Sunday, October 18, 2015
True Leadership, True Success
True Leadership, True Success Mark 10:35-44 Upper Rogue UMC October 18, 2012 It's a common story that crops up in many cultures: The monarch is challenged to consider the poor in the kingdom who have sometimes been forgotten. So one day the monarch decides to see what it is like to live as a poor commoner. In disguise, he spends time walking among the poor, seeing what it is like to live under the sometimes oppressive laws of the government. Returning to the palace, the king is changed by the experience, and the state becomes more friendly to those under its rule. Why has this tale been so popular in so many places for so long? I guess people just want those in authority to know what it's like to live under that authority; an understanding we don't see very often; whether it's at home, at work, in politics, or even in the church. Two brothers, followers of Jesus, came to him to ask a question. Mark puts this story in an interesting place - after a couple of chapters in which Jesus has predicted his passion three times and has set a child in front of these same followers as an example of humility. Perhaps we're to see the brothers as waiting, biding their time to ask Jesus this question. They are so interested in what they want to ask of Jesus that they have failed to listen to what he's been saying. "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you . . . Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory" (Mk 10:35, 37). They had in mind, of course, some earthly or heavenly palace, a throne, a couple of extra scepters, a great deal of authority where they would reign as benevolent yet firm co-leaders with their Lord. They would be sitting at the head table, the seats of honor. They would be the center of attention. They would be celebrities. Not exactly in line with Jesus' idea of fame and celebrity; Jesus echoes Cato the Elder, who, upon observing statues being set up in honor of others, remarked: "I would rather have people ask 'Why isn't there a statue to Cato? than 'Why is there one?'" Of course the other ten followers, who had been watching and listening to this conversation, became angry with the two brothers, and Mark, who was writing a gospel of hope to a persecuted church, almost certainly chose this moment to insert Jesus' teachings about leadership and authority. Don't be like those worldly rulers you see around you, Jesus told them, and thy knew what he meant. They could see Herod's palace, the governors, and even the priests who did not consider those over whom they had authority. I'm sure that every one of the Twelve, like every one of the Republican or Democratic presidential candidates, honestly believed they could be better rulers than those they saw in power. If they had authority, they'd use it wisely, take care of people; they'd be benevolent rulers. But for Jesus, leading goes far beyond benevolence, and success goes far beyond wealth. A benevolent ruler waves from the rooftop to adoring crowds. A benevolent ruler sends servants to care for important invited guests. A benevolent ruler hopes that people will be fed. A benevolent ruler sees that laws are applied as fairly as possible to as many as possible. A benevolent ruler may even give up something for others. But a benevolent ruler is no closer to Jesus' ideals than the conductor on a train about to leave a large railroad station. As the conductor began to take tickets, looking at the ticket of the first passenger he remarked, "Friend, I think you're on the wrong train!" "But," replied the man, "the ticket agent told me this was my train." After a little discussion, the conductor decided to check with the ticket agent. Before long, it became clear that the conductor, like the would be benevolent rulers, was on the wrong train! For Jesus, leadership is not about authority and success is not about money, but both are about service and sacrifice. Rather than wave to the crowds from the rooftop, Jesus was in their midst, where a hemorrhaging woman touched him and he felt the healing power leaving him to change her life. Instead of sending servants to care for important guests, Jesus invites in the poor, the oppressed, and the powerless; and washes their feet himself! Instead of hoping the people will find food, Jesus feeds the crowd with a young boy's lunch. Instead of enforcing the law for as many as possible, Jesus fulfills the law, bringing grace and mercy to those who have never known them. Instead of giving up some of his wealth and power for others, Jesus gave his very life. Not what we think of when we think of leaders. Jesus calls us to be servant-leaders, but what does that mean, and what does it look like? In 1878, when William Booth’s Salvation Army was beginning to make its mark, men and women from all over the world began to enlist. One man, who had once dreamed of becoming a bishop, crossed the Atlantic from America to England to enlist. Samuel Brengle left a fine pastorate to join Booth’s Army. But at first General Booth accepted his services reluctantly and grudgingly. Booth said to Brengle, “You’ve been your own boss too long.” And in order to instill humility in Brengle, he set him to work cleaning the boots of other trainees. Discouraged, Brengle said to himself, “Have I followed my own fancy across the Atlantic in order to black boots?” And then, as in a vision, he saw Jesus bending over the feet of rough, unlettered fishermen. “Lord,” he whispered, “you washed their feet; I will black their shoes.”(K Hughes, Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, Tyndale, 1988, p. 45.) Jesus gives us the key to true esteem, true success, and true leadership. Don't act like them the rich and powerful you see in the world. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. (44) And if you want to be first, you must be everyone's slave. It's a rough road, but it can be walked. A young man who had been reared on a farm decided to be a doctor in order that he might be of greater service to mankind. He felt that he could do more good and help more of his fellow men if he practiced medicine, than if he stayed on the farm. The years in medical school were strenuous ones. There were many sacrifices on his part, and plenty of work and study. His father and mother entered into the sacrifice, too. They went without many things in order that the boy might stay in school. Finally he was graduated and served an internship, then went into a large city and began his chosen work. Things did not go too well. He didn't have many patients, and his income was not all he had expected. Evidence of his discouragement must have crept into his letters to his parents, for his father decided to go to the city to see his son. His visit was a pleasant surprise. "Well, son," he asked, "how are you getting along? How is your courage?""I'm not getting along at all, dad. I am not doing a thing. Maybe I made a mistake." The father tried to say something which would encourage the young doctor. He had helped him before, maybe he could do something now. So he did his best. Later in the day the father went with his son to a free clinic, where the young man spent several hours each day without any remuneration. Twenty-five suffering patients were cared for as carefully as if the doctor were to receive a large check from each one. He spoke words of cheer, and left each one feeling better. When they were alone again, the old gentleman said, "I thought you told me you were not doing anything. If I had given as much help to as many persons in a month as you have in a few hours this morning, I would thank God that I was good for something." "But there isn't any money in it, dad," the boy replied "Money!" the old man said, with a tone of scorn in his voice. "What is money in comparison with being a help and a blessing to your fellow men? Forget the money. Don't let it worry you. I will go back to the farm and work the rest of my life to help support you, for in that way I shall be a blessing, too. I shall be happy by day and sleep soundly at night in the thought that I have helped you to help your fellow men." C. L. Paddock. Source: Signs of the Times, Copyright (c) January 30, 1951, Pacific Press, www.pacificpress.com/signs. With permission from Dale Galusha firstname.lastname@example.org . Following Christ is not about fame or fortune, it's about service and sacrifice. It's about being first by being last, and being the master by being the servant. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it's what he said. He said in in Mat 20:26 “But don't act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others.” again in Mat 23:11 “Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others.” He said it in today's reading from Mark: But Jesus called the disciples together and said: You know that those foreigners who call themselves kings like to order their people around. And their great leaders have full power over the people they rule. (43) But don't act like them. If you want to be great, you must be the servant of all the others. (44) And if you want to be first, you must be everyone's slave. And he said it again in Luk 22:26 But don't be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant. That's really all there is to it. AMEN.