30 Aug Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 19th, 2021
Rev. Stephen McPeek
Okay, here we go alright so they’re there, they are dialoguing with one another on the road, strong’s concordance defines it as to recommend thoroughly to deliberate by reflection or discussion to cast in mind, consider, dispute, news, reason, think. So they are trying to discuss with one another who’s going to be the greatest of them all and Jesus overhears it. So this word, the greatest comes the word is mega, kind of reminds me of a word in the United States right now that’s pretty prevalent with one other vowel mega.
So the word, the greatest means mega who is going to be the greatest and then Jesus jumps in and says he might have said, what do you guys arguing about, what are you discussing or he might have said: “Are you guys kidding me?” Is this not the blind leading the blind? Your conversation sounds pretty pathetic because it shows that you haven’t listened at all to what I have been telling you. All of this time and you haven’t observed, what I have been demonstrating in front of your eyes? Then Jesus goes on to make it clear to them that the way God, God’s world functions is diametrically opposed to the world they have grown up, in the world they have grown up in. Or no different than our world today, for the most part people’s lives in this world are driven by how much they can have or acquire and how much they can control the strongest winds strong is good.
James and our reading today does a good job of describing this driving human force if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts. And I suppose that was what was motivating the friends of Jesus some selfish ambition, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but as earthly and spiritual and he says, even devilish or demonic. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. These conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from, do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it, so you commit murder and you covet something and cannot obtain it, so you engage in disputes and conflicts, so it seems like that’s kind of the spirit that’s going on, among the friends of Jesus, there wrangling for position.
And then Jesus, as he often does, turns it upside down and he says to that, whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all. He doesn’t say whoever wants to be the greatest, he says, whoever wants to be the first and this word first comes from the Greek word protocols. Protocols, which is the first in time or place, the first and influence and honor and if you hear that word protocol, you know the word prototype so prototype is like the first or a preliminary version of something from which other things are then developed. It’s a true example to be replicated and must be last. So Jesus says that whoever wants to be the first prototype, the one that is being replicated and emulated, must be the last, in other words, that person needs to be willing to step back and wait and observe and not be trying to climb the ladder.
And he says that that person must become the servant of all and servant is Dr. Kronos one, there are two meanings: One who executes the commands of another, the master and, in our case, God and listen to this: This harkens back to what I preached two weeks ago. A Dr. Kronos is one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for the use of the poor.
So, if we look at this Gospel through this lens Jesus is asking, who will be a prototype shaped in my image that others can copy that others can emulate? That person needs to be willing to step back and become the one who serves the poor and who listens to God and does what God asks us to do. So here’s the pair of my paraphrase, whoever wants to be a prototype in God’s world, someone who others can emulate, has to be willing to wait and let others go first.
This person cannot seek the limelight and strive to climb the ladder, instead this person listens to and does everything God asks of that, and this person takes care of those in the end, shares resources with them. Jesus and almost abruptly introduces the concept of the child and says further paraphrasing this person who wants to be the first takes care of the most vulnerable among us. Those who are children and cannot fend for themselves, those who are the weakest and need to nurture and need others to nurture and care for them, this is heavy stuff.
Throughout time the saints, the people that we honor, we have gone before us, we’re motivated by this truth of God’s word this past Friday we commemorated the life of Hildegard von Bingen who lived not too far from here, and she was known as a servant leader in her book on the life of Hildegard called leadership, a call to service.
The author Christine Cameron provides a new paradigm for understanding the Ministry of this 12th century cloistered Benedictine St. Hildegard of Bingen. She was the fourth woman doctor of the Church in light of 21st. Christine Cameron looked at her in light of 21st century servant leadership. She reveals to us, the role of the servant leader, as defined by Larry spears and demonstrates how hildegard embodied that 10 characteristics of servant leadership it’s a whole book that is fascinating that can speak to us about what it means to be a Christian servant.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta who’s icon I add up here two weeks ago, she said of service, how do you know love and serve God, how do you prove that you love him? In the family, the father proves his love by all that he does, for his children, for his wife, we prove our love for Jesus by what we do and by who we are. She goes on to say love is a one way street, it always moves away from self in the direction of the other. Lovers, the ultimate gift of ourselves to others when we stop giving, says Mother Teresa, we stopped loving when we stopped loving we stopped growing and unless we grow, we will never attain personal fulfillment we will never open out to receive the life of God.
It is through love that we encounter God. As your priest, and I told you this, the first Sunday, I preached here, almost a year ago I am committed to being a servant to God, to you and to the Community. When I was 17 and had a life changing encounter with God, service became a core value of my life. God’s love in my life compels me to love and serve others. Those who know me the best and who live with me – there’s one sitting here in the pews and experience me on a daily basis – they know that I am a servant. I’m not perfect, there are still many things that God is working out in my life and refining me and shaping me, but my desire is to be a prototype of God that can be emulated. I want to be able to say to you, without being prideful about it, look at do it the way I’m doing it, this is the way we live in God. At the end of my life I would be happy if all, if all that people remember about me is that I love God and I love and served people, that I made an impact on the lives of others, especially on the lives of children and the most vulnerable in society. I want you to be able to see that, too, I want that to be our mantra as a church it doesn’t matter.
What our church looks like, of course, we want a beautiful church, it doesn’t matter what our music sounds like, of course, we want beautiful music and we love beautiful music. But at the end of the day, the question is going to be and the measure, will we have been a congregation that loves God and serves others? Very, very simple.
Here’s the good news, we are all blessed with the presence of God in our baptism. When we were baptized the seeds of the life of Christ were deposited in us. Every time we partake of communion we encounter the living loving God and that’s the seeds of servant what are deposited in all of our lives. And we need to just water them, let them be watered and let them grow from Bush sprouts to bushes to large fruitful trees that many can eat from and find shade under. In the end, as I said, the measure of our lives together will not be how nice our church building is or how beautiful we sing or how much fun we had together.
St ignatius of Loyola said: “God freely created us that we might know love and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever.”
God’s purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of love and service on earth, so that we may attain our goal of everlasting happiness with them in heaven. So, in the end, it is the response of love and service here on earth, that will be the measure of who we are.
So let us be the ones who hear the voice of the Lord, who says what are you talking about this is the way and we follow the way of the Lord, let us go forth to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.