Summary: This is a sermon preached on Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday. It deals with the desire to be first and the problems it can cause
Beware Of The Drum Major Instinct
Our daughter Anita had been part of the Mighty Shaw High Band for four years. But something leaped inside of me, when she came home that fifth year and announced that she was going to be the head drum major her senior year. I still recall that evening during the battle of the bands when she was decked out in her white tuxedo. To add drama to her position as drum major that night, they arranged for her and her two assistants to ride into their positions on motorcycles. There she was coming down the center of the field holding on for dear life.
Then she got off and took control of the band with her whistle. Each move of her arms and the waving of her baton brought a specific reaction out of the crown. Upon her signal the band marched, they danced, they swayed , they played and they even yelled out something. There in the stands, Pastor Toby and I were as proud of her as any parent can be. Our daughter was the drum major. There is something about a drum major that arises something inside of us that makes us want to be there where or she is leading the march.
In our New Testament text today, we see a passage of Scriptures that Dr. King made famous in a message he delivered at Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga on February 4th, 1968 that was entitled the “Drum Major Instinct.” I want to update that message this morning.
The background setting from which the message came was based on a conversation between Jesus and two of his disciples named James and John. James and John wanted to stand out among the 12 disciples. As brothers, they got together to plan for their future. They expected Jesus to one day establish a kingdom on this earth, and they were not going to be content just being in the royal court. They wanted the two top positions.
They went to Jesus and made a request. They said, “Jesus, we have a small favor to ask of you. When you come into your kingdom, let one of us sit at your right hand the other one at your left. They wanted to be out front.” One wanted to be the Secretary of State and the other Special Advisor To The King.
They had not asked if they were the most qualified to serve or not or whether they deserved the positions more than the other ten disciples. They just wanted the positions and whatever perks may have come with them. Jesus told them, “James, John, you guys do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.” James and John were very sure of themselves and without hesitation they said, “we can”.
Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
Now imagine for a moment if you had of been one of the twelve disciples and you heard James and John make this request of being top dogs in the coming kingdom. How would you have felt?
Dr. King had this to say about James and John in his message the Drum Major Instinct “ Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John, and we would say they were selfish. Why would they make such a selfish request? But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first.
Of course, the other disciples got mad with James and John, and you could understand why, but we must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It’s a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.
And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade.
And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession. Children ask life to grant them first place. They are a little bundle of ego. And they have innately the drum major impulse or the drum major instinct.