Preached at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Upton upon Severn, Remembrance Sunday 2018, 11/11/2018

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’

36 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.

37 They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’

38 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’

39 ‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with,40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’


I wonder if you’ve ever suffered from FOMONG? From the blank looks on your faces, I can tell that you haven’t a clue what FOMOMG is.   

It turns out FOMONG is one of those mobile phone texting abbreviations, you know the sort of thing:  YOLO, ILY, ROFL and so on. For the uninitiated:

  • ROFL – is Roll on the Floor Laughing.
  • YOLO, which means You only live once.
  • ILY, I love you.

And FOMOMG? Well according to the article I read on the BBC website, FOMOMG is the Fear of missing out on my goals. FOMOMG.

The article included an interview with  a series of young people who identify as FOMOMG sufferers, including a young London based model, who said,

Why do I feel like I am running out of time to achieve my goals? “At 18 I wanted a house by 23 at 23 I wanted to have yearly earnings of nearly a million by 25. By 26 I want my mum to be able to retire. None of those things have happened for me, and everyday I feel anxious wondering when my big modelling contract will come or when will that big brand decide to believe in me.”

So that’s FOMOMG: the fear of missing out on my goals.

I wonder how many of the brave young men whose names our mayor read earlier suffered from the fear of missing out on their goals? Or was it the case that perhaps they understood something about life that we often forget today: that true greatness comes not from a modelling contract, or a million pound bank balance but from sacrifice and service.

Or as Jesus puts it in our reading, v43,

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

He said this as he and his disciples are on their way up to Jerusalem for the final time, and he’s been explaining to them what will happen when he gets there: that he’ll be arrested, tried, executed and then three days later rise from the dead.

And perhaps not surprisingly, the disciples are confused by this – because they’d imagined that when they got to Jerusalem, Jesus was going to start some sort of anti-Roman revolution and make himself king of a free Israel.

That’s the sort of glory the disciples James and John are thinking about when they ask Jesus in v37,

Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

They’re basically asking to be  Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown  to his Tony Blair! I did try to think of who our current Prime Minister’s right and left hand are, But they keep resigning.

Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

James and John are worried that When the revolution comes, They might miss out on the top seats at the table. They might miss out on their goals.

So how does Jesus address their FOMOMG? Well let’s just focus in on one thing he says, that, Greatness is not about power or status or celebrity. That’s there in v42,

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you

We probably all know someone who tries to Lord it over us. They love to show off their power and status, and its trappings: the big car, the power walk, the power lunch, the power suit.

I once had to negotiate a government training contract with a guy like that. His receptionist showed me into his office, where he sat like a king behind an enormous elevated desk. He didn’t stand to greet me, so I had to stretch over the desk to shake his hand. He then motioned me to sit at a sofa on the other side of the room. It was so low down I couldn’t see the top of his desk. All I could see was Mr Business lording it over me. I guess I could have stood up or something, but instead I tried to perch on the front of the sofa. Which sadly was an overhanging cushion, that gave way, and dumped me onto the floor.

James and John here. Their goal in life is become great, by accumulating power and status from Jesus,  their goal in life is to become just like the very Romans they hated. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

And Jesus says Not so with you. And then he shows them a better way. A way to be truly great. V43,

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

 You see, in God’s economy you aren’t great because you have power or status or celebrity. No you’re great because you use whatever power or status or celebrity you have to serve others.

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant

And sometimes that’s gonna’ mean you lose all your power and celebrity and wealth. Just like those on our roll of honour did when they gave up their lives in the service of their country.

And just like Jesus would do a few days after this incident took place as he allowed himself to be arrested, tried and crucified, to bring rescue not just to a country but to the whole world.

Did you notice how he described it in v45? That he was going to give his life as a ransom for many. The word ransom here means the payment someone would make to set a slave free. And when Jesus offered up his own life in our service, that’s what he was doing for us. Setting us free … from sin… for a relationship with God.

So what does all this mean for us today? Two things:

First, do we know the freedom Jesus offers, for ourselves?

That’s the gift he offers us through his death on the cross. Freedom from the past. Forgiveness of all our past mistakes. And the free gift of the love of God. Is that a freedom you know for yourself? Because only Jesus the one who gave his life as a ransom for yours can give it to you. If you’d like to know more about that freedom, get in touch, not just with me, but with any of the churches round here. Or come along to some of our Christmas services, we’ll be putting out publicity for Christmas soon, and Christmas is all about the freedom Jesus offers.

And secondly, what Jesus says here begs the question: are we ready to sacrifice our goals for the good of others?

That’s a question that reaches to the heart of every relationship we have. Our marriages. Our families. Our neighbours. Our community. Which of my life goals am I willing to sacrifice for the good of others? Solomon, the philosopher king who wrote our first reading, spent a lot of time pondering his life goals. He examined everything he’d acquired: palaces, gardens, wealth, concubines,  status and even knowledge: and the conclusion he reached about them is that ultimately they are meaningless,  a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun.

You see, while setting and achieving goals can feel meaningful, actually it doesn’t get us anywhere. When all’s said and done, when God reckons up the tally on our lives, the goals we’ve set and achieved mean nothing. What truly matters is what you were prepared to sacrifice for the sake of others.

That’s why 100 years later, we’re not here to honour the rich and famous of Upton, we’re here to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice – those who sacrificed their goals in life, and indeed their lives, for our sake. May we have the courage to be more and more like them.

Would you pray with me?

Loving Heavenly Father, thank-you for Jesus, who did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for us. May we know him more and more in our lives, and make his path of sacrificial service, our path. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Got a big question about God?