“He was just an iceman”
When George Marion Mason died in the mid 1940’s the crowd spilled out onto the street in front of the mortuary. When they drove to the cemetery, there were over 150 cars in the processional and at least that many at the cemetery when they arrived too.
Worth was a young man among those mourning and he was asked by a stranger passing by, “who died?”
To which he answered, “Uncle Fats.” The stranger continued, well who was he? Was he rich? Was he a senator or a movie star? He must have been important!”
Young worth answered simply, “he was just an iceman.”
Later, Worth heard a quote that he connected to Uncle Fats, even to this day. “It is nice to be important, it is more important to be nice.”
How was it so many people came to mourn his passing? Uncle Fats was in the ice delivery business. He was neither wealthy nor famous. He worked hard every day, bearing massive and heavy blocks of ice to house after house. But uncle Fats chose to be in a different business too- one that did not earn him a paycheck but did earn him respect. He was in the soul business. He asked after them and invited into kitchens all over San Diego, this man became like family to each household. He cared about people.
We are getting close to the elections and of course, I cannot resist the fodder for a sermon. You didn’t think you would get through without some reference did you?
Politics are unavoidable. Even then, in a room with Jesus, James and John were making a political play for power. They knew how things worked in this world and they knew they needed to get the vote early on. And of course the other disciples got riled up. If they were all focused on the real purpose of being there none of them would have gotten upset, but we see that every one of them did. They ALL had politics on their minds too.
Jesus takes this moment though to remind them that this fame has a price. This political office they yearn for is going to cost them everything and will be nothing like they can imagine.
The book of Mark doesn’t have the beatitudes listed, but we can take a moment to pick them up and look them over again. What if we were to put these into the light here with this reading? When we read them it occurs to many that this is a list of the ideal long suffering servant.
The Beatitudes are more than a list of honey-do’s from Jesus. They are an application to our hearts, to do more than feed the body of the poor, to protect more than the body of an orphan or widow. No, we are called to serve not just the product here of faith and Christian life, but we are called to serve their hearts.
How do we take this lesson then and apply it Uncle Fats style? Does it have relevance to us not only as individuals but as a whole? Of course.
The relevance is that Uncle Fats brought the product to the people where they were. He did not meet them half way, he went the whole way. He met them on their terms and he was consistent. You might argue he had to do that for his work. But he only had to deliver ice consistently. If ice men were all buried the way he was more people might have been clamoring to be one. He was the epitome of a servant, because he served more than the product, he served the spirit of each customer too.
Uncle fats went further and gave of himself in true servant fashion even when he did not have to.
Just because we cannot expect secular society to be held to Christian standards does not mean we cannot or need not hold ourselves to those standards. Just as Uncle Fats took his caring of people to work with him, we can do the same in our lives. What would the church look like if we really saw every person in our paths and “cared” for them? What if the words of “how are you” were really asking and wanted the true answer, not the polite one?
In law, when speaking of federal and state law there is terminology that applies here. You can always add to Federal law with state law, but you can NEVER take away from Federal law by state law. Jesus has given us instructions- and he is encouraging us to do more than the basics, to add to the law by action of our hearts and minds, just as he did. He did not want blind or thoughtless action, he wanted and still wants, our hearts.
This is relevant now because we as a body must learn a new way to meet the people where they are. Last Sunday we had evening service out front because people brought animals. We did not expect them to be in the sanctuary- it was not reasonable and I think the custodian would have had our heads. Instead, the service was brought to us outside- to where we needed to be. If we had called people to do this service inside, the animals, for whom the service was as well, would not be able to join us comfortably. Isn’t that why some people don’t come to church now?
Now I am not calling us to stop service in the building- please let me be clear on that one. But I am calling us to consider how to take the BODY of Christ, which is the true church, with us in our everyday and fully be the servant we are called to be. Let’s recall our baptism and the cross in mundane moments and share those. It is not easy- it will not be easy. That is exactly what Jesus told them- that cup to drink, it will carry bitterness and sorrow.
Uncle Fats could have just been a nice guy but I don’t think people would have lined up like that were he not serving more than their ice each time he trudged into their kitchen.
Delivering the word of Christ is more than a physical act, We as the bride of Christ are in the business of serving the spirit in a way where we bare who we are in order to let Christ shine through.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.