Summary: In the Kingdom of God, the rules about power are different. We value humility, spiritual security, and service. Sermon for Deacon Ordination and for Super Bowl Sunday!
May I take you on a small fantasy this morning? May I just tease your imagination a little?
It is a 6:30 this evening. You are seated in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The ritual coin tosses have been performed, the national anthem has been sung, and we are ready to start Super Bowl 32. Out onto the field run the Denver Broncos, stampin’ and snortin’ and lookin’ fine. There is one person you are looking for, more than any other, and that’s John Elway, the quarterback, who has seen so many championships slip right through his talented hands. You notice that he has not led the team onto the field, nor does he seem to be anywhere in the pack. After a little while, however, you notice a lone figure, quietly strolling out of the shadows. Why would John Elway, star quarterback, be so quiet and reserved?
Oh well, maybe it’s part of the game plan. But then you notice something else. The cheers in the stands are not coming from the Denver side. They are coming from the Green Bay benches! The cheeseheads are bobbing up and down and are cheering for the opposition! Now that really is strange, and you sort of look around to make sure you are in the right place. Can it be that the Packers fans are warming up to their opponents?! Wow!
When Green Bay’s team in turn takes to the grounds and the Denver folks whistle and cheer for them, you are truly amazed! Things have gotten turned around. And when the game begins, and Denver kicks off, a nice slow kick that floats gently down into the arms of a Green Bay receiver; and that receiver begins to run toward the goal line, only to have the Denver players politely get out of his way, put their jerseys down in the muddy patch for him to walk on, and offer him a sip of Gatorade when he crosses the line ... well, now you know you are somewhere in the twilight zone! This is not football. In football, people push and shove for the position. In football, sweaty, beefy men strive for a few inches of turf, and try to block others from taking it, straining every nerve to get over the goal line and be Number One.
And so where do they come off with cheering the other team, getting out of the opposition’s way, and yielding their place on the field to others? Where does that come from? Somebody has rewritten the rules! Somebody has changed things so that the object is no longer to hold top place, but to give it away! The game is not about power anymore!
Well, don’t rush out to call your bookies, because I can guarantee that what I have described is not what you will see tonight. You will see the usual pushing and shoving, because that is the way the world works, that is what the world expects. That’s what sells game tickets and finances player’s salaries and puts million dollar commercials on the air for a few scant seconds. Power is what the world knows.
But there is a place in which life is not about power. There is a realm in which we do not applaud power or place, but give thanks 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. And so 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!
And then won’t you be embarrassed, says Jesus? Won’t you be mortified? Better to go to the low ranked seats first and then see if the host won’t come over and bring you up a notch or two. For, says, the Lord, everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.