True Greatness

19 Sep 2021 by Gail Hinton in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Call to Worship

Happy are those who delight in the law of the LORD.

They are like trees,
planted by streams of water,
which yield fruit in season,
and their leaves do not wither.

In all that they do, they prosper.

Hymn: I love you Lord

Prayers of Adoration, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness

Creator God,
at the eve of Creation you declared everything good.

Our world is full of your goodness,
so we praise you for the blue of the sky,
the song of birds,
the laughter of children,
for smiles and good-natured jokes,
for the voice of a friend over the phone,
for sunrises and sunsets,
for each new day
full of promise and potential.

Gracious God,
when you created us you declared us free beings,
so we confess we do not always love you.

We fail to listen to your words of wisdom,
and do not always follow your law of self-sacrificing love.

We confess that we fail to notice the beauty of world
instead we abuse and exploit the earth’s resources,
we store up riches and think only of our own gain.

We confess that our own selfish ambition clouds our thinking.

So, we fail to notice the beauty of everyday things,
the beauty of nature, the love of friends and family,
the joy of giving and the joy of receiving.

Create within us Lord, a thankful heart,
and show us what it means to be generous.

May we live in your love
and through that love seek to serve others.

For in Christ, we are a new creation;
everything old has passed away:
see the new has come!

All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ.

Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven.’

Thanks be to God

Hymn: Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy.

Bible Readings

James 3: 13-4:3, 7-8a

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Friendship with the World

4 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.


Mark 9:30-37

Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Who Is the Greatest?

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Sermon: True Greatness

To begin thinking about today’s reading from Mark I am going to retell a story I heard many years ago in a Sermon. It went something like this. Charlie dies and goes to meet St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. Charlie during his lifetime has not been a perfect saint but he hasn’t done anything too sinful either, but first and foremost Charlie believes in Jesus and the promise of salvation through the Cross of Christ. So, when he reaches the Pearly Gates, St. Peter welcomes him to heaven, but Charlie who has always been a curious kind of person says to St. Peter, “I knew I would be welcomed into the heavenly banquet, but I would love to see what the other place looks like”. “Come with me “says St. Peter.

When Charlie gets a peek at the other place, the place some call hell, he is at first confused. He sees an amazing banquet loaded with an abundance of good things but then he notices that the people seated at the table are looking miserable, malnourished, almost skeletal. “Why are they so sad” he asks St. Peter. “There is only one rule at this banquet”, he answers, “you must use the cutlery”. Charlie then notices that the all the knives and forks and spoons are about six feet long. When one of the guests try to pick up some food it is impossible to bring the cutlery to their mouths.

Charlie is saddened by this glimpse of the other place and tells St. Peter he is ready to go and join the heavenly banquet. When Charlie sees the heavenly banquet table he again sees and abundance of good things but then he is shocked to see the same six-foot-long cutlery, except at this table the guests are full of life and joy.  “Does the same rule about having to use the cutlery apply here too” asks Charlie. “Yes, indeed it does”, states St. Peter. Charlie takes his place at the table and looks across at the guest opposite him. The other guest welcomes him with a smile, but Charlie gets the feeling that they are a little bit hungry because they are looking lovingly at the potato salad. Without a second thought Charlie picks up one of the six foot spoons, scoops up some of the delicious potato salad and gently and carefully puts the spoon to the other guest’s mouth.” The other guest savours the fine food and then says, “Mmmmm, thankyou my brother, now what can I get for you?”

All the guests at the heavenly banquet in this parable-like story including the newbie Charlie had heard and understood exactly what Jesus meant when he said that true greatness comes when we place ourselves last and become the servant of all. This way of being, this attitude of self-sacrificing love and compassion is the foundation of God’s Kingdom, and it results in peace, harmony, and joy, or as James puts it in today’s epistle reading “a harvest of righteousness” Sadly this is not the way of the world.  James tells us that the way of the world leads to disorder and wickedness of every kind (James 3:16). Why? Because people are so full of bitter envy and self-ambition.

The need to be great and our focus on our own of selfish ambition can be seen at all levels of society, amongst friends, within families, in organisations, in workplaces and even on a national level. We have heard over the last few years slogans that suggest we need to make our nations great again. What does that even mean, and more importantly what would that mean if we took Jesus words to heart? Would we see still see billions upon billions of dollars spent on weapons of war or would we instead focus on the needs of our neighbours around the world facing extreme poverty, exploitation, or the effects of climate change. 

