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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, September 25, 2017

Today’s Scripture 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)

Jesus had not too long ago explained the resurrection to the disciples. Now the disciples are focused on their place in heaven. Just as they assumed Jesus would be the political messiah who would lead a revolution and overthrow the emperor, now the disciples assume that in heaven they will have the privilege of sitting next to Jesus on the throne. The disciples were stuck in a worldly, flawed notion of what the kingdom of God looked like. Despite all Jesus had done and taught, they still thought that power meant privilege and lording it over others. Who can blame them? 

Recently I was with good friends that I hadn’t seen in years. We started to discuss our jobs and careers. Before we knew it, we were each describing the success of our careers in terms of bonuses and raises, more clients and promises of promotions, power and privilege. Like the disciples, we are bombarded with the message that power is found in privilege and status. To be honest, that’s a pretty tempting notion.

Jesus offers an alternative. He tells us that our way is not God’s way. As Christians, our power is found not in climbing hierarchical ladders or gaining a higher status. Instead, power is found in emptying ourselves, in humbling ourselves. To find a place among the kingdom of God, to earn our standing, we must become servants. According to Jesus, the Christian way is a race not to the top but to the bottom. He offers us a radical, countercultural notion. No easy task. Yet with the blessing of God and the support of one another it might be worth a try.

O God! Forgive me when I give in to lust for worldly power and privilege. It’s a daily struggle. Grant me courage to dive into the deep waters of my baptism, that I may emerge a more humble and willing servant. This I ask through Jesus Christ, the servant of all. Amen. 

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Worship and Adult Education Coordinator

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