29 Sunday B

1)    "Before Cell-phones?"

How many of us here this morning were born BC? By "BC" I mean "Before Cell-phones?" The first cell phone was invented in 1973 by Martin Cooper. My kids were born AC, but I was born BC. In a world of 7 billion people, there are now 5 billion cell phone subscriptions. Pretty amazing for something under 40 years old.

In the last forty years the cyber-cellular age has changed the way we do business, the way we get our education, the way we socialize. The world has never been so closely connected, and there has never been this much immediately accessible information as there is with our new online universe. Each cell phone is almost the equivalent of having the Library of Congress in our hands.

Unfortunately all that easily accessed info has also led to an epidemic of a new kind of crime - identity theft. With just a few bits of our personal information, an online burglar can electronically hijack anyone's identity and drain bank accounts, take out huge loans, run up mountains of credit card debt. Once your identity is stolen your name is no longer your own. No matter your name, your name is mud...

2)    Everybody Wants to Be Somebody


Everybody wants to be somebody. Since the dawn of history, human beings have been trying to move up the scale of importance. The clincher used by the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve was "when you eat of [the tree of good and evil], your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). Henri Nouwen says that ever since then, we have been tempted to replace love with power. "The long painful history of the church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led." This is a theme running through the Bible, through human history and through our own psyche.

Kenneth L. Carder, The Call to Downward Mobility, The Christian Century, Oct. 8, 1997, p. 869


3)    One Positive Thing


"There are many negative things that can be said about James and John," writes William Barclay. "They were nakedly ambitious and proud: they wanted, and believed they deserved, places of honor in Jesus' kingdom. They were ignorant and insensitive: their request for places of honor came right after Jesus had told of His coming suffering and death. But there's one positive thing you can say about James and John: they believed in Jesus. Here was a poor, homeless, persecuted carpenter and yet James and John believed Jesus was a king. They believed that He would conquer the power structure of Rome." Even their crude ambition reflected their faith in Christ.


William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, pp. 254, 255.



4)    Looking for an EZ Pass


On many of our nation's toll roads, rather than stopping at a toll-booth to toss some change in a hopper, you can now purchase a transponder, sometimes called an EZ-Pass, and zip through in the left lanes without even slowing down to the acceptable speed limit. Instead of cash, tickets and paper receipts, it's a microchip tag placed on your windshield containing pertinent data which eases your way. Your data is quickly read by a tollbooth electronic antenna as your car zooms on through. It automatically deducts your appropriate toll tax. This computerized collection system then sends a monthly statement to your home with tallies of times and places for your records. EZ-Pass is like a debit card for your car, only quicker. No more stopping at the tollgate, the narrow gate.

Jesus says, I am the narrow gate. There's no quick way in. There's no shortcut. If he wasn't the Christ himself already, he'd be the perfect patron saint of tollgates.

Sometimes it seems that everybody wants the easy way to the front of the line, a quick way to glory and fast track to success. Including James and John, the brothers Zebedee, who want front-row seats numbering two and three. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and see if you can identify with their self-centeredness. These guys gave up everything to follow Jesus. They followed Jesus when nobody knew him. They followed Jesus before his miracles. Now that he was popular, James and John were feeling the swell of fame. After all, they were Jesus' best friends, his disciples! So we can understand why two of them came to Jesus with their request.

David Beckett, EZ-Pass



5)    "Others"


In just a few short weeks we will begin to see people in uniforms in shopping malls ringing bells collecting donations for the poor. They are doing the work of the Salvation Army.

In 1878, when the Salvation Army was really beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. A man who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop in another denomination crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist in the Salvation Army instead. His name was Samuel Brengle. Brengle left a fine pastorate to join William Booth's Army. At first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, "You've been your own boss too long." So in order to instill humility in Brengle, he made him work by cleaning the boots of other trainees.

Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, "Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots?" Then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, uneducated fishermen. "Lord," he whispered, "you washed their feet; I will black their shoes."

Samuel Brengle went on to establish the Salvation Army in America. At the time of his death, the Salvation Army was thriving in both the United States and in Canada. Just before his death Brengle sent out a short memo to all of his top leaders. This memo had one single word written on it: "Others."


