"Who's Your Pappy?" Sermon for the 22nd Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

"Who's Your Pappy?" Sermon for the 22nd Sunday After Pentecost, Year B

Oct 21, 2018

Passage:Mark 10:35-45

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Pentecost

Category: Love, Discipleship, Servanthood

Keywords: heaven, love, servant


James and John ask to be seated in "glory." Jesus has other plans! What lessons can we learn about servanthood--especially as we think about those we love who are already "in heaven?"


In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I'm sure if you're like me, this little discussion between James, John, and Jesus got me thinking about heaven.[1]

Specifically, it got me thinking about the people I love who are in heaven.

I do this once in a while.

I think about them and my love for them continues. I remember conversations with them. I picture their faces.

Then I try to imagine where they are now.

And I know that I can't fully know the exact details of what life in heaven is like.

As a kid, I remember imagining heaven as getting to run around with puppies in endless fields of bluebonnets.

I grew up here in Texas. Fields of bluebonnets are pretty heavenly in spring. And... puppies... come on!

One of the people I got to really thinking about this week was Jill's grandfather, Harry. The family called him "Pappy."

I've known him since I was nineteen, and, as Jill said, "He's your Pappy too."

Pappy grew up in the Great Depression. He skipped out of the end of high school to go work for the Civilian Conservation Corps--the CCC. Basically he went to build ranch roads in New Mexico and had all the money sent back to support his family.

After two years Pappy came back home and finished high school. He married Dashiell. But by then World War II was starting up. At first he went to help build ships for the war effort down in Houston. Then he volunteered for the Army Air Force. He was stationed on a ship in the Pacific where, as a mechanic, he worked on airplanes and built runways on Pacific Islands throughout the war.

After the war, Pappy came back to be a mechanic and raise his family.

By the time I came into the picture forty years later, courting his granddaughter, he made quite an impression on me.

Pappy was a faithful member of his Methodist Church.

Pappy was the kind of guy who would take you to the best fishing spot in the deepest part of the woods, because only he knew where that creek was.

Pappy was the kind of guy who took his wife Dashiell dancing most  Saturday nights well into their Seventies.

Pappy was the kind of guy who drove twenty miles each way every day to visit his sister in the nursing home, even when she got to the point she couldn't recognize him.

Pappy was the kind of guy who, in the age before cell phones, would drive thirty miles out of his way to come find you because you MUST have locked your keys in your car when you were out camping and you didn't get back when everyone expected you (true story!)

Pappy was the kind of guy who would take his tools and go to people's homes in their small Oklahoma town to help fix their cars or trucks when they couldn't really afford to go into the dealership where he worked for forty years as a mechanic.

Pappy was the kind of guy who could fry the best catfish. He caught the fish Put cornmeal and salt in a brown grocery sack. He put delicate filet pieces in the cornmeal. He shook them until covered. He put them it in a cast-iron skillet with hot oil, while standing at the Coleman stove. Nothing has ever tasted better!

Pappy was the kind of guy who loved, loved, loved his daughter, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He doted on them with great attention. He loved to take them hunting and fishing. He taught them all how to love and ride horses. He never missed an opportunity to let them know they were loved.

Pappy was the kind of guy who could spin a yarn and tell a story like no one else. Pappy's stories were legendary. I recall sitting around campfires as he would start to talk. His tales were funny and captivating and meaningful. Although he was in them, rarely was he ever the focus of these stories. We were spellbound. We often laughed until our sides hurt listening to Pappy's yarns.

Pappy was a servant. As I hope you get the sense of, he wasn't materially wealthy, but was a great man. Everyone looked up to him and admired him.

When he died twenty years ago, there was tremendous grief...not only in our family, but in the community.

And when he died, it was easy to picture Pappy, who lived such a life of "goodness," being with God in heaven. I know that's exactly how we described it to our daughter at the time. She loved her Pappy so much! She was four when he died.

We told her: "Pappy is sitting in heaven with God and Jesus, telling them stories and making them laugh!"

I still think it might be something like that...

I don't know.

But I don't think that heaven is a place where there are assigned seats based on how we live our life here on earth. I don't think that God is sitting around with a great database in the sky keeping track of all our good deeds and bad deeds to see who gets to sit closer or farther away at the great banquet table of eternity.

All of us have a Pappy who deserves to be hanging out with Jesus in heaven!

When we listen to what James and John were asking Jesus in Mark, they probably weren't even thinking about the afterlife. When they asked to sit at Jesus' right hand and left hand "in glory," they were probably saying: "hey, Jesus, can we get rewarded here, soon, for being your first followers?"

Nevertheless, if we look at how Jesus responds to James and John, I think my little journey down the path of thinking about Pappy and heaven might still apply.

Jesus concludes his entire discourse with all of the disciples here saying: "whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all."

Pappy was who Jesus called him to be. Pappy was never perfect. But Pappy was perfectly Pappy.

Pappy had an ordinary life. He lived that life in order to serve others and be there for others.

And Pappy's life was not an easy life.

Pappy worried about things. But his joy for life and his love of family and friends outweighed his worry.

During the course of his life, Pappy was the type of follower that Jesus is describing here.

I often find myself to be like James and John. I don't quite yet understand what is expected of me in my Christian life. Maybe you're like that too.

And probably none of us is going to get it perfect.

But we do have Jesus' example to help us on our journeys.

And we also have the examples of people like Pappy--people who have that heart of a servant. People who get living a life for others.

So my question for you today is: "Who's your Pappy?"

Who has taught you the life of service?

What does it mean for you to be baptized into Jesus'  baptism, and to drink from his cup?

May we all continue to grow into the Loving, Life-Giving, and Liberating Servant-hood of our life in Christ--both in this life and in the life to come. Amen.  

[1] Thanks to the Rev. Dr. Janet H. Hunt for the idea for the direction of this sermon. See "James, John, Jesus and my Great Aunt Esther" at