For Lent 2
Text: Mark 10:32-52
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again, he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “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. Three days later he will rise.”
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. Some of you came out to worship and participated in the imposition of ashes. The imposition of ashes is a practice that has been around for a long time. The ashes are meant to remind us of our own mortality. When I make the mark of the cross with ash on a person’s forehead, I say, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about our mortality lately. With the recent passing of Darick’s grandmother and our preparations for her memorial service this weekend, and my grandmother having just been placed in hospice care, death is weighing heavily on my mind. Death is something that none of us escape. A particularly poignant moment for me was imposing ashes upon my toddler. I had already been holding him in one arm as I imposed ashes on others (he had somehow scraped his arm while I was preaching, which upset him, and he refused to be put down after that). After I finished imposing ashes on all of those who had come forward, I turned to him, made the mark of the cross, and said, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” There’s nothing quite like saying those words to a two-year-old.
Perhaps it’s not so much death itself that is weighing on me, but more the realization that we only have a limited amount of time on this earth. I find myself dwelling on the question, what kind of person do I want to be while I’m here? What kind of person will my child be? What kind of legacy do I want to leave?
In the text this week, Jesus continues to teach his disciples about his coming suffering, death, and resurrection. He’s trying to communicate to them what it will mean to follow him. He speaks of the servanthood of love and calls them to that kind of life and legacy. But James and John do not appear to be listening to a thing Jesus says.
Jesus reminds his disciples that in his kingdom, the “greatest” will be those who serve others. The “greatest” will be the ones who don’t claim power for themselves, but instead pour it out for the sake of others. It takes his disciples a long time to get there. They wrestle, they argue, they resist. But ultimately, as they follow Jesus, he shows them the way of the kingdom. Ultimately, the legacy they leave is Jesus’ legacy.
Jesus calls each of us to lay aside our own ambitions, whatever they might be. Jesus calls us out from the rat-race of this world and the ego-centric tendencies we all fall prone to. He calls us to the only true life. It can feel overwhelming and scary, but to quote Jan Richardson in her Ash Wednesday poem, “Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?”
I leave you with these words from my friend and colleague, Rev. Ashley Anne Sipe:
“’From dust you came and to dust you shall return’… isn’t a reminder that we are unimportant but that this earthly experience is short. We get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of climbing ladders of status to nowhere and gathering up storehouses of riches that fade and we can’t take with us. We forget sometimes that we are a beautiful creation made from the dust and we are to relish in the wonder and beauty of ALL that God has and is creating! That’s our purpose. So may you observe a Holy Lent… one that sacrifices the rat race for flower picking and gratitude for all the many small blessings from God!”
o What words, phrases, or images from the text speak to you? What thoughts or feelings do they evoke?
o What do you need to lay aside?
o Where have you seen the Holy One bring new life?
What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Spend some time thinking, praying, and writing on it.
It’s still too early in the year to get outside and play in the dirt, but if you are able, re-pot some plants, or perhaps play with some sand. Feel the dirt in your fingers and meditate on the phrase, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
God, you have made me out of the dust of the ground and you have breathed your own Spirit into me, giving me life. May my life be characterized by love and service. Help me to lay aside those things that I need to lay aside. Remove selfish ambition from my heart and align it with the heart of Jesus. In his name, I pray. Amen.