King Duncan,



6)    Caring Service and Its Impact


A room-service waiter at a Marriott hotel learned that the sister of a guest had just died. The waiter, named Charles, bought a sympathy card, had hotel staff members sign it, and gave it to the distraught guest with a piece of hot apple pie.

"Mr. Marriott," the guest later wrote to the president of Marriott Hotels, "I'll never meet you. And I don't need to meet you. Because I met Charles. I know what you stand for. ... I want to assure you that as long as I live, I will stay at your hotels. And I will tell my friends to stay at your hotels."

Roger Dow and Susan Cook, Turned On, (New York: Harper Business, 1996).


7)    Power


On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range of Washington exploded with what is probably the most visible indication of the power of nature that the modern world has ever seen. At 8:32 A.M. the explosion ripped 1,300 feet off the mountain, with a force of ten million tons of TNT, or roughly equal to five hundred Hiroshimas. Sixty people were killed, most by a blast of 300-degree heat traveling at two hundred miles an hour. Some were killed as far as sixteen miles away.

The blast also leveled 150-foot Douglas firs, as far as seventeen miles away. A total of 3.2 billion board-feet of lumber were destroyed, enough to build 200,000 three-bedroom homes.

Michael P. Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p. 269



George Bernard Shaw was once asked in what generation he would have preferred to live. The witty Irishman replied: "The age of Napoleon, because then there was only one man who thought he was Napoleon."

G. Curtis Jones, "1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching" p. 291


8)    Power Verses Service


Alexander, Caesar, and Hannibal conquered the world but had no friends....Jesus founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions would die for him.... He has won the hearts of men, a task a conqueror cannot do."




9)    I wouldn’t do that for all the money in the world


A well-dressed European woman was on safari in Africa. The group stopped briefly at a hospital for lepers. The heat was intense, the flies buzzing. She noticed a nurse bending down in the dirt, tending to the pus-filled sores of a leper.

With disdain the woman remarked, "Why, I wouldn't do that for all the money in the world!"

The nurse quietly replied, "Neither would I."

Donald L. Deffner, Seasonal Illustrations p. 130


10)                  Service


"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found a way to serve."

Albert Schweitzer


11)                  I Hate To Leave This Church


A Methodist pastor once wrote about power and politics in his denomination. Methodist preachers, he notes, are under the care of a bishop. Bishops, in turn, are Methodist preachers who are elected by fellow Methodist preachers after an extensive campaign for the office in which the candidate tries not to be caught campaigning. As he observes, It is a long-standing Methodist tradition that bishops must not appear to have sought their office and, once elected, the new bishop must make a public declaration that "I didn't seek this office and I didn't want it but, once the Lord calls" ... Methodist preachers take all of this with a grain of salt, the same way Baptist congregations have learned to be somewhat skeptical when one of their preachers moves on to a better church claiming, "I hate to leave this church and I would rather stay here, but the Lord calls." Baptists note that the Lord rarely calls someone out of one church into another church unless that church has a higher salary. Methodists have likewise noted that there have been few preachers who, once they are elected bishop, turn the job down.


"Teacher, we want you to put us on your right and on your left. But keep it quiet. Don't make it too obvious. Others may become offended that we asked first." By telling us this story, Mark knows what you and I know: we are prone to the same desire for privilege and protected status. We want a Jesus who will give us what we want, a Lord who can shower a little power on us, a Savior who can make us better than we are.

William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.


12)                  What's In It For Me?


A number of years ago, a small book appeared for ministers. Titled The Penguin Principles, it attempted to help naive clergy get a handle on the people of their congregations. Most of the material in the book was written with tongue in cheek, so it has some truth in it. According to the book, the first principle of church life goes like this: "Despite the pious things we say, at any given time, less than five percent of any group in the church is operating with purely Christian motivation. The other 95 percent is asking, 'What's in it for me?'"

William G. Carter, No Box Seats In The Kingdom, CSS Publishing.


