Summary: Servant Leadership - who is the greatest...
“The” Servant of All
† In the Name of Jesus, our Servant and Lord †
Grace, mercy and peace, given to you, a gift of God the Father, given through Jesus, who has served you, with His entire life…
The first part last, and the last part first….
Because it serves…
Paul was perhaps the best waiter I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and the most successful. He made nearly twice as much as the restaurant manager, and lived very well, off the money he made, working for 4 hours a day, from 6-10 a.m., Monday through Friday, at a Denny’s. He truly understood what service meant, and preferred to call himself a “server” than a “waiter”. Paul constantly turned down opportunities to go into management, or to work at more prestigious restaurants than the “denny’s” that we both worked. Well over 40, he found a niche in serving people.
It was interesting to watch him work, as our customers actually fought over getting into Paul’s section. To some of the businessmen, meeting prior to heading into the office, he was the perfect picture of discretion, quickly moving in and out of their hearing, silent and with little eye contact. They didn’t even know he was there, except that every need was met. To other’s he was the ultimate court jester, actually giving them ideas that he had picked up over the years. Not competitive ideas, but just general wisdom garnished over 25 years of waiting on business men, and corporation presidents. To one special table, of ladies well over 70, he was the perfect son, catering to every need.
He served, he was a servant, and did it well. Very well, and despite probably being able to succeed at much more lucrative positions, he found his joy, in serving those customers, he learned to know, and for whom he cared.
In today’s sermon, as we look at the three “dialogues” or “discussions” in the gospel reading, we shall see different attitudes towards being servants, attitudes that may mirror our own, or that may challenge our faith, for as we shall see, being a servant is matter of faith.
We will take them out of order, dealing with the second and third dialogues, and then the first. Because the first serves to finalize the discourse.
The Road Dialogue
What makes us seek out who is the best?
Competition? Insecurity? Jealousy?
In the second conversation, the gospel tells us that the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest. By the way, the word for arguing, which we will see in other places, is dialogue. Translated they talked thoroughly through the subject, leaving no point unconsidered.
Of the twelve disciples, there must have been, a little jealousy. For three of the disciples, Peter, James and John, got to do things apart from the nine. When the little girl was raised from the dead, they were there. When Jesus went took apostles to withness the transfiguration, it was those three. When in the garden of Gethsemane, it would be those three that he would go on with. Personally, I think they just needed more work than the others, they needed extra instruction, cause they were slow. But I can see the 9 thinking that Jesus had his “pet” apostles.
Even among the three, there seems to be a bit of competition. James and John’s mom came along, and asked Jesus that he make her sons the ones who sit on either side of his throne. Now, this could have just been a mother who wanted her sons to succeed (if she only knew what that meant though), but perhaps the sons of thunder wanted her to ask? How could Jesus turn down their mom? Peter is mentioned more than any apostle, and he does incredible things, like walk on water. He testifies that Jesus is the Christ, and is called the rock, upon which the church shall be built. Yet John is called, the “disciple who Jesus loved”, and perhaps, given all of Peter’s screw ups, John is a welcome relief!
I can see all of these points being made, and even some rivalry occurring, as the twelve jostle for position, in the hierarchy of the eventual Kingdom of the Messiah.
What is it in life, that makes us so competitive? What requires us to know, or at least feel like we are “better” than others? That causes us to not just want to win, but to trample others into the ground on the way? Television reality shows show this so well, as do books. Anyone remember Golding’s Lord of the Flies from high school? If we aren’t the best, we want our team, our group to be the best, we want to associate with the winners, not the losers.