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The Greatest Servant
September 9, 2018, 12:00 AM

Grace and Peace to you from God, our creator, our redeemer and our guide. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

The reality is that my best thinking can get me in trouble. It is not like I am going out as an axe murderer because of my thinking but what I conceive of is not necessarily the best plan. Our texts today remind us of this truth. Our texts remind us that it is far better to seek inspiration from and guidance from God.

Take our gospel text today. Just before the part we read and the reason the disciples were upset is that the two sons of Zebedee who were disciples came before Jesus with their mother. Mom then asked Jesus to give her sons the promise that they would be seated at his right and left hand. Now this would have been a great honor since the chief counselors of the new King would likely be seated in those spots. And as a parent I know that we, and especially the mothers, have no reservation asking on behalf of our child for the things we think they deserve. And lets face it, our children, well at least my children, deserve the world handed to them on a silver platter and deserve to have all the places of honor.

Having told Mom and the two sons that they are asking for something he can not give and questioning whether they really want all that goes with the request, we now read in today's lesson that those around them are angry with them for asking. I can definitely hear that conversation, “How dare you ask for that. You should feel honored simply to have been selected to be a disciple.” and at some level those saying this are most upset really that they did not think to ask first. They are also thinking, simultaneously, if they are anything like me, “Phew, I am glad I did not ask first since, I would not want to have the embarrassment of having been told publicly, No.” They may also be wondering, “Would Jesus have given me a different answer?” because each of us know that we are special.

Jesus being his usual self then takes this as a teaching moment. We read, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mat 20:25-28

So, these two disciples have asked for special positions of power in the new kingdom and Jesus comes back with a teaching on how his kingdom is to be different. The people who utilize worldly ways seek power so that they can tell others how it is to be done, is what I read. The worldly way is to seek power so that you can control others. The worldly way is to become a ruler so that you have power. And Jesus goes on to say his way is different. In this new kingdom those who wish to be great must serve the others. Actually the wording is a little stronger than that in that it says if we wish to be great we must become the servants of the other and if we wish to be at the absolute top of the heap we must not just be servants but we must be slaves.

In the United States where we value individual freedom, especially for the freedom not to have another lord it over us or tell us how we must live this is important information. We also all to often get the message that we are special and deserve to have everything just the way we want it. We deserve the society is telling us all the special places of power. And I am reminded of the adage, to many chiefs and not enough Indians or too many cooks spoil the soup. There need to be worker bees and there need to be sous chefs or the food is not ask good and the work never actually gets done. And Jesus goes one step further to say not only should you take your place as a worker among workers but if you truly aspire to greatness, learn to serve your sisters and brothers, learn to be a servant or a slave to the betterment of others.

I saw among my friends Facebook posts this week one that suggested we in the church were making a great mistake. We as the church have been promoting leadership schools and leadership skills, most of which are based on the worldly ways. We know that Jesus has a different way, the way of the servant and slave therefore maybe we need to be running schools on how to become a servant. Maybe we need to be running schools on how to serve your neighbor. Maybe we need to be running school on how to asses the needs of the other and then how to fulfill those needs.

Our first lesson today speaks of the truth of God's desire for our lives in a little different way. God scatters the people and confuses their language we read. God saw that if this were not done, nothing would be impossible for these people. The problem if you were is that the people were capable of become God like and that is the one thing we are not to strive for. We saw that last week when Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden. We see that in confusing the language, scattering people and banishing from the Garden of Eden, God seeks to protect us from our own tendancy to believe we can do anything if we set our mind to it. God seeks to protect us from our belief that we should be in control. God  will in our lives, if we will create the space for it to happen, do as God did here and try to protect us from that which we are not supposed to be doing.

We are not supposed to be trying to become all powerful. We are not supposed to be accumulating power for ourselves. We are not supposed to be about telling others how to live their lives. And yet the world certainly tells us those things are correct. The world around us does a great job of encouraging us to accumulate stuff and titles and opportunities to tell others how to live. The world raises up leaders on a regular basis who don't ask the people around them or the general populous but instead the world lifts up leaders who are strong and have all the answers. Our way as Christians is different. Our way as Christians or little Christs is to ask others what they need. Our way as Christians is to seek to serve others and to recognize others for the service they are performing.

We know how we are to  live and as I look around this congregation we do a pretty fair job of it most of the time. That is good news and I want to encourage you to continue to seek our God's will not your will. I want to encourage you to continue serving the other.

There are two final things I want to suggest to you. If we truly believe in servant leadership then we need people to serve and so one of the gifts we can give and one of the ways we can serve the other is allowing them to serve us. This can be one of the ways we serve as we become less able. Creating a space that allows others to serve us is one of the hardest bits of servitude for many of us hear. We are used to service being an active role focused on the other and what I am suggesting is that sometimes we need to actively serve the other by actively allowing them to serve us. The second thing I am going to suggest is that we are in an election year and we have the opportunity to mold and shape the world around us. Is it possible to hold up this as the litmus test for those we are voting into office. Would we be well served to look at which people are not seeking power but which people are looking to serve the needs of the world. I know that at some level all of them are seeking power but maybe, just maybe one or two of the available options are more inclined to encourage service or see themselves not as power brokers but models of public service. So, when you consider you options at the polls maybe that is the best test.

SO, the lesson for today is an long standing one for Christians. How do we serve our neighbor. And in addition to how do we serve we get not seeking the highest places or the places of power. We also read that we are not to seek to become all powerful like God, we are not to try to become capable of just about anything but instead remain humble servants of God and of our fellow.