13)                  Service


Have you heard the beautiful children's story about the three trees? The trees were talking in the forest one day about their dreams for the future. The first tree said it would like to be made into a cradle, so that it might go on living as a support for the fragile life of a tiny new baby. The second tree wanted to be made into a big ship, so that it might go on living, carrying important cargo and influential people to exotic new lands. The third tree longed to stay right where it was, existing only as a tree, but growing ever taller, and pointing ever higher, to remind everyone that there is a God in heaven who loves them. Those were their dreams: One wanted to be a cradle, one wanted to be a mighty ship, and one wanted to be a tall tree, pointing people toward God.


But then one day the woodcutters came and chopped down the three trees...and destroyed their dreams. The first tree was not made into a cradle, but into a simple feeding trough, a manger for animals. But the manger was sold to a family in Bethlehem, and on the night Jesus was born, that simple feed box became the cradle for the Christ Child.

The second tree was built into a boat, but not the kind it had dreamed of--not a mighty ocean-going vessel--but a tiny inexpensive fishing boat. A man named Simon Peter bought the boat, and on one warm afternoon when the crowds pressed in, Jesus himself climbed aboard that small fishing boats that he might preach good news to the multitudes.

The third tree also was deprived of its dream...



14)                   Support your senator doing free service: 

A priest went into   a Washington, D.   C.   barber   shop   for   a   haircut.    When   the   barber finished, the   priest   asked   him   what   the   charge   was   and   the   barber responded, ―No charge, Father, you  are  serving  the  Lord  and  I  consider my service rendered to you as a service to the Lord.‖ The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop he found at his front door a stack of usable Christmas cards and a note of thanks from the priest.  A few days later, a police officer went to the same barber for a  haircut.  When he went to pay, the barber said, ―No charge, officer.  I consider it a service to our community because you serve  our  community.‖   The next morning when the barber arrived at his shop there werea dozen donuts at the front door and a note of thanks from the policeman.   A  few  days  after  this  an  influential  senator  came  in  for  a haircut.  No  charge, Senator, I consider it a service to my country.‖   The  next morningwhen the  barber arrived at his  shop there were two  congressmen waiting for their chance for the barber’s free service, carrying a note of thanks from the Senator! (L/12)


15)                  "I  discovered  that  Service  is  Joy":


It  may  sound  unbelievable, but  it is true that Asia's first Nobel Prize winner inLiterature (1913), Rabindranath Tagore, was behind the three great national anthems of three great nations, viz. Bangladesh, India andSri Lanka. He was also the first non-westerner to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He did so in 1913. He wrote this short poem:



I slept and dreamt that life was Joy; Then I awoke and realized that life  as Service.

Andthen I went to work - and, lo and behold, I discovered that Service is Joy.



Today’s   gospel teaches   us that true happiness comes from surrendering ourselves completely in humble service to God through Christ. And all we need is aservant's heart, mind, eyes and touch. So, "How's Your Serve?"


16)                  "Sir, I  am a Corporal!"


During the AmericanRevolution, a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers who were busy pulling out a horse carriage stuck in deep mud. Their officer was shouting instructions to them while making no attempt to help. The stranger who witnessed thescene asked the officer why he wasn't helping. With great dignity, the officerreplied, "Sir, I am a Corporal!" The stranger dismounted from his horse and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers himself. When the job was completed, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this, and dont have enough men to do it, inform your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again." Too late, the proud Corporal recognized General Washington. Where did Washington learn such leadershipskills? I have no doubt he learned them here,  in these  words of  Jesus: Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.The young corporal had these words modeled forhim by the man at the top. Jesus' disciples, likewise, receive from their leader a picture ofservant hood.


17)                  Muhammad Ali  the  greatest.‖  


Muhammad Ali, the boxer, used to call himself the     greatest!"       There     was     something comical     about     his arrogance.  Once he declared: "I float like a butterfly, I sting like a bee."  The story is told of him that once when he was on an airplane about to take off, the flight steward said, "Sir, would you please fasten your seat belt?"  Muhammad Ali replied, "Superman doesnt need a seat belt."  The steward replied, "In that case, Superman doesn’t need  an airplane  to  fly."     Today’s  gospel  tells  us of two of Jesus disciples who  wanted  to be supermento  sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus in his messianic kingdom-- to be the greatest, to be the first.