End zones, time zones, it’s hard to discount the importance of zones in our daily lives. On Sunday, for example, we could have spent a lot of time talking about end zones…what happened, what didn’t, what almost did, what nearly didn’t. Regardless of if you watched the Vikings-Packers game (or Packers-Vikings game for that matter), a lot of life is organized into zones- time zones, construction zones, USDA Hardiness zones.

Heard about an athlete or performer who was laser focused, performing at a high level? Achieving extraordinary results? Sometimes we say they are “in the zone.” Ever traveled abroad to come home and be fully awake in the middle of the night? Your body is operating on a different time zone.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re in a different zone altogether. Life just seems off. Or hard. Or hurried. And then I read the Gospel text from Sunday and I wonder if that is what the disciples felt as well.

The Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

Mark 9:30-37 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. Who Is the Greatest? 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 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.”
They had been to the mountaintops and valleys, in storms. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting our demons, bringing hope to the hopeless. Scary but amazing stuff.

Yes, the disciples were in the zone- performing at a high level. But yet, they struggled to stay in the zone. Remember the part when Jesus is on the mountaintop and comes back down to find chaos everywhere. The disciples were out of the zone; they had forgotten what He had taught them.

And like a good coach, he pulls them out of the game for a lit bit. He pulls them over to the side of the road- privately for what I would call a “coming to Jesus” moment. And he begins the pep talk. Ok guys, what’s going on? What were you arguing about on the way?

This is like the moment in the family care on a vacation and the parent pulls over and says what were you fighting about with your brother and sister in the back seat? Crickets. Nothing. Pure silence. Conviction. Busted.

The disciples were arguing about who was greatest.

Jesus I’m guessing throws the clipboard down. And sits down. When a rabbi—teacher sat down—that is when the teaching begin. And Jesus says: That is not one of our plays. That’s the world’s way. Where you been all this time? The kingdom zone is about healing, feeding the hungry, giving hope, reminding people they are worthwhile, capable, and loveable.

This isn’t about a pecking order or prestige or status or money or who is first and best and greatest.

Yet it’s the human quest. We all want to be somebody of value and worth. Climb the ladder. Prove ourselves. Inflate our words to look better. And remind others one more time the great things we did. And, we do it fast and hurried at the mach speed of sound.

Some say the enemy of the spiritual life is our frenetic, hurried pace. One spiritual yoda I know of says the most important spiritual practice is that we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our life.

So, Jesus just pauses. Slows the train down. Takes a break. In this quiet place, away from the rat race and crowds–Let me remind you of your worth again—and, hear this—you are a beloved child of God.

You are mine. A kingdom somebody—great in my eyes-and created in my image for kingdom greatness. I love you just the way you are. (Ok, sounds a little like a Billy Joel Song)

Every time I think of being a kingdom somebody—I’m reminded of my grandma’s crocheted saying in her dining room on the wall: I know I’m somebody, because God don’t make no junk.

From that place of pause—Jesus helps them reflect on their purpose as children of God. As disciples. Let’s get back into the zone—the kingdom zone.

This isn’t about being first. It’s about being last. This isn’t about being served—but to be a servant. This isn’t about greatness, but humility and gentleness and kindness and compassion and LOVE—which is the only thing that will change this world.

Once you get into the kingdom zone, you will see things and experience a new reality for yourself. That sees what God sees, that breaks for what God’s heart breaks for, and actually DO something about it.

You will see injustice and act. You will love the one that is different. Fight for the forgotten, the lost, the lonely—even the homeless–and gives them hope and reminds them they’re not alone. As in a new family shelter here in Hugo that you help run with 3-5 families every night.

Together, as brothers and sisters, my friends– we are going to get into the zone as we begin this church.

We will pause and slow the train down at the Depot, reflect and discover what God wants us to be about, refuel at the wide open table of grace and mercy, and go out into the world serve as we are called to do. Welcome.”

This message was excerpted from Pastor Brian’s original message on Sept. 16.