July 2, 2023

Called to Serve

Passage: Mark 10:35-45

Prayer for Illumination:
As we are gathered here today, we ask You, our living God, to shower unto us Your wisdom and knowledge. We pray that as we listen to Your word, we may have the ability to clearly see what God has called us to do. We seek to live to fulfill Your purpose so that we can see Your kingdom. Illuminate our eyes and reveal to us Your glory. Amen.

My youngest daughter, Jubilee, graduated from high school last week, and Thomas and I went to the convocation and the award ceremony. Some awards were for those who got the highest grade in classes, while some other awards were for those who had done a lot of volunteer community work or assisted teachers in the library diligently.
Thankfully, Jubilee did exceedingly well and received several scholarships and awards. As parents, we were so proud of her.

However, the attendees applauded every single student who completed the journey - it may have been the very first chapter of their life’s journey, regardless of receiving a scholarship or not.

The Olympic games, World Cup, PGA or LPGA, Stanley Cup, NBA, or Wimbledon - any sports game or movie, or music awards, only the best receive the trophy and prize. Wayne Gretzky, Lionel Messi, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, The Williams sisters, Steven Spielberg, Taylor Swift, and so on.
They compete to be the greatest, and people want to be like them. However, while their stories are inspiring and should stir emotions in our hearts, what the world calls great and what the Lord calls great are often two very different things.

Today’s story begins with James and John’s request to Jesus. Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. When there was no one near Jesus, James and John approached Him quietly, and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” What a bold request!
Do you think they were being shameless and rude? But, aren’t we many times like these brothers? We tell God what we want. And sometimes we try to make a deal with Him or even threaten Him. We sometimes tell Him what He is supposed to do. And Jesus ever patiently and openly asked, “What do you want ME to do for you?”
They gave Him a very self-centered demand, “When You sit on Your throne in Your glorious Kingdom, we want You to let us sit with You, one at Your right and one at Your left.”  They wanted to be ‘great.’ They wanted power, glory, and honor.

Who are James and John? They were known as the ‘sons of thunder’ who had hot tempers and wanted God’s wrath called down on a Samaritan village. They were in Jesus’ inner circle along with Peter. After all, they’d left everything behind, including the Zebedee Family fishing business, to follow Jesus. So maybe they thought that it was a logical and reasonable request for them.
They thought that their teacher, Jesus, was going to be King who would get rid of the enemy, the Romans, and set up Israel again as a powerful nation. They totally didn’t get it even though Jesus told them what would happen to Him in the near future.
In the preceding scene, in verses 32 to 34, Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to Him when they got to Jerusalem.

Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him.”

Actually, it was Jesus’ third prediction of His suffering and death. But, they were clueless. James and John pictured a triumphant scene with themselves sitting in positions of honor and power at King Jesus’ right and left. They might have refused to hear Jesus’ frightful prediction.
After James and John requested the position of power and glory, Jesus said, “You don’t know what you’re asking for. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” And without much thinking, they answered, “We can.”
What does the cup or the baptism Jesus mentioned mean? It means suffering and death. When James and John without hesitation said, “Yes, we can” they didn’t know what was coming. But as Jesus said, they indeed drank the cup Jesus drank and was baptized with the baptism Jesus was baptized with.

When you first accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, when you decided to commit your life to follow Jesus, when you prayed to God that you wanted to be a faithful servant of God, did you know what was coming? Many times, most of us are like the disciples. We are clueless and just don’t get what following Jesus means. And we assuredly say, “Absolutely, we can.”
Following Jesus or living as a Christian sometimes requires totally different ways of life from this world. While this world we’re living in teaches and trains us to stand head and shoulders above others, Jesus is telling us to become a servant.
We think that to be great, we need to have wealth, education, status, power, and be successful, but Jesus says, to be great is to be a servant. And He pushed matters to an extreme, saying, “to become great is to be a slave of all.”

