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Message for Sunday 17 October 2021: “Service over Status”

Have you ever been asked to do something extreme? Such a question came from two status-seeking apostles (brothers James and John). This pair had asked Jesus if they could occupy the choice spots on either side of Jesus’ heavenly throne (Mark 10:35-45).

Jesus responded by declaring to the bold brothers that they didn’t know what they were asking. Jesus drove home the point by asking them if they could experience the baptism (e.g., the calling/experiences/death) that Jesus must endure. With a bold “Yes!” from James and John, Jesus affirmed that they would indeed experience his kind of rigorous “baptism” but that it wasn’t within Jesus’ reach to rearrange heavenly seating. Jesus then began to teach about authority and how James and John and other followers must serve others rather than seek privileged positions for themselves.

The other apostles were upset with James and John for their presumed superiority. The issue of who has the highest status is a recurrent theme in human history and apparently Jesus’ closest followers had the same struggle. Jesus deflated the brothers’ egos by declaring that those who want first-class status and privileges don’t understand how the kingdom of heaven works.

In God’s way of doing things the usual human authority structure is turned upside-down. In the ministry of love, those who achieve status are the ones who do the serving, the sacrificing, even the dying for others (just as Jesus did).

The great lesson is that love entails sacrifice. Jesus tried to make this clear to his ancient followers and the message also applies to followers of God today. Let’s consider how love calls us to give of ourselves. Love in this sense does not require special privileges. No, the way of spiritual life is such that we demonstrate our faith by what we do for others rather than what they can do for us.

Christian service is therefore an act of love wherein we give without expecting special privileges. Of course, we obtain God’s favor through our faithful attitudes and actions. Unlike the worldly rewards, God provides us the mercy and grace that surpass the gold and glamor of earthly acclaim.

Don’t waste time figuring who is or is not on either side of a heavenly throne. The human system involves enough fighting over status but this need not be the case for followers of God. It is more productive to focus on service, on loving God and neighbor. Jesus’ words echo through the ages:  “. . . [W]hoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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