In contrast to the way of the world, the way of Jesus turns everything upside down. Last week we heard Jesus tell us that in order to follow him we must deny ourselves or in other words forget ourselves, put ourselves last. This week Jesus expands on that when he corrects his disciples faulty and very human way of thinking. Once again, the disciples stuff up. For the second time they misunderstand Jesus’s predication about his death and resurrection and then they argue over who is the greatest disciple. Last week we saw fear and a lack of wisdom as human failings this week we see another human trait rears its ugly head, the need to be someone, to be noticed, to be admired and to be seen as great in the eyes of others.

We can reverse this trait and turn it upside down if we see ourselves through the eyes of our loving God. The Scriptures tell us that while we were still sinners, God in Christ died for us, this means that God loves us and reaches out to us just as we are, we do not need to prove ourselves as great or lovable to God, we are simply loved (Romans 5:8). When we feel as if we should be something, we need to remember that we are each uniquely gifted (1Corinthians 7:7) and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139). When we feel the need to be noticed and admired, we are reminded in the Scriptures that God is the one who sees our true worth (Luke 12: 6-7) and we are also encouraged to do good deeds for goodness’s sake alone, not for acclaim or applause from others (Matthew 6:1).

In today’s reading and right throughout Mark’s gospel the disciples fail to understand the upside-down vision of a righteous world in which the first are to be last in the service of others. The disciples just don’t see it, but they will, when, the apparent failure of Jesus in his tragic death on the cross becomes the greatest victory of all time, the victory over sin and death. The disciples will come to understand what it means to put others first because in Jesus we all see the only person who was and is truly great give up everything for the sake of all others, indeed for the sake of the whole world (John 3:16).


Hymn: The Servant King

Offering Prayer

Lord, you have shown us true greatness.
On the cross you gave up everything.
You ask us to give of ourselves freely,
so we ask in return that you bless the gifts we offer,
May they become signs of the heavenly Kingdom
in which all people come to know you
and live in peace, harmony, and joy.


Prayer for the People

Here are our prayers for the world, for our church and for ourselves:

Dear God, we pray for wisdom for our world leaders, especially our own Prime Minister and State Premiers in this time, that they would exercise not only wisdom but also compassion towards suffering and stressed people. We ask that vaccine rollout continue to be speedy and effective in protecting vulnerable people.

We pray for Afghanistan and ask that you protect all those who are still vulnerable and protect those helping the refugees re settle, especially those resettling here.

We pray for all of us to become more passionate about our earth, to care for the creation You have made and to advocate for political decision making that produces real action and urgency.

We pray for Gail and the Church Council, that you would equip them with the courage to change, and for our Pastoral Partners, to "keep on keeping on." And for all members that we would individually keep strong in our faith. We are "Locked down” but God, help us to "look up" and have hope for the better.

And dear Lord, for all those in our congregation we know who are having treatment or medical care, comfort and heal them. And for those in care, for Sheila, Pat, Luke and Audrey: we pray they'll be looked after with love and sensitivity.

WE thank you so much Lord Jesus that you came into a suffering sorry world a little over 2 thousand years ago. The people around expected a Saviour to rescue them from oppression by the Romans. However, your salvation was not political but spiritual! And it is everlasting, for ALL TIMES and for all men and women. Thank you so much that you overturned the old social order back then and offered hope and dignity and healing to the poorest of the poor, the powerless and marginalised. And you are able to do that even today!

SO, we pray that in our hearts and in our lives, we grasp onto the truths we have learnt today--

that we are loved and accepted, we are truly your children, and we have value, not because of our achievements but because you accepted us into Your Kingdom.

Help us translate that sense of belonging into looking out for the needs of others. Teach us to be less selfish, we pray.

Comfort those who have lost loved ones to Covid, give strength to endure the pain and loss. Comfort those among us who grieve, comfort and give hope for the stressed in this very tough time of lockdown. When things feel overwhelming make us ever more call out to You for guidance and support and a relief from stress. Make us "Look Up!"

We pray all these things in your wonderful name, Amen.

Hymn: Open the eyes of my heart.


May the peace of God, which is beyond our understanding,
keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,
and of His son Jesus Christ our Lord,
and the blessing of God the Almighty, the Son and the Holy Spirit
rest on you, now and always.


Next Week: 26 September 2021
Theme: “Life Together”
Readings: Psalm 124 and James 5: 13-20
Lectionary Readings: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22, Psalm 124, James 5: 13-20 and Mark 9:38-50