Week 4. READ: Mark 9:30-37
The disciples of Jesus argued about who was the “greatest.” Mohammad Ali famously said: “I am the greatest.” John Lenin of the Beatles said on March 4, 1966: Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me. What is your desire for “greatness?” If it is not about being important or influential, perhaps many of us at least want to leave behind an impact in the lives of family, friends and our community.
The way of greatness as a follower of Jesus in and through the community of Christ is to live as a humble servant of others. The attitude of humility is scattered throughout the New Testament (both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 refer to Proverbs 3:34). The spiritual discipline of humility as well as the whole attitude of being a Christ follower is captured well in Philippians 2:1-4: If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourself. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” These verses describe the character of Christ Jesus.
It must be stated that for anyone who finds themselves in an abusive relationship, has been abused by others in the past, or anyone who battles self-esteem or mental health issues, these verses are not intended for you. They can cause self-loathing, depression and justify being abused. This is not God’s intended purpose for you or anyone!
Though humility is not named specifically in the reading in Mark 9:33-37, it can be inferred from the call to those who want to be great – to be first – must be last. This is further explained in an illustration or parable of the wedding banquet in Luke 14:7-11. The advice is given to take the lowest or last seat at the meal so if necessary or if invited you can move up. The attitude of the guest is to be grateful to just have a seat at the table. Do not assume to deserve anything more. Rid yourself of arrogance and prestige. Put off airs. Be content with taking the lowest or last seat.
Pride as displayed in an attitude of “deserve” has been a long-time marketing tool in our culture. It is coupled with the idea of entitlement. My question is “who said you deserve anything?” On top of it, confusing “want” and “need” is commonplace in our society. Humility embraces our needs but differentiates between our wants and avoids the feeling that we deserve recognition, services or special attention.
In addition to humility, followers of Jesus live as servants of others. Jesus said, whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35). Again Jesus said, …but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many, (Mark 10:43b-45). Jesus taught his followers to do what he was doing. He did not tell them to do something that he was not doing himself. That is an authentic teacher.
If there is one category of ministry where Grace has so many people whose stories are significant it is the ministry of serving others. It is impossible to go wrong with any choice of humble servant at Grace but almost wrong to choose just one. Back in the day, by that I mean from 2011 – 2013, we gave out a metal lunch pail award to a servant we recognized that month. Just a few of the names we recognized were: Ben Sherven and Arnie Foss, who like Don Anderson, Bob Smith, Leonard Novak, Ron Knorr and Rich Cronberg did extra-mile maintenance on our facility. On the feeding the hungry side of service, we gave the pail to Sheri Cannell for her leadership with the Rockford Rescue Mission; Jane Workinger and Kim Donovan for their work with Carpenter’s Place; and Elmer and Janice Little for their work in serving meals at the Mobile Food Pantry.
In addition, we recognized Joni Meichtry and her coordination of the Blood Mobile, Laura Jean Gray as the queen of the Sanctuary Choir. Sue Hoffman received recognition for her service with our Preschool Board and Judy Johnson for her work and leadership with the innovative youth bakery called Quixotic. Recognized for their tireless work with the Big Band Dance was Ted (Margie) Lahn and Sandra Knorr as well as an anchor in years past in the Sunday School: Helen Knorr. In our commitment to our neighborhood, we recognized our member and alderman: Dick Brinker; as well as Loves Park Elementary School; Rockford Lutheran Schools and champions of Adopt-a-Block: Ron and Debbie Gustafson and Judy Owens for their work on River Park.
Others who have served well at Grace and beyond that have been recognized include: Anne-Marie Kuchinski, Alex and Reed Ortland, the Piecemakers, movie night leaders: Melissa Mason and Meggan McKiness as well the Random Voices of Praise at the 10:30 worship. What a remarkable list of servants! As I look forward to this moment in time, there are many more names and stories that could and should be added to the list!
One other name from the metal lunch pail that demonstrates the spirit of service in the name of the Lord is Angie Wallace. Angie came to worship one Sunday looking for something in her life. Not sure of what to expect or what she was looking for, it was Pastor Terri’s word which grabbed her heart that day: For any who are visiting Grace this Sunday, Grace has a place for you. Led by her heart for service, Angie has found her place at Grace! While Angie may feel uncomfortable serving on our Council, she does it because of her desire to be a voice for those who are being served by the ministry and compassion of many people of Grace. From organizing and leading the charge for the youth in the clean-up efforts at the Young At Heart Festival, to meal at Carpenter’s Place, to the kitchen activities during VBS, Angie demonstrates her heart to serve others.
Grace is a servant church that has a long history of serving others in this community. From serving as a mayor, to chairs of various boards, to serving soup and sandwiches, and to knitting hats and gloves for area infants and children, the unnamed list of servants at Grace is long. The intent is not to overlook nor ignore anyone but by naming a few, it happens. Please forgive me as no slight is intended. The stories named are as an example of the width and depth of the servant’s heart at Grace. A big thank you to all the humble, behind-the-scenes servants of Christ. To you the Lord says, well done, good and faithful servant, (Matthew 25:21).
Questions to Consider:
- If Jesus came to serve and not be served, in what way can you serve others this week?
- Who is your role model for serving others? Why?
- What are your skills you can use to serve? Where?
- Start small. Be consistent. Make a difference. What will you do?