October 19, 2021

MESSAGE – 21st Sunday After Pentecost – 17 October 2021

MESSAGE – 21st Sunday After Pentecost – 17 October 2021

THEMES: The greatest is the servant; self-sacrifice

In the upside-down (or right-side up) Reign of God, greatness is defined very differently from the power, fame and fortune criteria that is used by most human systems. Unfortunately, even we who claim to follow Jesus struggle with this essential truth of the Gospel. Yet, when we are faced with the Great Creator who willingly becomes a humble human man, we cannot avoid the call of God to the greatness of service and sacrifice.

What does greatness mean? In the Lectionary readings this week we are confronted with God’s greatness as God questions Job. We see God’s glory revealed in creation. We recognise the greatness of Jesus whom God has appointed as a high priest because he journeyed through suffering and is able to offer salvation. And we learn that those who are great in God’s Reign are those who are willing to be the servants of all – just as Jesus came not to be served but to serve.

J – O – Y, J – O – Y, this is what it means,
Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between – Yeah!
J – O – Y, J – O – Y, this is what it means,
Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.

We live in a world where the quest for greatness has become almost obsessive.
Reality television offers the promise of fame and wealth to anyone willing to put themselves “out there”.
Everything – from corporations to churches to individuals – is measured by the size of buildings, bank accounts or networks.
And, while the growth of social media has connected us as never before, it has also created a whole new competition for greatness as we strive for ever increasing numbers of “friends,” followers,” or “visitors”.

This desire to be “special” or “exceptional” is not new.
James and John wrestled with it as they secretly approached Jesus hoping to secure the best seats in God’s Reign.
The other disciples had it too, which is why they got so upset when they heard what James and John had done.

In the Old Testament, Job, who had perhaps become a little too obsessed with his own righteous suffering, was faced with a God who reminded him of his place.

This week we will be faced with two very important challenges.
The first is to define greatness differently – in terms of service and sacrifice for others.

The second challenge is to give up our quest to be extraordinary, and embrace the simplicity, the humility, and the ordinariness of following Jesus just where we are.
In a world driven crazy by the quest for greatness, embracing the glory of our own ordinary lives may be one of the most significant contributions we can make!
The disciples had heard Jesus talk about God’s Reign for quite some time, but they still hadn’t understood it.

Even after hearing Jesus predict his death more than once, James and John still thought that the “glory” Jesus spoke of would be about power, wealth and recognition – and they wanted some of that.
So, they asked Jesus for the best seats – at his side, as advisors to the Monarch of God’s Reign.

Imagine how they must have dreamed of the praise they would receive, and the special treatment they would enjoy.
But even though they thought they had managed to get in before anyone else, Jesus told them that those places were already reserved.
What they didn’t know was that, when Jesus spoke about thrones and crowns, he meant the cross where he would be mocked as “king of the Jews” and would wear a crown of thorns.

This is where God’s glory would be revealed – and while James and John would both ultimately suffer for Jesus, the places beside him in this “glory” were reserved for two criminals who were crucified on his right and left.

The glory of following Jesus is not in receiving special treatment – not from God nor anyone else.

It is in sharing in the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus. It is in making our lives matter by participating in God’s mission in the world.

It is in learning that the true joy in life is not to be served, but to give oneself in service to others that is meaningful and that leaves the world a better place.

How can you embrace this glory today?


It is common to praise God for God’s greatness and glory, or to celebrate the cross because of the glory it offers us. But we seldom celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus as an example for us to follow. We seldom praise God for the opportunity to share in Christlike acts of service. Today, try to praise God for the gift of humility and sacrificial service, and see what impact it has on your life.


For inviting me to share in your mission of selflessly serving the world, O God, I give you praise.

J – O – Y, J – O – Y, this is what it means,
Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between – Yeah!
J – O – Y, J – O – Y, this is what it means,
Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.