Preached by the The Very Reverend Andy Bowerman, Dean of Bradford.
Sometimes say the wrong thing or don’t say the right thing!
Be still for the presence of the Lord example!
I find Jesus words can be so infuriating at times. Not just those we have recorded but maybe more by the things I wished he’d said. Here Luke gives us a wonderful example of this.
Infuriating yet intriguing.
For a few years when I was younger I was in the church choir, while many of my memories were not wonderful there was always the Jesus stories, because they always drew me in. What often struck me in those stories is how the biggest mysteries or most profound truths are found in the smallest things, the oddest places, the unlikely people. A woman kneads some dough, a party needs some more wine. A child toddles to centre stage. A slave does well what a slave does with out expectation of reward. Something infinite is happening in all that dirt and sweat and stories involving the stuff of real life. Blood and crowds and roads and friends – in those Jesus stories that’s where the life, the action, the divine, the transcendent is found.
Here is the hint of something timeless and hidden. Something beyond that which can be measured or ranked or ordered. Something outside of the understanding of the world.
And in this section of Luke, Jesus is engaged in some invitation and challenge with his disciples. Challenges about sin and stumbling. Invitations to choose forgiveness and a faith that though tiny can move large objects. Then this short interaction about slaves, masters and obedience. If only Jesus had chosen this moment to speak out about the scourge of slavery. Infuriating. Although let’s be honest he does talk a lot about freedom, justice and love so we should probably have worked it out sooner than we did.
Jesus is not making a point about the rights and wrongs of slavery. A reality that still sees around 40 million people moved around the planet every year.
Instead he is wanting to challenge and invite the disciples to remember their call to follow him, and like him, to be those who serve others. Serve – Expecting nothing in return. Obedience, love, service. In the story of course they, the disciples start imagining themselves as slave owners, comfortable, powerful, with authority but within a few sentences this is reversed and they are the slaves. The servants. Without comfort, or power or authority.
But we know the paradox at the heart of the story.
In the ancient near East as now, the slave has no rights, no inheritance.
The paradox, the glory, the grace of the Jesus way is that if the follower gives up everything, to take on the very nature of a servant as Jesus did, then they become co-heirs in the Kingdom. The disciple is called to follow Jesus and the example of Paul who could testify that he had become a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given to me through the working of His power. (Ephesians 3.7)
From my time in ministry if there was one gift I could place into the heart and soul of each believer I have met, served, led – it would be that they might have enough faith to know this gift of grace is real which ensures that they are named by God as co-heirs with Christ. That they-we might stop striving to earn it and simply know that we are loved and welcomed. Gods heart is bent towards love not anger.
If we could grasp this I believe we would find it so much easier to look beyond ourselves and our own circles to the welfare of others. Indeed to the welfare of whole cities.
Perhaps we need to have faith in who we truly could be as children of the living God.
So what is the invitation in this passage?
What is the challenge? For you or for me?
May we see in ourselves where we have become too comfortable, to reliant on our own or our cultures power, to bound to the earthly authority invested in us.
May we come to know afresh each day the reality of God’s gift of grace, that calls us to be the servant of others & to seek their welfare. And may we know, deep in our souls, that once we choose to follow the Jesus way we are then full heirs of the promised Kingdom of God & May our hearts be bent towards helping others know the same. Amen.