Servants and slaves were at the bottom of the social ladder in first-century Palestine and didn't get any respect. There was no honor or reward for slaves. A master didn’t have to say ‘Thank you,” to his slave. A master didn’t have to reward his slave for bringing a cup of water, cleaning up the house, and washing his feet. It was the obvious duty of a slave.

It doesn’t come naturally, answering the call to servanthood that Jesus places before us now. Because no one really notices your visit to the elderly. No one recognizes when you invite the runaway youth for a meal. No one acknowledges your tearful prayer for the sick. No one might notice when you give a ride to someone who doesn’t have a car. You might not ever be ‘known’ for your ‘servanthood.’

And, once in a while, we, honestly, get a little pissed off if the person whom we helped doesn’t appreciate our help. We get a little upset when we voluntarily give our hands to clean up, but no one says, “Thank you”. We feel a little disappointed when the ride, the donation, the time, and the effort we give are not acknowledged.

Of course, it would be much much better if we all appreciate one another and encourage one another. And we should. We should thank our worship team for coming to church early on Sunday mornings for practice and setting up. We should thank those who maintain our properties. We should thank those who bring refreshments for all of us. We should thank our Sunday school teachers for teaching our children. We should thank our elders for all the hard work they do. Many of you voluntarily and gladly serve God in your position, but most of you are unnoticed.

However, brothers and sisters, even if you’re not shown appreciation, don’t get so upset. Don’t get so disappointed. After all, you are called to become a slave of all in this world as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Today, we are going to ordain and admit new elders. What qualifies a person to be an elder? What makes an elder an elder? I believe God is looking for more than just good looks and a smile!

In I Peter 5, God urged (thru Peter) the leaders, especially the elders, of the churches in the Roman provinces: “Be shepherds of GOD’S FLOCK that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but EAGER TO SERVE; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” (I Peter 5:1-4)

This is a living command of God. It applies to me, the elders, and the leaders of our church. Langley Presbyterian church doesn’t belong to the Elders. It doesn’t belong to me. It doesn’t belong to a church board or a group of influential members. The church belongs to Jesus. It’s His, not ours. Jesus paid the price for His Church with His own blood.

He first showed us an example of how to serve the church and His people in humility and in love by becoming our servant. He humbled Himself and washed His disciples' feet. He died on a cross in our place. And God’s promise to us is that when we humble ourselves as Jesus did, He will lift us up.

We are called to serve God’s church and His people. God is watching what we are doing in the hopes that when Christ returns, He may impart to us a crown of glory.

It was my father’s 89th birthday last Tuesday. To celebrate his birthday, my sisters and brother-in-law, my nephew’s family, and my eldest daughter and her boyfriend - all gathered here from Korea, California, Seattle, and Calgary. My father is not a famous celebrity or a man of power or wealth. But we are proud of him.

My parents have lived a quiet but faithful life. They have served God and His church and the people around them faithfully, generously, and in humility. They may not get any rewards in this world, but I’m sure that they will receive a reward from God in Heaven.

Our society is cheering for another trophy. I have a collection box of all the trophies and awards my daughters have received. They are in the box and I rarely open the box to see them. They are covered in dust and forgotten.
While the world is talking about who is the greatest, and who is the best, let us remember that our reward is in heaven. And the reward, the crown of glory will never fade away. Even though your service may not be recognized publicly, don’t be discouraged. Your labor for His Church is not in vain and is noticed by the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, when we finally meet our King on that day, I pray that He may welcome all of us here with His open arms and dazzling smile and say, “Good job, my good and faithful servant.”

Until then, let us remember that we are called to serve and keep on serving others joyfully and gladly as a servant of God and as a slave of all without expecting anything in return. Amen.

Let us pray:
Jesus Christ, You gave up the glory and power in order to become a servant King. You humbly came to us. You touched our lives.
Help us follow You, Lord, as humble servants. In Jesus' name Amen.