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TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 10:34-45
If you are a reader of science fiction or fantasy you will be familiar with the idea of an alternate universe. It is the setting an author creates, where the sky may be pink, the animals talk, or people communicate by electronic waves filtered through nerve endings -- whatever the author has imagined and created.
In a way the Kingdom of Heaven, or Kingdom of God is like that alternate universe. When we give Jesus our lives and enter that kingdom, we soon discover that the 'laws of gravity' have changed.
In Mark 10 Jesus explains one of those changes to His disciples. The Zebedee brothers, James and John, have just come to Jesus asking for a special position in the kingdom they expect Jesus to set up (which they think will be earthly and happen any day now). The other disciples are understandably outraged. Who do these two think they are -- asking for special treatment!?
Instead of scolding them. Jesus gathers all the disciples around to take advantage of this teaching moment. He explains that, unlike the universe they have lived in their whole lives, where the great ones are the people with recognized position, in the Kingdom of Heaven, the great ones are the ones who serve. For, Jesus explains, even the Son of Man (God incarnate), came not to be served but to serve (vs.45).
We, or at least I, still struggle with this concept. I'm easily star-struck by someone's outward popularity or power, judging greatness by outward appearances (look how the media fawns over her, how often he is quoted, how many Twitter and Facebook followers she has, how many people follow his blog). But that's not what impresses God. He takes note of the unknown person who may be doing the lowest, most behind-the-scenes job (cleaning toilets, typing the minutes, cooking and serving the food) with an attitude of willing service. In His eyes, those are the truly great ones, the ones in first place, the ones who rule.
MORE: Feast of St. James the Apostle
Today is the day church liturgy remembers and honours the Apostle James, who is known for more than his request to get special treatment in Jesus' kingdom. Tradition credits him with being the first of the twelve apostles to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus. The liturgy for the Feast of James the Apostle begins with this prayer:
O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.