“Are you able to be like me and do what I do?”
“Yes, we are!”
I get the impression that James and John are imagining that they will receive Jesus’ miraculous power to heal, or will see the Holy Spirit as he did at his baptism. They seem excited to be like him, and eager to share in the same cup and baptism. They don’t realize that Jesus is asking them if they are ready to suffer as he will. James and John want to share in Jesus’ glory, and don’t really understand the cost.
Many preachers will admit that they had no idea what they were getting in to when they responded to God’s call to ministry.
Some of our church members know what it feels like to be rejected by their family or friends because of their faith.
But do we really understand the depth of sacrifice and suffering that is required to drink the cup that Jesus drank, and to be baptized with his baptism?
The servant song from Isaiah 53, one option for the Revised Common Lectionary Hebrew Bible reading this week, gives us some idea of what it truly means to follow Jesus. Job 38, the other Hebrew Bible reading choice, reminds us of the power of God and the weakness of humans – and the entire story of Job reminds us of what suffering can happen when we are faithful enough to catch God’s eye.
The Gospel and Hebrew Bible lessons don’t seem to offer much good news this week. But, we do at least hear the invitation from Jesus to participate in his ministry with our whole being, as James and John volunteer to do. And we have the reassurance from Jesus that, while suffering is inevitable, he is ushering in a new type of community, with egalitarian values, in which all people will be asked to serve one another. This vision of community is beautiful, and when we find communities that actually embody those values, we realize what Jesus was talking about, and how the suffering might all be worth it in the end.
Where do you find the good news this week? Will you be preaching on one of these lessons, a Psalm, or the Hebrews reading? If your worship includes a children’s sermon, what are you planning? Do you have any other seasonal themes that your congregation expects you to address? Wherever you are in your process, please share ideas and questions below! Blessings in your writing and preparation and preaching this week.
Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor and canoeing instructor in Madison, WI (USA). She moonlights as an on-call night chaplain at one of the hospitals in town. When not juggling work responsibilities, Katya likes to knit, play board games, and bake this summer’s abundant garden produce into zucchini bread.
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