Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Job 38:1-7; Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45
If we look at all the readings in total today, they seem a bit like a tale of two Gods. In Job, God says to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? I didn’t see you at the any of the planning meetings!” And the Psalmist has this magisterial, awesome, cosmic view of God; God is so amazing in Psalm 104 that He “wraps himself in light (the stars) like a cloak.” Set against this image of a creative God is Jesus of Nazareth, a small, itinerant preacher-carpenter who embraces his servanthood and proclaims that He “will give His life as a ransom for many … for all.” How do we square the colossus of our Creator God with that of Jesus, who emptied himself of all that He might die for us? The truth is that, in our Baptism, we claim that Jesus is the embodied fulfillment of God’s creative love and recognize that all are equal members of that baptized community. God was baptized into our flesh in Jesus Christ and, among other things, obliterated the spaces between us; we are all one in the baptized life of Jesus Christ.
Yet, John and James demonstrate why this is so incredibly difficult, this idea of us all being One in Christ. John and James want to possess power. They would subvert the apostolic community of Christ in order to share in their vision of Jesus’ future, worldly power; when he comes into His earthly kingdom as they see it. And the others are angry with them, because they would put themselves ahead of the rest of the community. And when someone has power, then those who don’t have power are left out into the cold, often disempowered and weak. We do that as societies don’t we? It may make us squirm but western culture and society was set up from the beginning to favor men, primarily, of European descent, and all others would be subjugated to that goal to gain and maintain power for the dominant culture. That meant and, in so many ways, continues to mean, that women, particularly women of color, non-white ethnic groups, different religions, were so often left without a voice when it comes to be a fully realized member of the community.
Now this is not a civics lesson, right? This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is our Baptism: we are all brought into the life of Christ by virtue of our Baptism and that means living into our Baptism. We do not simply lay claim to what and who we believe God in Christ to be – the Savior of the World – but that we will continue in the apostle’s teaching and in the sacraments and prayers; we will strive for justice for all people and respect the dignity of every human being. By virtue of our Baptism, we are joined with Christ in every conceivable way and so are our fellow brothers and sisters. Those who have not yet been baptized are also brothers and sisters who live in hope of God’s mercy, as we do. And our baptism calls us to respect others, and love others, and to work for justice; meaning all are co-equals in laying claim the hope of Jesus Christ. And we are all servants to each other, not cloying for power or privilege but actually subverting the world’s claims about power.
There is a man named Mohamed Bzeek who I saw on PBS recently from a story that actually aired last year. Mr. Bzeek is a devout Muslim, originally from Libya, but has lived in the US since 1978. He is a foster parent in Los Angeles County, something he has done since he married his wife back in the early 1990’s. I learned a staggering statistic: at any given time, there are roughly 35,000 children under 18 being supervised by their DCF services in Los Angeles County alone. Of that number there are typically 600 who have critical medical conditions and fall under the purview of DCF’s Emergency Medical Mgt. division. And of that number there are always a handful who have been given a terminal diagnosis for their illness or disease process. And the people in emergency mgt. all know that when they get such a child onto their caseload there is only one foster parent who will always take a terminally ill child and that is Mohamed Bzeek.
Mohamad’s wife, who when he met her was already a single foster parent, took only critically and terminally ill children. She died several years ago from cancer and now Bzeek continues to care for a child he has now had for about seven years. She came to Mohamed and his wife when she was only a few months old and was given only months to live. Now, about seven years later, she lives on and Mohamed is responsible for her care, 24/7/365. He has not had a vacation since 2010. And he cares for these children, 10 of which have died in the care of he and his late wife over 25 years, because he believes that “every child needs to know that they are loved, there is someone who cares about them, and they are not alone.”
Most of us cannot expect to experience this type of servant ministry, but our baptism into community means that we are to respect each other’s dignity and strive to bring God’s justice, God’s love to them, and that no one is more important that any other, in the baptized community of God. Paul’s letter to the Romans, 6:3-4. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
The God of all glory and creation has come among us, been baptized into our humanity. God did this because he loves us all and in Jesus Christ we see that sacrificial love lived out and into. Let us try, begin, to embrace the love our fellow humans, no matter who they may be, knowing that God created them, loves them, and calls them into community with us – equals, brother.