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Minnesota Episcopal
Environmental
Stewardship
Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Lectionary Reflection

Year B, Proper 24
Gospel

Mark 10: 35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

 

Reflection on Mark 10: 35-45
by the Rev Tom Harries

Proper 24 ties in with Creation Season 2006 (Theme for this Sunday is Bonding through Eucharist)

In this gospel reading we hear an example of the opposite of what Jesus sought and taught with the Last Supper.

James and John want to be singled out. They want the seats of honor. They want to be above the others. It's a natural human inclination. I know I would enjoy the seat of honor myself. But their request angers the other disciples. And that is the perpetual problem. In order for me to be "one up" someone has to be "one down." I can only be over, if someone else is under.

Apparently the early Christians were not immune from the temptation to treat people differently. For James in his letter writes,

"My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Have a seat here, please," while to the one who is poor you say, "Stand there," or, "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-5 NRSV)

Jesus reverses the usual order of things.

When the other disciples complain about James and John, "Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:40-45 NRSV)

The same reversal is prominent at the Last Supper. Jesus their leader and teacher creates a ritual through which the disciples and the church will remember, not his power or glory, but the sacrifice of his own body and blood as the means of their salvation. John's gospel makes the reversal unmistakable as it portrays Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.

So, where's the environmental connection?

I see two. First the elements chosen to carry this essential sacramental message of equality and service before God are common bread and wine. Bread made from grain sustained civilization and made it possible. But it was also basic. Everyone who had anything to eat at all had bread. And, of course, the grain is a gift from God through nature.

Second, we come to the table equal in God's eyes. This teaching of humility is absolutely essential in our relationship with the natural world. There is so much we don't know, and such power beyond our puny strength, that we need to approach creation with wonder and utmost humility, the same way we approach the Holy Eucharist.

Printable version

 

To Reflections on other Readings for Year B, Proper 24:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary
Revised Common
Lectionary
 
Semi-Continuous Track
Gospel Theme Track
Old Testament
(Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Isaiah 53: 4-12
Job 38: 1-7 (34-41)
Isaiah 53: 4-12
Psalm
Psalm 104: 1-9, 25, 37c
New Testament Reading:
Hebrews 4: 12-16
Hebrews 5: 1-10
Gospel
Mark 10: 35-45
(this page)
Mark 10: 35-45
(this page)

Rev Tom Harries was Co-Chair of MEESC (2005-present), rector of Holy Communion Episcopal Church, St. Peter, MN, and Total Ministry Mentor. He originally wrote his reflection in 2006. Tom and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Rev Tom Harries or any member of the MEESC or our Webverger or send a letter to:


MEESC
c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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