In seminary, one of my first Bible classes was an overview of the New Testament. The professor, in our review of Matthew, often said that a verse we have in today's reading summed up the entire Gospel of Matthew. That verse is 20:28 and it says (in part): The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
There is something in our DNA as human beings that makes us want to be noticed, to be rewarded, to be seen with and among the movers and shakers of this world. There is a certain thrill that comes with seeing someone famous and then getting your picture taken with them. I have two on my office wall: one of me with Desmond Tutu and another of me and Gene Robinson. I remember how thrilling it was to meet them, chat with them and then have those moments memorialized in a photograph. Think about all those photo-ops with political candidates that have recently happened in the presidential campaign...There is nothing inherently wrong in these kind of actions and opportunities, but a dangerous misconception about what is really important in the world can be engendered from this mindset if we let it become the focus of our world.
The hard news of today's Gospel is that this loving Jesus and this loving God we worship and praise tells his disciples for the second time today that he is heading to torture and death and resurrection. That he is not the kind of king they are used to, or in fact the kind of leader we are used to having our picture taken with. The hard news is that as nice as those moments of celebrity are, they are not what we are called to in this life. Those real moments of celebrity are the ones that only you and someone you are helping (and God) know about. Those small moments of joy brought to someone in need by a servant leader is what it is all about. That is hard news to hear, but there is also relief in the knowledge that it is not all about us as individuals, but that it is all about all of us collectively doing this quiet work creating the kingdom for all of us to revel and share in.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.