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Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost - "Ambition & Greatness" by Pr. Jim


The First Must Be Last

19 September 2021


A warm welcome to all who have gathered for worship this morning, especially to our

guests and visitors. Today we gather around Word and Sacrament through which God equips, directs, and supports his people in the mission and ministry of his Kingdom. All

that God promised in his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, comes together by the power of

the Spirit as we worship. Guests and visitors, please honor us by signing our Guest

Book in the entrance hall of the church as you leave. If you have no church home of

your own in the area, we invite you to make Grace Lutheran Church the center of your worship, learning, fellowship, and service. Pastor Jim or this morning’s lay assistant

will be happy to answer any questions you may have concerning our parish. The fellow-

ship of this morning continues with coffee following worship. Do join us and let us become better acquainted with you as you get to know us better. Come to worship with us again

and often!

AS WE GATHER   Whoever Would Be Greatest

Today we hear James warn against selfish ambition, while the disciples quarrel over which one of them is the greatest. Jesus tells them the way to be great is to serve. Then, to make it concrete, he puts in front of them a flesh-and-blood child. We are called to welcome the children God puts in front of us, to make room for them in daily interaction, and to give them a place of honor in the assembly.


Lord God, it is through our lives that your love touches others. Stir us by your Spirit to serve all people with willing hearts and bring them the message of your love. We ask this in the Name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Jazz Mass Setting




PRELUDE I Want to Be a Christian—Sandra Eithun

Tatsiana Ascheichyk, Piano


In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

   But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive

our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let us then confess our sins to God our Father, and in the presence of one


+ A Brief Silence for Reflection & Self-examination +

Most merciful God, we confess that we are imperfect. Our minds are filled

with hate and prejudice, our tongues are uncontrolled; our deeds do not

bear witness to our faith. As sinners we stand condemned. For the sake

of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and

lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the

glory of your holy Name. Amen.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy on us and has given his only

Son to die for us and for his sake forgives us all our sin. To those who believe on

his Name he gives power to become the children of God and has promised them

his Holy Spirit. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. Grant this, Lord,

unto us all. Amen.

Forgiven and reconciled by God, let us be reconciled with one another and share

the peace of the Lord as we greet each other.



The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And also with you.

GLORY TO GOD        Refrain:     Glory to God, glory to God,

Glory to God in the Highest

And peace to his people on earth

  1. Lord God, heavenly King, Almighty God, and Father, we worship

you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.Refrain

  1. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God,

you take away the sin of the world; have mercy on us.You are

seated at the right hand of the Father; receive our prayer.Refrain

  1. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,

you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy

Spirit in the glory of God the Father.

   Refrain:       Glory to God, glory to God,

Glory to God in the Highest

And peace to his people on earth.

Amen, Amen, Amen


O God, our teacher and guide, you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children. Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition, that we

may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding as servants of your

Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

FIRST LESSON Jeremiah 11:18-20

[Today’s reading tells us of the suffering of the prophet Jeremiah, who announced God’s word to Judah but was met with intense opposition and persecution. Jeremiah continues to trust in God

in the midst of his suffering.]

It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew;
then you showed me their evil deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
And I did not know it was against me
that they devised schemes, saying,
‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will no longer be remembered!’
But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously,
who try the heart and the mind,
let me see your retribution upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!                        

PSALM 54 (Read responsively)

            God is my helper; it is the LORD who sustains my life. Save

            me, O God, by your name; in your might defend my cause.

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my


For the arrogant have risen up against me, and the ruthless

have sought my life, those who have no regard for God.

Behold, God is my helper; it is the Lord who sustains

my life. God is my helper; it is the LORD who sustains

my life.

Render evil to those who spy on me; in your faithfulness,

destroy them.

I will offer you a freewill sacrifice and praise your name,

O LORD, for it is good.

For you have rescued me from every trouble, and my eye has seen the ruin of my


God is my helper; it is the LORD who sustains my life.

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

[The wisdom God gives unites our hearts and minds. Instead of living to satisfy our own wants and desires, we manifest this wisdom in peace, gentleness, mercy, and impartiality toward others.]

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that

your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter

envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 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. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 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. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to

spend what you get on your pleasures.

The word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!   

SPECIAL MUSIC Rejoice! He is Lord of All—Benjamin David Knoedler

GOSPEL Mark 9:30-37

The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 9th chapter.

ALLELUIA  [Sung before the reading of the Gospel]

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Give the glory and the honor to the Lord!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Give the glory and the honor to the Lord.

[Jesus’ teaching and action in this text are directed to the Church whenever it is seduced by the world’s definition of greatness: prestige, power, influence, and money. The antidote to such a concern for greatness is servanthood.]

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 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.’ But they

did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

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

This is the Gospel of the Lord.

