Sermons

Summary: For deacon ordination at Montgomery Hills Baptist Church: deacons are to be humble, secure, and serving, and thus to coach the whole church in Kingdom ways.

Power is what the world knows. You cannot live in the metro DC area without seeing that power is everything for this world. The power of a position in the government, where you can order people around like pawns on a chessboard. The power of access to huge sums of money, so that shopping sprees on embezzled dollars can run on for years. The power of influence, where a few carefully chosen phrases, leaked to the media, can put people on the streets to demonstrate. Power!

Wasn’t it Henry Kissinger, himself no stranger to the corridors of power, who thought of it as something like an erotic rush, it was so fulfilling? Power is what we know here in this town. Power is what we produce and what we consume, every day.

Don’t even get me started on the presidential races. Why does anyone in his or her right mind want to be President? The responsibility is immense, the likelihood of criticism is 100%, and the money, while far better than I earn, should not matter to those multimillionaires who are in the running. Why do they run? The short answer is, “They want power.” Power to do good, perhaps, but power nonetheless. Our lives are totally enmeshed with the realms of power. As some wit has said, “Everybody in Washington is here to work for, on, or against, the government.”

But there is a place in which life is not about power. There is a realm in which we do not applaud power or position, but look for something quite different. That place is the Kingdom of God, in which all the rules have been changed.

Jesus told a parable about going to a wedding feast, and about how people do themselves in because they want to be about power. But the Kingdom, Jesus insisted, is not about power.

In Jesus’ day, you see, social life worked on a strict protocol basis. At a formal occasion everyone would be seated on the basis of rank. The higher your rank, the better your seat. I hear that has not changed much. When I was a pastor, and we would have a church dinner, people always tried to put me at what they called the “head table.” You are the pastor, and naturally you want to be up there at the top of the room.

But now, Jesus says, imagine that you arrive at this wedding feast. You do not know exactly where you are to sit, but you go and honey up to the bride and sit in one of the preferred seats. Well, for a moment or two, at least, everyone else out there thinks you must be somebody, because you are sitting up there, kissing the bride and trying to get the first piece of cake. But, says Jesus, and I can see His eyes glistening with laughter, here comes the bride’s father, and he says, look, Mr. What-did-you-say-your-name-is? These seats belong to my sister and her husband, and you will need to go sit down there. No, down there! I mean, way down there, next to the kitchen door, where the waiters will drop soup on you and the noise of dishwashing will drown out your conversation! Incidentally, my wife and I once attended a family wedding where we were seated in just that unpleasant spot! We found out how we ranked!

And then, says Jesus, when they tell you to move, you will be embarrassed. You will be mortified. Better to go to the low-ranked seats first and then see if the host will come over and bring you up a notch or two. For, says, the Lord, “all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

That’s the way it is in the Kingdom, where the rules have been rewritten. It’s not about power.

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For one thing, if it’s not about power, it is about humility. Life in the Kingdom is not about borrowed power and reflected glory, it’s about inner power. It’s about the authentic power that comes from humility. It’s not about the kind of power that is measured by the world’s status symbols. Life in the Kingdom is about the inherent, inner, genuine power that comes to people who do not call attention to themselves, but who just do what needs to be done.

I continue to be astounded at the way the world uses the appearance of things as a measuring stick. What a person wears, what they drive, how they style themselves, all of these things seem to matter so much to the world. One day Mike Huckabee is a pudgy Baptist preacher in Arkansas, who got invited to be lieutenant governor, a nothing job. But the governor had to resign in disgrace, and so the preacher become accidental governor lost weight, got some image advice and an electric guitar, and suddenly he became presidential timber! Amazing! You understand I am not making any kind of partisan statement; I am just commenting about how we place so much stock in appearances. We are impressed with those who posture, pose, and look strong and sexy.

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