Dear friends in Christ,
This Sunday brings another challenging Gospel reading from Mark. This time, Jesus is talking with his disciples about status and role. Who is called to what role? Who is important? As usual, his disciples don’t get it right.
I find the ineptness of the disciples strangely comforting. It makes me feel a bit more at ease about my own frequent ineptness as a follower of Jesus, and it also gives some comfort when I see the church so often get it wrong.
But, also, the Gospel is clearly a summons to do better. Jesus has a clear message to impart, and it’s a message that’s tough for many of us. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Jesus’ disciples have been jockeying for position and prestige, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Instead, they should be quick to yield position and jettison prestige. After all, the way of Jesus is a servant ministry.
We live in a culture where the myth of the self-made person dominates. People are told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The cultural message often says, those who have less simply need to try harder. But that’s all messed up, and it’s certainly not what Jesus teaches and demands of his followers.
Jesus says we should be quick to give away our power and status. Let someone else have the good seats, the best job, the favorable deal. Point the spotlight at another. Those who have more power and more status need to work harder to give it away.
Are you a servant? Can you give away power and privilege? How about your church? Are there ways your congregation can be a servant community, offering resources to others without expectation of reward?
My experience is that it’s easy for us individual Christians to rationalize the power and status we keep. And it’s effortless for churches to do the same. But, like Jesus’ disciples, we sometimes need to listen to the voice of God or the call of a prophet to pay attention.
I do know this. When I manage to get it right, giving things away feels a lot better than keeping them. The life abundant that Jesus offers all of us paradoxically arrives when we are quick to serve and slow to acquire.