In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, James and John, the two sons of Zebedee whom Jesus, earlier in Mark, named the Sons of Thunder, speak three of the most dangerous words in all of Scripture. In fact, they are three of the most dangerous words in the life of faith in any age.
“We are able.”
Perhaps the only thing that could have made these words more dangerous would have been replacing the plural pronoun, “we,” with its singular version, “I.” Throughout the course of human history, it has been in those moments when a person or a group of people think that they can go about life on their own, that the spiral into sin begins. This is why Moses was so keen on having the people of Israel remember that it was God, and not him or them, that brought them out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land. It is imperative that we remember that it isn’t I or we that can accomplish anything, but instead, as our Baptismal Covenant says,
“I will, with God’s help.”
Of course, we all know how hard this is to remember. The people of Israel forgot with regularity, which is why God gave them the Judges. The disciples, even as they walked alongside Jesus, forgot. They argued over which one was the greatest. They failed to heal because they forgot to pray. They ran in fear when the going go tough. And, in this week’s lesson from Mark, they point blank told Jesus, “we are able.” Truth be told, I’m pretty good at letting God know that I don’t need his help in my life as well. When things are going well, it is so easy to think that you’ve done it on your own. Even when times are tough, it is tempting to think that God has let you down. The reality is, that everything we have, even the very breath within us, is a gift from God. Everything we do is done with God’s help.