October 28, 2018 ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Oct 28,18 Mark 10:32-45

ARE WE ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?

The day that I went for my PET scan I was sitting across from a fellow who noticed my jacket. “Oh,” he said, “I see you are a Red Sox fan.” I said yes I was. He said, “Do you remember the knuckleballer that played for Boston years ago by the name of Time Wakefield?” I said sure do. He was great for many years in Boston. He said, “That’s my nephew.” So we talked a few minutes about the Red Sox and the Wakefield family all because of my Red Sox jacket and a couple of questions.

Questions. I’ve always asked questions. No question is dumb. The only dumb thing is not asking a question.

Since I’ve had to deal with doctors lately one of the things I’m beginning to learn is not only to ask questions but to ask the right questions. Things aren’t always as simple as I would like them to be. And if you don’t ask the right questions sometimes you might leave their office more confused than when you went in. And if you don’t ask questions how are you going to get the right answers in order to make a wise decision, even if you don’t like what that answer might be? This past week when I saw the Pulmonast she asked me a strange question I was never asked before. After looking at my PET scan she asked the smoking stuff, which I did but quit way back in the early 70’s. Then she asked that strange question I never saw on any sheet I’ve filled out, nor has a doctor asked me about it. The question: “You ever work around asbestos?” I thought that was strange until I thought, “Why, yes I have. I worked in a factory for 13 years building industrial furnaces, which used lots of insulation in them. I wasn’t directly involved with the asbestos assembly, but I was around those furnaces all the time.” What a bombshell that was, for you see that one question might have some bearing on what kind of lung cancer I have, and I believe what kind of treatment they might do.

Questions. That’s how we learn. We all know the jokes about traveling and getting lost because you don’t want to stop and ask directions from someone, so you might go around and around until you give up and stop to seek help. 

But we all have questions. Some of you have asked how I am feeling today. You ask others the same thing. That’s how you get to know someone. When you meet someone new you ask where they are from, what they do, maybe something about their family. You’re not being nosey, but you are seeking to get to know that person.  We all ask questions from time to time. The fact is, we need to know the right questions to ask. There are lots of questions about our faith, about our God, about our salvation, about heaven, about hell, about being a Christian, what does it mean to be saved, are all going to heaven. Questions that some might ponder and wonder about but might be afraid to ask. But as a pastor those are the questions I like to try and answer for those who are seeking something about their faith. As we get older, they seem to pop up from time to time. As far as our faith is concerned these are important questions we want answers to. At least as a pastor I think they are. Have you seen a drug commercial that hasn’t said something like this when their spiel is done, “ask your doctor if this product is for you?” I remember an old song from way back that was popular that asked this one question…” Is this all there is?” sung by Peggy Lee. Such a sad song. Such a sad thought. We might ask today, “Is this life all there is?” And Christians would pop up with joy and say, NO! there is more. There is heaven. There is peace. There is hope. There is eternal life. There is forgiveness. There is Jesus! 

Saw a commercial some of you may have seen   where a woman is in the hospital talking to her daughter and the daughter says, “Mom, you gave us a scare.” The mom looks at the daughter and says, “Now I don’t want you and your brother to worry. I’m at peace with my going home. And I also have planned for the funeral expenses, so you and your brother will not have to worry.” Is it that she knows what awaits her? Or is it what she is leaving behind? I wonder. The commercial of course, is selling insurance for the end days.

This morning Scripture lesson is one that intrigued me. Mark 10:32-45 popped up. As I was glancing at the verses Mark 35 caught my eye. What has happened before this is that Jesus and his disciples are heading to Jerusalem and Jesus tells them he is getting ready to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. Mark writes “And they will condemn Him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles. They will mock him and spit on Him and scourge Him and kill him, and three days later He will rise again.”

Now that’s the passage just before the one that caught my eye. Here Jesus is laying out his future. Jesus and the disciples were heading to Jerusalem and the future looks bleak. He is baring his soul, his heart to his trusted disciples. These are his main men. These are the fellows he has entrusted the future of the faith. They are supposed to be learning from him to carry out God’s mission when Jesus is gone. He is entrusting the gospel, the good news of salvation into their hands and he needs to know that they are ready for the journey. Just before this story there was the story of the Rich Young Ruler who came with the one question we should all be asking as he asked Jesus, “What must I do to have eternal life?” When Jesus said to sell all and follow him, well, he just couldn’t do that. He couldn’t make the decision to give everything away and trust in Jesus for his future. His seeking eternal life fell by the wayside. He was lost, not willing to take the steps to have what he wanted. That boggled the minds of the disciple, because they, at that moment, didn’t quite get the concept. Their minds still thinking of earthly things, not heavenly things.

Now Jesus is putting all his cards on the table. He is telling them he will be turned over to the religious leaders, and then condemned to death and handed over to the Gentiles, or as we know, the Romans. He even mentions how they will mock him, and scourge him, and eventually he will die, but don’t fret, in three days he will rise again. 

