Home Service for Sunday 17th October 2021

Prayers of Approach

Let us come together to be still, to be known, loved, and held by God our creator, to be thankful for all that God gives us, to be healed and restored, that in our worship today joy and gladness may refresh and renew us

God our creator, we are made in your image, create and reshape us anew for your purposes. God our sustainer, who sent your Son Jesus to be our servant, by your grace, forgive us where we have hurt your world. God our guide and inspiration, open our hearts to receive your wisdom, inspire and direct us – in Jesus’ name.
Amen.
God of community, you look upon your children and are overcome with love. Love that reaches out to touch even the most faraway soul.
God the Father, who made all creation, and shares all good gifts with us. We adore you.
God the Son, just as you walked on earth with your friends, you are always here with us. We adore you.
God the Spirit, though we don’t see you, we know you are deep within our hearts. You make sense of our place in your world. We adore you.
Amen.

Hymn: Praise, my soul, the king of heaven (R&S 104)

Readings: Isaiah 53:4-12

Mark 10:35-45

Introduction

The reading from Isaiah is part of the 4th and last of the ‘Servant Songs’, as they are known, and declares that it is the one who is despised and accepts suffering humbly who will be honoured. Our Gospel reading too shows that greatness in God’s kingdom is not about position, but about serving others; it is not about being first, but being prepared to be last. Ideas about ‘greatness’ do not seem to have changed very much since the time of Jesus. But if ‘being prepared to be last’ does not mean ‘be a doormat’, then what does it mean?

Hymn: Brother, sister, let me serve you (R&S 474)

Sermon/Reflection

In this week’s Gospel reading, although not specifically quoting from them, Jesus alludes to Scriptures including Isaiah 53, with its surprising vision of God working through suffering and shame. In the discourse between Jesus and his disciples Mark shows us a little of what the disciples are like. Two of them are wanting some form of recognition, and the others act angrily towards them – but perhaps at the same time thinking: ‘I’m glad I didn’t ask that question.’ Jesus’ response however was probably not at all what they expected.

He begins by asking James and John if they know what they are asking for. And of course they do, or at least they think they know – they are asking, as some of his closest followers, if they can be beside him, in the places of honour, when he claims his kingdom. Even though when we hear or read the words ‘glorious kingdom’ in reference to Jesus we think of a heavenly kingdom, James and John were still thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom. Jesus and his disciples were on their way up to Jerusalem where they probably imagined that he would claim the throne and rule as king over Israel as his ancestor David had. They may have expected to have to fight alongside Jesus and so were quite confident in answering ‘yes’ to his question about sharing his suffering and his ‘baptism’.

In accepting their declaration and confirming that they would indeed share his sufferings, Jesus nevertheless makes clear that it will not be what they expect. He says that the places of honour are not his to give but for God to give to those for whom he has prepared them, thus showing that

Jesus himself is under God’s authority. James’ and John’s aspirations to leadership and status are challenged by Jesus’ model of leadership which is all about following – following God and doing what God asks. Jesus’ response is about giving power away, instead of taking it or holding on to it.

In the face of the other disciples indignation at James’ and John’s presumption Jesus’ words about ‘the first being last and the last first’ might have sparked the reaction, ‘Ha! Now they’ve got what they deserve!’ but his allusions to scripture of the one who wants to be great becoming the servant of all puts things into perspective. And his declaration that, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve’ turns all ideas of greatness on their head, the normal pattern of the contemporary world is turned upside down.

What does this mean for us today? Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, ‘Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.’ When we are challenged to serve a needy world, the task can seem overwhelming. The world is a big place. We may feel useless, helpless, but we can do one thing with great love. And we can start by thinking about the needs of the part of the world where God has placed us. We are all in this together – we need not feel or be on our own in doing so. Among the challenges of our church or other community groups, is there one thing that we might take on? We need to encourage one another, too.

• If you had been one of the other disciples, how would you have felt about the question James and John asked? • Who do you admire for showing true greatness? • What would the world be like, if everyone who wanted to be great became a servant?

Hymn: From heaven you came, helpless babe (R&S 522)

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, we pray for those who have given their lives to serve – whether in far-off places or just around the corner, pouring out love and compassion on those you have placed in their care and in their lives; may they know your strength, especially when they are weary or overwhelmed. Be their refuge, O God, and give them all they need for each day.
Lord, we pray for those who, in their vocations and workplaces, are in a position of caring for others in tangible ways – looking after the sick and the lonely, providing housing or advice, being at the other end of a phone, transporting those who cannot get around easily. We thank you for them, and ask your blessing on them. May they be provided with the resources to do their jobs well. And we pray that those who are in supervisory positions might have wisdom and awareness of the needs of those who work for them.
Lord, we pray for all of us here, that you may lead us in our own service of others, reminding us of the deep motivation of Christ’s love, and giving us a heart for your world. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Hymn: I, the Lord of sea and sky (MP 857)

Blessing.

Lord, take our thoughts and turn them into prayer. Take our prayer and turn it into love. Take our love and turn it into life. In Jesus Christ today and every day.
Bless and keep us Lord,
In your love united. Amen.

Prayers and other material © Roots for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.

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