     Praise to you, O Christ.     

HYMN of THE DAY Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service LSB 848

HOMILY Ambition & Greatness—Pr. Jim/Ray Kistler presented

Selfish vs Sanctified Ambition

There’s an old saying: “Every frog would become a prince.”

Something of that is painfully evident in today’s appointed Gospel lesson. The disciples are on their way to Capernaum with Jesus. They’ve just heard our Lord tell them in no uncertain terms that He would be betrayed into the hands of men … killed and rise again on the third day. And the disciples just can’t resist speculating on what Jesus’ future is going to mean for them. And as naturally as breathing, the question comes up which one of them will be top dog when Jesus is going to need some well-organized partner/partners in the grand scheme they had in mind. And note, it wasn’t just a discussion. It was an argument.

Who is first? What makes us turn that question into a head-long, all-out scramble for preference and favor over others?

I mentioned that there is something painfully evident in the Gospel … did you catch it? Did you catch the contrasting expressions of ambition? The one is discouragingly common. The other is wondrously rare. And each one is a world apart from the other.

The disciples displayed the quality of ambition that’s discouragingly common. When there’s the first hint of status … preferential treatment or honor … it’s like a magnet that draws out of us the kind of ambition that tramples on anything and everything … anyone or everyone … in order to be number one. It is, in the words of the Second Lesson: “selfish ambition which drives people to every disorder and vile practice [James 3:16,17].”

Self-serving ambition at the expense of others is no stranger to us. Influence … recognition … the possibility of being #1 … all are great people movers. The scramble for preferential place or treatment goes on continually and we are never exempt from being swept up in it. Who runs the show? Who will ace out the other? Who holds the line for old traditions or ways of doing things? Whose agenda needs to be preserved? Who has to be captain of the team … or … the main Jane on the cheerleading squad? Do I need to go on? Hardly … we’ve all been there, done that … sometimes with long-term damage.

In the Gospel, the disciples enter the house in Capernaum with Jesus. There’s an uncomfortable pause in the previously heated conversation. (A silence among the disciples so thick you could cut it with a knife.) Jesus let the pause have its effect. Then, almost casually, he asks: “What were you arguing about on the way?”

Mark has a purpose in relating this event and conversation in his gospel story of Jesus. It’s to contrast the disciples’ blind ambition with our Lord’s ambition (His zeal) which took Him to the Cross. And that last and lost place is precisely where our Lord meets us … on our home turf … to change the direction for our good. Not by fearful avoidance, not by heading in the opposite direction, but by taking us through the place of "last of all" as he had described it: being betrayed, killed, and yet rising again. His role to serve us all is by taking our place, in the judgment of divine accountability, on the cross. Make no mistake about it, it was not out of resignation that our Lord walked the path of the Cross. He was determined to walk it … for it was the path that leads to our salvation. He came to save us from ourselves—lest our blind selfish ambitions and ways destroy us and everyone else. Jesus was ambitious … determined … for our eternal good. He resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem and the Cross that awaited him.

To drive the point home, Jesus takes a child and stands him in the middle of the disciples to teach them and us a better way. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Notice … Jesus didn’t say: “Abandon your want-to” … or “empty yourself totally of all drive and desire.” That may be a tenant of Buddhism, but it’s not Christ’s way. Instead, Jesus called for the converse of the “want-to-be-first” passion. Turn it upside down. Put all that energy … all that ambition … into getting acquainted (better yet … re-acquainted) with cross-purposes … getting reacquainted with the opportunities of last place … discovering what it takes to serve rather than strut … where there is no scrambling for privilege or advantage … no hoarding or greed … no rivals.

You see, the opposite of selfish ambition is not no ambition. The opposite of selfish ambition is sanctified ambition … holy ambition … the cross-purpose ambition of seeking the least and the lost.

St. Paul displayed that kind of sanctified ambition. He kept on going and going … place after place … year after year … facing every imaginable obstacle … putting his life on the line for the sake of the Gospel. There is sanctified ambition … getting one’s priorities straight.

More than 500 years ago, Francis of Assisi was transformed from a spoiled rich boy to a man who cared for the lowliest of creatures and the most humble of humankind—all because the power of the Gospel transformed his energies … sanctified his ambitions.

It’s to that kind of cross-purpose that each of us is called. In Christ’s Name and for His sake, we are to give our best for the Kingdom … to give our all-in service of the lost and the least. By our Baptisms, we are to define our Christian living not by what we avoid or have no part of, but by what we do wholeheartedly in love. God is honored and glorified when we devote ourselves to others with our best and not our least.

On this 17th Sunday after Pentecost, the world (out there) is not over-crowded with people living out the servant life in Christ. But be assured, it is the only way to live.

Today … as every day … we are faced with a choice: Greatest or least … first or last … master or servant? self-serving or self-giving?

