A sermon on Mark 20:20-28 Preached at St. David’s in Prince Albert on Passion Sunday 2019. There were baptisms following after.
“I spread out my hands before you, I thirst for you like parched land” -Psalm 143:6
What is it like when you desire something? You might orient yourself towards it, your body, your time, your attention. You may give it first your imagination, then your consideration, then your works. The human heart is a longing thing. We are built to desire. Scripture is full of what holy desire looks like:
My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come on the Earth your people will learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:2
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” John 6:27
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6
To name a few. The heart is meant to desire God, to long for intimacy with Him, to long for wisdom, to long for righteousness both in our communities and in the depths of our own hearts, to long for the resurrection, to long for salvation, our hearts are meant for desiring.
St. Augustine argues that all sin is the heart yearning for something unworthy of its desire, a hungering for a lesser good. We hear in a parable that in humility God asks us “friend move on higher.” Christ has ascended into heaven taking our humanity with him. Pride feigns that exaltation. When we get caught up in naked aggression it is to instill awe and fear in others, we instead should yearn for the fear of the Lord. Or else it seeks vengeance where we ought to desire the coming of the day of judgment and mercy. Sloth is a counterfeit for the peace which passes understanding.
The mother of the sons of thunder: John and James, did what we should all do with our desires. Kneeling before Christ and worshiping Him she nakedly lays before Jesus what she desires-that her sons will have status and exaltation along with Jesus. Her heart has a desire. Jesus answers by seeing that it does not know what it has grasped.
To be close to Christ is to enter his baptism. To be close to Christ is to drink his cup. It is to desire God in the face of a world that mocks, and a devil that tempts against, that desire. To be close to Christ is to desire the love, and the holiness, and the servant-hood of the one in whose image we are made to be revealed in us. To be close to Christ is to hunger for righteousness.
To be baptised into Christ’s baptism is to die. It is to let all that you are be buried with him in the tomb of Holy Saturday. In our baptisms we have unclenched our fists and we have let go and that is terrifying. And that is amazing. To be buried in the tomb is to be risen again to new life. It is to take all of the powers that we have and to make them a sacrifice seeking the love God intends for those we have responsibility for rather than our own advantage. Christ is King. In our baptisms his reign begins to become real in us. It is a self-giving reign, that flows into us more and more as we draw close with him.
The mother of James and John prays that her sons might be close to Jesus, for their power and status. Being close to Jesus is to come not into the kind of reign that gentile kings have, it is to offer up everything. It is offering yourself to God, all of yourself. There will be suffering, there will be challenges, there may even be death for the sake of those God loves. And yet Jesus has died to ransom us. He has died to give us eternal life in the presence that gives a peace the world cannot give.
And that’s the thing. To enter baptism is to enter into the pleasure of God, as it is to enter into a desire for God, it is to enter into his desire for us. For he loves, desires and pursues his church. He washes her with water and the word. He feeds her with a wedding banquet. We are his desire.
We die into a new life which is more than we could ask or imagine. It is into this new life that we receive a new brother and sister today.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8