all to do, 
         by singing as best as I am able,
          and they can help, they can care, by giving us the correct
          tune - for the Spirit has gifted them for this.

What I am trying to say by this example
         is very much like that which I said at the first,
          it is that we are called to do what we can do,
             where we can do it,
but we are not called, 
and no one should try to make us feel called, 
to own every single issue.

God will require enough of us in those things we are called to do
with out our sweating over things that are not ours.

We reclaim the good news of Jesus Christ,
         when we remember that God works through other people, 
          through the entire church, and we trust God for that.

We need in all this, of course a special attitude 
         we need to have openness to others caring for things
          that we do not feel called to work on,
and we need to be willing to pray for all the things that come to
our attention that require servants in the vineyard.

When we do work with complaint, when we do serve willingly
         and when we do care about the needs of others,
then we do not need to assume guilt for what we have not done,
         and we can know that God will take care of things,
          as he did in Jesus 2000 years ago,
             and as he does still today through the work of His
Spirit in the church around the world.

Jesus calls us to be the servants of each other,
         to care for each other and for the world God made,
          and He promises to us grace sufficient for the task if we
             are but willing to follow where he has led the way.

Praise be to God and to Jesus Christ his son, and our caring
servant  AMEN.


Hymn After Sermon:  "The Servant Song"                        -VU 595


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1997 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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