Which will you choose?

+ In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

APOSTOLIC CREED                 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life + everlasting. Amen.


As children and heirs of God’s promise, let us pray for The Church, the world, and all in need.

Holy God, we pray for The Church around the world. Unite us in our love for you. Help

us overcome our divisions and encourage us to work together for your sake. Lord, in

your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of creation, we pray for this hurting earth. Bring new creation to lands devasted by tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. Protect and strengthen all fire-fighters who are working in dangerous wildfire environments as they seek to control and manage further devastation. Strengthen first responders and relief agency workers to help meet the complex needs of others of those who have lost their homes due to floods, tornadoes, and forest fires. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of the peace, we pray for nations of the world embroiled in conflict. Inspire leaders to listen to each other and work toward peaceful solutions to disagreements. Protect the vulnerable, especially children, who cannot find safety in their home or country. Watch over all who are fleeing violence, persecution, or death and sustain them through uncertain and unstable times. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of comfort and healing, we pray for those who are in need and cry out for help. Feed those who are hungry, reassure those who are despairing, and accompany those who need your touch this day, especially those who are suffering COVID-19 and its variants. Be close to the hearts of all who are lonely or homebound, especially Sharon, Richard & Doris, Bonnie, Vernia, Elma, Marguerite, and those we name on our hearts that they may be assured of your presence through our prayers and care for them. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of compassion, we pray for our congregation. Continue to nurture the leadership

and ministries of this congregation. Guide us by the power of your Spirit during this time of discernment as we move toward calling a pastor to join us in serving our community and seeking the lost. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of our redemption, we give thanks for all those who have gone before us with the

sign of faith and show us how to honor you with our hearts and lives. Inspire us by their example and renew our faith, trusting that we will be united with them in your eternal presence at the feast which knows no end. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Receive the prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Heavenly Father, through your goodness you have blessed us with these

gifts. Receive what we have to offer, that others might know that life through

the gifts you give to us to use and to share in the Name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Lord be with you.

   And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

   We will lift them up to him.

Let us give thanks always to the Lord our God.

   It is right, it is just, it is well.

Father, it is our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ

    Holy, holy, holy, Lord

For our sake He opened His arms on the cross,

He put an end to death and revealed the resurrection

    Holy, holy, holy, Lord

In this He fulfilled your will and won for you a holy people. And so,

we join the angels and the saints in proclaiming your glory as we sing:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might

Heaven and earth are full of your glory

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest

Blessed is he who comes

in the name of the Lord

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest


When these gifts of bread and wine were consecrated for the celebration of The Lord’s Supper, they were set aside with thanksgiving with these words …

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread,

gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: “Take and eat;

this is my Body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Again, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to

drink, saying: “This cup is the new testament in my Blood, shed for you

and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this in remembrance of me.”

With these words we are given assurance of our Lord’s presence through

the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the eating of this bread of life and the drinking

of this cup of blessing, we are assured of our forgiveness and strengthened

in faith.

As we prepare for this great gift, we are bold to pray …

Our Father who art in heaven;

hallowed be Thy Name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those

who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil;

For thine is the kingdom

and the power and the glory

forever and ever. Amen.

AGNUS DEI Join in singing

O Lamb of God

You take away the sins of the world,

Have mercy on us, have mercy on us.

O Lamb of God

You take away the sins of the world,

Have mercy on us, have mercy on us.

O Lamb of God

You take away the sins of the world,

Grant us peace.


            Music during The Distribution Now We Remain



O God of love, you bind us to yourself in this sacrament, and strengthen

us through this meal for service to the world. Guide us by your Spirit that

we may forever give witness to the Name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of life. Amen.


SONG Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow LSB 805


+ The Worship is over … Let the Service begin! +



We encourage everyone to participate in this very welcome hospitality ministry by signing up

to either host or assist with serving. For further details, please speak with either Pearl, Nan, or Mary.

MONDAY MEALS offers a sense of community with a free meal. Guests are welcomed as we would a church visitor. Items needed for the Monday meals in October are: a large bowl of potato salad, a large bowl of egg salad, 2 bags of little oranges, and a 24-case of bottled water. Check the October newsletter for more details.

STUDY OPPORTUNITIES this week: Women’s Study on Tuesday, beginning at 10:00 am in the Fireside Room. Join us as we continue our study of the Book of Acts. Next NewMen’s Coffee Study is scheduled for Saturday morning, October 9th, beginning at 8:30 am. Set these times aside now for a good discussion and fellowship.


TODAY: Coffee Hour 11:00 am

TUESDAY: Women’s Study 10:00 am

NEXT SUNDAY: Worship 10:00 am

Coffee Hour 11:00 am

          LOOKING Grace Connections

AHEAD Newsletter DEADLINE Sept. 22