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Monday, September 30, 2013

Today’s Reading | Matthew 20:20–28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (NRSV)


I lump this story into a self-devised category that I call “Disciples Behaving Badly.” Having grown up with the notion of “the first shall be last” as a central aspect of Christianity, I forget how radical an idea it might have been to the people surrounding Jesus, especially when thinking about what the kingdom of heaven might look like and having only worldly kingdoms for comparison.

The thing is, it still is a radical idea, and not only when discussing leadership or political entities. It’s all too easy to place my supposed needs ahead of those of others, especially if I haven’t stopped to think about what their needs might be or why.

That’s part of why I like the language of the Lord’s Prayer, in the form that I first became familiar with: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I bump up against other people all the time, and I certainly notice when I feel others are trespassing against the lines that I have drawn for myself, whether in time, resources, or space. I can tell you, my first impulse is not to think about how I might instead serve them!

So today my heart goes to those first disciples, who left all they knew to follow Jesus and who struggled to understand what that might mean.


Gracious Lord, guide my understanding as I seek to follow Jesus, and create in me the desire to act on that understanding. Amen.

Written by Anne Ellis, Program Manager for Congregational Life

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