Everybody can be great.
Because anybody can serve.
Early in my ministry, a mentor told me that the preacher should have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. That’s true not only for people who climb pulpit stairs. We are each and all called to figure out the intersection of our faith and the world in which we live.
Sometimes that’s harder to do than others. In this season of distinctively dispiriting (even frightening) political discourse, the news has us thinking about the subject of greatness, a debate waged by candidates in both parties.
Does the Bible have anything to say on the topic. How do we as people of faith think about greatness?
This week, the daily lectionary invites us to read Mark 10, which takes us back a couple millennia to join the disciples on the way to Jerusalem, prior to the first Holy Week. I’m guessing they didn’t realize what was coming. It seems like they imagined they were marching in with a winning political candidate. Since they had been with Jesus from the beginning, they would be rewarded with places of honor, influence, prominence. They would be winners.
As they travel, the disciples discuss which one of them was the greatest, which one of them was the most valuable to Jesus. Maybe they thought Jesus was lucky to have them on the team. Who would get the corner office? Who would be chief of staff? I can imagine them sporting the bumper sticker I received a number of years ago. It read: Jesus loves you but I’m his favorite.
James and John sent their (stage) mother in to talk with Jesus and guarantee a prime place. The other disciples get wind of the power play. They’re not happy about it. Jesus, in turn, gets wind of it. He gave them all a lesson in the character of greatness. He said: Whoever would be great among you must be a servant.
One of the implications of this instruction to disciples was the idea that everyone can be great because everyone can serve. I believe that teaching inspired Martin Luther King when he spoke to a group of students. (A portion of that talk is found below.)
Travel this week alongside those disciples, as you get ready for Holy Week. As the newspaper offers one take on what greatness is all about, read Mark 10 and then consider what the Bible reveals about greatness in the passion narrative. A king enters Jerusalem riding a donkey, a symbol of humility. The teacher gets up from the table and washes the feet of disciples, a menial task. The Lord of creation stretches arms of love on the hard wood of the cross to draw us into saving embrace. It’s all about service. Saving service.
A church I know posted this sign over the door, for people to see as the liturgy concluded. It read: The worship is over. The service begins. If we see ourselves as part of the Jesus movement, we’re called to learn from the one who said that he came not to be served but to serve, indeed to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). We are called to be like him. We are called to orient our lives towards service.
So start this morning. Pause for a prayer, inviting God to show opportunity to be of service. The opportunities abound. In the mean-spirited season in which we apparently live, the grace of service is in high demand. When we put that grace to work, it will be great.
Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.Martin Luther King, Jr.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.Mahatma Gandhi
If you’d like to join in this donor-based ministry, donate here.