But did these fellows hear what he was saying? Did they tell Jesus to stop this foolishness? Did they look with wonder and awe at each other as each word fell on their minds? Did they ask him what he meant about dying? Did they ask him to explain him rising in three days? NO! NO! NO! Their reaction, according to Mark was something that shocked me. It’s like they didn’t hear a thing Jesus just said.

You see, instead of wondering about all that he said, two of them, the kind of top two, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, or as we know them from their nickname by Jesus, “The sons of thunder,” came up to Jesus with this question. “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And Jesus said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Grant that we may sit, one on your right and one on your left, in your glory.”

Really guys? Couldn’t you come up with a better question than that? Couldn’t you have asked Jesus to give insight into what was going to happen? Couldn’t they have asked questions about their roll in all of this? Couldn’t they have asked about heaven, or hell, or something like that? At a moment like this. At a time that Jesus is telling you what he is heading for and all they can think about is themselves and having a position in the coming kingdom? Not just any position, but the top two seats next to Jesus. Aren’t they asking the wrong questions? Shouldn’t they be compassionate? Shouldn’t they be looking for and explanation? Shouldn’t they be asking something about what they could do, or what was going to happen to them? 

These two fellows, James and John, seemed more concerned about themselves at this moment. They weren’t asking what is going to happen to Peter, or Thomas, or any of the others. They wanted to have the seats of glory next to Jesus. One on his left, one on his right. They were seeking privilege status. Really? At a delicate time like this? You must be kidding! But no, I’m not. It’s as plain as the nose on their faces. In fact, if you look at another gospel it is the mother of James and John who comes to ask Jesus to give her sons preferential treatment. 

Trying to bring the seriousness of the moment back, Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to him “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink, and you shall be baptized with the baptism I am baptized. But to sit on my right or on my left, this is not mine to give, but it is for those whom it has been prepared.” HEARING THIS, THE TEN BEGAN TO FEEL INDIGNANT WITH JAMES AND JOHN.”

Think about that for a moment. When Jesus asked if they were able to go through what he will be going through they said sure, they were able. But the proof is in the pudding. Didn’t the disciple run off when Jesus was arrested? Didn’t they go into hiding following the resurrection? They had no clue of what was about to happen to Jesus and had no clue of what was going to happen to them in the future.

I’m surprised we don’t hear from Peter at this time. They all could have yelled at Jesus, “What’s in for us? Where are our glory seats?”

But there you have it. It might not mean something to some of you, but to me, that one verse stood out as if God brought it forth to my mind. “Teacher we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

Isn’t that how we pray at times? I could say that today as I prepare for my journey with lung cancer. “Jesus, I ask you to hear the prayers on my behalf. Jesus, I ask you to heal me. Jesus, I ask you to take care of me.”

Seems so simple a request if we stop there. After all, when we read Scripture we are always told to ask, seek and knock and doors will be open for us. We are also told to bring our burdens to the Lord, every last one of them. We are told to pray the Lord’s Prayer looking for his help on a daily basis. That’s the stuff we need to be asking for. We need to ask for help, healing, comfort, peace, hope and thousands and thousands of other things that we could use in our daily lives. We need to ask the right questions, like Lord, forgive me. Lord guide me. Lord give me courage and strength to go through those vallys I must travel.

I don’t know about you, but I know that’s what comes to my mind. Where James and John were looking for special help in the new kingdom, we ought to be asking how we can make it there. We need to ask the right questions in order to be ready to cross the finish line one day and receive our reward, and a good word from God himself. We need to be more like Stephen when he was being stoned that could look toward heaven and cry out “Lord, forgive these who just don’t get it.”

We don’t need the seats of honor. Just getting there will be good enough. And be reminded of this. Jesus has already gone ahead of us to prepare a special place for us to live.

So, in your spiritual lives ask the right questions. Seek God first, and all the things you need will be given to you. Will there be hardships. Maybe. Will there be struggles, they could happen. Will there be some doubts? Yeah, that mean old fellow will always try to turn the tables on us.

But in the end, when it’s all said and done, our God will be with us.

Last week’s closing hymn asked a simple question that came from today’s Scripture. It goes: “Are ye able” said the Master, to be crucified with me?” “Yes” the sturdy dreamers answered to the death we follow thee.” Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine. Remold them, make us, like thee, divine. Thy guiding radiance above us shall be. A beacon to God to love and loyalty. “Are ye able to remember, when a thief lifts up his eyes, that his pardoned soul is worthy of a place in paradise?”

But this mornings closing hymn goes a little further because we are called to think about what God is calling us to do. The hymn, “I surrender all.” The call: “All to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all.”

Do you have questions this morning about your faith? Perhaps you just have to look through the Scriptures or read a hymn or just pray. You see, with the help of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus leading the way, we have everything we need to reach the promise land that God has prepared for us. So, let’s take hold and cross the Jordan River together in search of our salvation.

Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor
About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.