February 20, 2008
In tonight’s Gospel reading we find Jesus speaking out against the arrogant and, specifically, against the religious authorities, which ties very well into a book I’ve been reading recently.
For my Lenten reading, I have been reading (between my studies) a book called The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Now, before I recommend the book, I want to make sure to say that, in reading Borg or Crossan, one really needs a personal filter. Their scholarship is a bit over-the-top at times, and confusing to people who might not know about their kind of Biblical scholarship. Some of what they write about in their books is simply not helpful for some people’s spiritual life.
But, using a kind of filter when reading them, one can find some very helpful things. And, in this book, although I’ve had to filter out some things myself, I have found some very helpful tidbits in understanding scripture.
In their book, Borg and Crossan talk about how many Christians misinterpret the message of Jesus in the Gospels. Many Christians seem to think, when they read passages similar to this one, that Jesus has a problem with the priests and teachers of the Law, or even a problem with Gentiles. But the real issue, according to Borg and Crossan, is what they call the “domination system” of Jesus’s day. His problem is only with those priests, teachers and rulers who abuse their power, who lord it over others.
And that’s very important. Jesus is, quite clearly, speaking out against abusive authority—a very dangerous thing to do in his day and age, as it sometimes is with us as well today.
The message of today’s Gospel is very clear to us. Jesus tells us that, to be a Christian, one can not be abusive to others. We cannot “lord” whatever power we might have over others. Rather, to be a Christian, we must serve others and be a servant.
I am teaching a course right now, in Phoenix, called “Servant Leadership.” One of the points I make in this class is that, nowadays, we hear so much about leadership.
There are so many classes on leadership. But there are no classes on effective following. To be an effective leader, one first has to be effective follower. One has to learn to be an effective servant—a person who serves. And few of us know how to do that.
Jesus is telling us that to lead, we must first serve. And to truly see that and understand it, all we have to is look to Jesus, who did just that in his own life. He came to us as one of us to lead us out of the bondage we have bound ourselves within. He did so, by walking alongside us. He still comes to us, walks beside us and guides us forward.
When we serve each other in humility and love, we are heeding Jesus’s words from tonight’s Gospel. When we serve each other in humility and love what we are doing is bringing the Kingdom of God into our midst. We are entering into that place in which God breaks through whatever barriers divide us from God and from each other.
So, help break that barrier in whatever small ways you can in your life. Break those barriers by humbly serving each other in love. And where that love is, there too will God be.