Sunday, October 30, 2011

Matthew 23:1-12

“Love Made Real: Giving Yourself Away In Service”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cleveland, Ohio

Rev. Allen V. Harris

Hear this sermon on Podcast HERE:  111030Podcast  (NOTE: For some unexplained reason, the recorder stops before the sermon is over.  So sorry!  New battery!)

To watch this sermon on Videocast, go to YouTube HERE:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZYxgdHzALk

We know how it is in this world, don’t we?  It isn’t very long after our birth that we are carefully taught on how to make it in this world.  If we don’t look out after number 1, who will, right?

> We work to rise to the top, climb the corporate ladder, win the race, be the teacher’s pet and put our competitors to shame.  We know this means we must force our younger sisters and brothers to do our chores, delegate the tougher responsibilities to our subordinates on the job, leave the grunt work to the new hire.  Our goal is to get to the top of our little heap where we can do as little as we possibly can to get by.  Isn’t that the way of the world?

+ And yet Jesus calls us to something different: a life of servanthood. “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

> We know that it is hard to get noticed in this dog-eat-dog world, and so when we do something that is worthy, notable, important in this world, we demand our 15 minutes of fame.  We make sure the good we do is seen and noted by the most number of people.  No one else is going to spotlight us, so we have got to put the spotlight on ourselves.  If it means crowing about ourselves, talking incessantly about our achievements, working to get our name or picture in the newspaper or newsletter, then so be it.

+ And yet Jesus calls us to something different: a life of servanthood. “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

> There’s no shame in wanting the best, is there?  We want to find the best seats in the theater, the stadium, and at the concert as well as the closest parking space.  Leave it to some other dumb fool to be in the nose-bleed section, to have to sit behind the post, pillar, or column, to have to use opera glasses just to see what’s going on down on the stage or field, or have to park in lot ZZZ.  Our job is to get the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the first edition, pick of the litter, the freshest, cleanest, newest, finest, closest.

+ And yet Jesus calls us to something different: a life of servanthood. “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

> Aretha was right!  It IS all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  We demand respect, consideration, and recognition from those around us.  We want to be called Mr., Mrs., or Ms. by the stock boy, the waitress, or the neighbor kid.  We worked hard for our degree, and it better well be on our business card, our name badge, and in the newspaper report about us.  We deserve that nameplate on the door, that title of Pastor, Elder, Deacon, Trustee, or Officer at Church, and our name spelled out fully and correctly on the nametag at the workshop or conference or the place setting at the banquet.

+ And yet Jesus calls us to something different: a life of servanthood. “The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Now, no one is disputing that this world is a tough place, and for many of us – you – this life has not always been easy nor simple.  The temptation –  and I use that word quite intentionally – the temptation is to confront the struggles of the world with an in-your-face, over-the-top assertiveness that seeks to leap frog us over others to the front, the top, the best place.  We figure that the best way to confront a world that seems set out to get us is to get it first.  The solution to a “hard knock life” is to become Daddy Warbucks, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey… right?

This may seem right, and may even, at times, feel right, but it misses the fact that every poor soul you are leap-frogging over is someone else just like you trying to get by.  Jesus, Messiah, Savior, Son of God, didn’t even seek to jump to the front of the line… and he had every right to do so.  As it says in Philippians 2:

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 yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

   did not regard equality with God

   as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

   taking the form of a slave,

   being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

   he humbled himself

   and became obedient to the point of death—

   even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)

The way of servanthood is the way to which we, who follow Jesus, are called.  This congregation, and many, many, many wonderful organizations which fill this city and region, offer places of service where you, in humble recognition of all our other sisters and brothers who are just trying to get by, can make a difference in their lives.  This congregation recognizes that your gifts of time, energy, wisdom, and passion count as offerings to God.

So I invite you to find a place of service and serve willingly, humbly, and regularly!  The temptation to think more of yourself than you ought to is the constant drumbeat of the human condition, and so your commitment to servanthood must be equally, if not more, constant, unwavering, and faithful.  If you want to know more about service in this church, I invite you to speak to someone on our new Outreach & Community Service Team. (Please stand.)   Amen.

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