Sunday, September 20, 2009

“The Heart of a Servant” (Mark 9:33-35).

S-1139 9/20/09 16SAP/3B Hymns: (O) #370; (S) #442; (C) #334

Texts: Jeremiah 11:18-20; James 3:13-4:10; Mark 9:30-37

Theme: “The Heart of a Servant” (Mark 9:33-35).

Question: “Do You Want To Be Great?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is the Gospel lesson: “And they came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And He sat down and called the twelve. And He said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35).


Saints in Christ, it is only a 3 letter word, but what a word—a word that has messed up God’s wonderful creation and our lives. This word has clouded our vision, sealed our hearts and made us enemies of our Holy God. This word has turned the world upside down. So much so that when we look at things, we look at them through that word. What is that word you may ask? SIN. Sin has altered the way we look at things. Sin has changed our outlook on life. Sin has confused our minds, chocked our hearts and complicated our lives.

Sin brought chaos, confusion and confounded our view of things and the world. Because of our sin-infected souls our eyes are blinded, our minds are warped and our hearts are crooked. Because of our sin-infected souls we consider what is right as wrong, and what is wrong as right.

How do you and I view people in our world today? How do we measure success and greatness? We measure them by the material possessions they have, the positions they hold, and the wealth they have accumulated.

Some would say that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time; Wayne Gretzky is the greatest in hockey; Tiger Wood in golf; Brett Favre in football; Abraham Lincoln among presidents; and Bill Gates among entrepreneurs. But who is the greatest among God’s holy people? The verdict is…. PAUSE.

When you and I consider the greatest among us, we provide statistics, and tell legends of our heroes’ achievements. The greatest are those who shine through and rise above all others. But this is not how our Lord Jesus considers greatness. For Jesus who looks at things from God’s perspective, greatness is not measured by fame, fortune or financial stability, but in acts of service to others.

This is precisely what is going on in the Gospel reading today. The discussion that ensued between the disciples is: “Who is the greatest among them?” Jesus used this incident as a teaching moment for His followers. Our Lord makes it very clear that if you want to be great, you need to have a heart for service. To be the greatest in the Kingdom of God is not to have the highest degrees, the most material toys, the most service time, the fullest envelope, or the most prestige in the world, but a heart that desires to serve others.

Jesus doesn’t mince words when He informs His disciples then, and His disciples now saying: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35).

But that is not what you and I consider being great. Greatness in ours mind’s eye is to be up front, the most popular and the most known person. When you and I serve, we want to be noticed. We want others to honor us. We want others to give us credit. Last fall the President and the First Lady went to a soup kitchen to help. Camera’s followed the president and his wife as they were dishing out the soup. I am thankful they served the needy. But would they have served without cameras? How about us? Don’t we like to be noticed? You bet we do. When we take a hot dish to someone and don’t get a thank you note we are offended. When we help others and they don’t acknowledge us we get upset. When we donate to a cause and are not recognized, we are disappointed. We should serve out of the goodness of our hearts, not to receive credit for what we have done. But that is not easy.

Even here, in this congregation our service is lacking. When there is a job to be done we don’t see many people standing in line, rolling their sleeves to serve. We have a challenging time filling in the positions on our council, elders, stewardship, evangelism, Sunday School and the like. Why? Because we don’t have the heart of a servant.

Let me be candid with you. Do you have a servant’s heart or a selfish heart? Are you willing to serve even when no one is watching? Are you willing to die in the service of the Master Jesus Christ? Are you willing to give more than is asked of you? Are you willing to be the faithful servant of the Most High God? I hope so. But on our own it is impossible for us to do so, because of hearts that are dead to Christ, and therefore we don’t serve nor have the heart of a servant. PAUSE.

You may have missed it. But obscured by the financial crisis and the debate over healthcare reform, just recently our nation identified one of our own who had the heart of a servant. Thursday, in a ceremony at the White House, President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti. Now, Monti wasn’t noted for his prowess at hitting home runs or dunking basketballs. No, Sgt. Monti was decorated with our nation’s highest honor because of the greatness of his sacrifice. In an attempt to retrieve a severely wounded comrade under fierce enemy fire, Sgt. Monti was killed. He was honored as among our nation’s greatest heroes because of what he was willing to do to for others.

Thanks be God for faithful men and women who have a heart of service to serve others. But if you want to know who is a TRUE servant then look at the life of Jesus. Study it in details and you will see that His heart, His hands, and His ministry were all about servant-hood. As a matter of fact He Himself said, “For the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to SERVE and give His life as a ransom for many”.

Certainly, Jesus is our clearest and grandest example of greatness. He put up with so much at the hands of jealous religious leaders, insulting crowds of skeptics, and even disciples who should have understood it all, but didn’t. Jesus had the heart of a servant. He was willing to be born in a stable in Bethlehem, to grow up in the home of a poor carpenter, and to remain anonymous for 30 years until it was His Father’s time for Him to begin His ministry. His whole life was spent serving people in every walk of life. In His ultimate rise to greatness, He knelt to wash fishermen’s feet and was led in suffering silence to His own slaughter on the altar of the cross. As the servant reached the pinnacle of greatness, blood streamed into His eyes as He called out for the forgiveness of His executioners.

Indeed, this Rabbi from Galilee is the greatest servant of all time. He is greater than Michael Jordan, Tiger Wood, Wayne Gretzky, Brett Favre, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Gates. How dare I say that? I will let the Apostle Paul give you the answer: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a SERVANT, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Certainly the Savior is the Greatest servant of all.


Saints in Christ, it is only a 6 letter word, but what a word—a word that has reversed the outcome that took place in the Garden of Eden. This word has opened our eyes, lightened our hearts and made us friends of our Holy God. This word has turned the world rite side up. So much so that when we look at things, we look at them through that word. What is that word you may ask? SAVIOR. Our Savior has altered the way we look at things. Our Savior has changed our outlook on life. Our Savior has opened our minds, filled our hearts with joy and made our lives a most blessed one. And because of that Word we His followers of the 21st century follow His ways—serving others to the best of our ability; sacrificing our time and personal pursuits to wash the feet of our fellow believers at church and in our homes; and forgiving them, as the Savior has forgiven us.

Our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ had the heart of a Servant. He served us not because He had too or needed too, but because He chose to. In Mark’s Gospel chapter 10 we read these words: “For the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many”. (10:46). and the Good News, He did. Therefore, we thank Him for serving us even today through His Word and Sacrament. Amen.

Now the peace…

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