Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

The greatest

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 9, 2022. Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” (Luke 22:24)

This one’s a cinch. It is easy to see myself in this mirror, right there among the disciples who got into a discussion about who was the greatest. They had done this before. They had this argument right after Jesus’ transfiguration. Right after his brief moment of glory. And they still didn’t get it.

Neither do we. Ours is a world of comparisons, and we constantly jockey for position. Who’s happier? Who’s prettier? Who’s got more money? Who has more fun? Who’s got a bigger church? Who makes better food? Who’s smarter? Who’s kids are smarter? Who’s in better shape?

Which disciple was the greatest? The first one Jesus called? The one he handed the bread to first? The ones sitting closest to him? The ones who gave up their businesses to follow him? The strongest one? The ones with the loudest voices?

That’s our world. Everything is a competition. “I was first.” “I won.” “Shotgun!” “I beat you.” “You lose!” Employee of the month. MVP. “Mom always liked you more.” “I’m taller than you.”

Why is that? Why is it so important to be the best? That’s who gets the prize. You’ve got to place in the top three or you get nothing (except maybe an honorable mention certificate). If you can’t make it to the podium, you could have just stayed home.

When one of my daughters did competitive cheerleading, the coaches had a strategy for making sure the team brought home a first place trophy. They would enter the team into a division that no one else was in. Something like “Small Coed Novice under-12 over-11.” Guess what? They always finished first. They got to hang up another championship banner at the gym.

Jesus has to straighten out the disciples and us. True, in the non-believing world you’ve got to come out on top. But that’s not the way we do it around here. The one who serves is the greatest. That’s exactly what Jesus has done for them. He has just served them a Passover meal. Like a server at a restaurant. The path to the top means becoming the least. Just like Jesus, who humbled himself and became everybody’s servant and everybody’s savior.

I don’t have to be the greatest. Jesus doesn’t love me because I’m the best. He just loves me.

You’re the greatest Jesus. Amen.

Posted in lessons

A servant’s heart?

A close friend of mine shared with me a conversation she had with one of her work superiors. She wanted to do better. He wanted to help her do better. It wasn’t an easy conversation but it went better than expected. At one point he said, “You’ve got a servant’s heart.”

A “servant’s heart” is something usually referred to in a spiritual context. But this moment was strictly secular. In the sacred realm we “serve” by spending our time or resources to help someone. In the secular world, it’s more about caring and helping someone.

I once had someone describe me as having a “servant’s heart.” A member of the church credited me with that attribute because I was willing to move tables or clean up a mess or carry out some trash. They meant I was willing to do a menial task usually assigned to someone else, like clean a bathroom. I never thought of such tasks as heroic, but it sure sounds good to have a “servant’s heart.”

I’ve been pondering this compliment. If I were a servant, I wouldn’t have a choice. Whether my heart were in it or not, I would have to do what I was told. My tasks would not be optional, but expected. My heart or feelings or spirit would have nothing to do with it. I would have no option.

So, a “servant’s heart’ has little to do with willingness and much to do with understanding who you are. You are not the boss of your life. Someone else is. Your tasks are not negotiable. You are a servant. You aren’t commended for doing your job. It’s your job.

If I’m a servant, it’s my job to care, to clean up, to be unappreciated, to be unnoticed and to be invisible.

That doesn’t sound like me. I like to be noticed, appreciated, compensated, commended, thanked and complimented.

If you are one of those who attribute a “servant’s heart” to me, I thank you. But I would also suggest that you don’t know me very well. My heart tends to think mostly about me rather than others. I doubt I deserve that title.

But I know many people who do. And I know someone who is the servant.

Posted in Life, Ministry

A servant’s heart?

The other day someone asked me, “How do you display a servant’s heart in your ministry?” In the course of everyday ministry, I don’t take the time to think about inquiries like this. But it’s probably a good idea, since someone was interested in what I thought. I reflected on this during my morning run, and here’s what I came up with.

I think this characteristic is most visible when I’m present in someone’s life. For example, an early morning trip to the hospital to pray with someone before their surgery. Or sitting in a courtroom with someone who has to be present for a hearing. Being available for someone who stops by to talk, even though I’ve got a hundred other things to do. Calling on every raised hand at preschool chapel, when each wants to share details about their dog or cat.

Jesus became a servant by coming to be with us. I think most servant-hood looks like that, rather than just a task. Although it involves plenty of tasks, like the thousands of times I’ve set up or put away tables and chairs for worship, classes, and other events.

I think it’s a lot easier to identify a servant heart in someone else than it is to find it in your own life. Perhaps that’s because self-examination can easily reveal selfishness rather than sacrifice.