a priest's musings on the journey

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sermonette: Proper 24B - 22 October 2006

35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant (Mark 10:35-45)

Humility is one of those virtues that one rarely finds among powerful people or people in leadership. So, we really shouldn't be too hard on the disciples and their argument about who would have the seats of power on Christ's kingdom. That's the way the world thinks- the strongest, most powerful rule, right?

Jesus, as usual, turns the world's values on their head. He doesn't decry power; instead, Jesus offers a leadership model that enables leaders to be good stewards of the power that they possess. Jesus says that a great leader is one who uses power in service to others. S/He does not lord his/her authority over others in an oppressive manner. Rather, authority is used for the welfare of others.

A good leader knows that every person is valuable and every person has gifts and wisdom to bring to the table. A good leader knows when to draw on those gifts and how to seek out the wisdom in others that s/he may not possess. S/he collaborates with others and trusts their abilities and discernment. Servant-leaders empower others to be disciples and guides their work to fulfill the mission of the Church.

Servant-leaders are compassionate and caring. They are concerned about the lives of those they lead. They work to keep all healty and whole and connected to the community. In a parish, this happens through the administration of the Sacraments, thorugh pastoral care, and by and through prayer. One of the most valuable gifts of a servant-leader is the gift of authentic presence; a listening, loving presence that becomes a conduit for the life-giving presence of Christ. A presence that takes time to listen to the concerns and problems of others. A presence that is willing to stop what one is doing and offer comfort to one who is distressed. A presence that shares the burden and helps another carry to the Cross of Christ for redemption. This listening presence is not limited to one on one communication. The servant-leader is intentionally listening to every member of the community, paying attention to what is being said- and what is not being said. S/he listens and enables the community to discern together what the Holy Spirit is saying and dreaming int the community. The servant leader includes every voice and every person: s/he insures that there is a seat for every baptized person at the table, and is ready to make room for the inquirer who is searching for a place of belonging in God's House.

Jesus knew that this type of leadership makes one vulnerable. It opens one up to the possibility of ridicule and persecution. It opens one up to the potential for suffering. For Jesus, servant-leadership meant the Cross of Calvary. It meant the complete self-giving of himself to and for us. That is also what is means for us: loving, self-giving sacrifices for the sake of others.

What might that look like in your life? One might be tempted to think this gospel reading and this leadership model is only for bishops and priests. I would challenge you to examine your own life. We all posess power over others in our world; perhaps in our professional lives; maybe in our families; maybe even in our circle of friends. How are you using or abusing the power and influence you have over others? How might Jesus' model for servant-leading change the way you interact with others in your life?

Take some time to reflect on your life and your situation. Make a covenant with God and yourself, to use power in service to all of your relationships; Ask God to transform you daily and enable you to serve in love for the transformation of the world, and for the reconciliation of all things and all people to God in Jesus Christ.

:: posted by Padre Rob+, 8:37 AM


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