Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 21, 2012:

Isaiah 53:4-12

Psalm 91:9-16

You have made the LORD your refuge, and the Most High your habitation. (Ps. 91:9)

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

Imagine being one of the 12 disciples; imagine the possible rivalries. Every so often, as with this Sunday’s Gospel, we see the very human side of the disciples.

Most of us, from the time we are little children, we want to be loved best in all the world. Unfortunately, many events happen to convince us that love is rare, and that if one person is loved, it means we must be loved less. Humans tend to see love as finite and to feel like there’s not enough to go around.

If Jesus was a different kind of leader, he might have decided to pit the disciples against each other, so that he could feed his own ego watching them compete for his favor. Those of you from dysfunctional families or Machiavellian workplaces have probably seen this technique in use.

Happily, we don’t worship that kind of God. We might expect Jesus to be a leader of comfort and compassion. We might expect Jesus to figure out a way to respond so that everyone gets to feel good about themselves and be assured that Jesus loves them all exactly the same.

We don’t worship that kind of God either.

Jesus reminds them that they don’t know what they’re asking. Again and again, Jesus tells his disciples, and centuries of believers to come, that the last will be first. Again and again, Jesus stresses that we're here to serve. Following Jesus isn't about self-empowerment. We don't follow Jesus because we hope to become rich. Other religions, like Capitalism, might make that promise, but not Christianity. Christianity is NOT just a big self-improvement program.

Sure, we might become better people, but not by the route that the larger world offers us. Christ tells us that we fulfill our destiny by serving others. It goes against most everything else we've ever learned. We're not supposed to look out for number one? We're not supposed to be most concerned about ourselves and our families? No, we're not.

You might feel as much despair over the need to have a servant’s heart as you did by last Sunday’s Gospel about giving away all our wealth. But here again, we can change our trajectory by taking small steps.

Think about how the world would change if each believer did one servant act each day. Maybe it could be something as easy as a smile for your beleaguered colleagues. Maybe you could resolve to believe the best of the people in charge. Maybe you could go through your day as the monks do, offering prayers for the world periodically throughout the day.

And then you can move on to slightly bigger projects. Tip 5% more than you ordinarily do. One Sunday a week, increase your offering. Clean up messes even if they aren’t yours.

As you move through the following weeks, ask God to soften your heart to become a heart dedicated to service. Maybe you’ll feel called to do a community clean up. Maybe you’ll work on community issues to bring more parks and green space to your community. Maybe you’ll work with Habitat for Humanity, or any number of deserving charities. Maybe at some point, we’ll move out into an even wider world by helping citizens in other countries.

Who knows where this path may lead? But we know that Christ calls us to follow it. By imitating Christ, we can change ourselves, and in the process, we can change the world.

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