What do I say about greatness? I feel as though greatness is not really for me. And like John, I wonder if deep down inside, I just want thanked—by God, by the UMC, by my congregations. In fact, it is rarely “deep down”. And perhaps that is the problem.
This trade is so belief oriented, that one does not get satisfaction from the paycheck—though mine is generous and reliable. The satisfaction must come from within—from that place that says “yes, you’re doing okay”. In fact, that is one thing that is simply missing from the gospels, moments where Jesus expresses unadulterated appreciation for his disciples. He seems to always be disappointed in them—like they’re prize, straight-A students. Does he not know that they are fishermen, and poor ones at that? And even during those rare moments of tenderness, Jesus only gives up gratitude when it is begged for. “When are we going to get anything in return for ALL that we have given up?” Peter rightly asks.
I guess I want a nice Jesus, just like everybody else. I mean, wasn’t he a cool bloke, who preferred a rag-tag army to the polished life of the temple? “He sat down.” He sat down to explain to his disciples the crux of the matter—greatness does not exist in this line of work. Yes, somewhere down the line, somebody will invent bishops and high minded church stuff, but it won’t really amount to much. Even those who strive for those positions of power and honor will find a heaping helping of work and a lion’s share of criticism under the miter. So seek satisfaction in other arenas.
I have been a child among adults before. Sometimes, as a “young clergy” I feel as though I will always be in that strange position. It reminds me that we had a college student enter our church last Sunday. He had always driven past the church and decided to just walk in. I could see how uncomfortable he was, amid a sea of octogenarians. And I felt like a totally inadequate pastor—that after 3 years I couldn’t build a diversified congregation such as one that would have folks like him already there, so that when folks like him enter, folks like him aren’t all alone, a complete anomaly. Yes, on this night, I am owning this guilt, especially as attendance has not just lagged but evaporated. Maybe I just suck at this.
Oh, but this is supposed to be one page on the passage. “He sat down.” Jesus didn’t yell at his pupils for not getting it. “He sat down,” means that it was time devoted to teaching, that the growth and betterment of the men, women and children in front of him that was of importance to him. I think by noting Jesus’ posture, I am feeling some of his attitude…that anger and disappointment were not the point of his correction. Yes, the disciples were guilty of selfishness as they argued over their greatness. But rather than lashing out, Jesus sat down and taught. As Jesus was ambitiously redirecting his path towards Jerusalem, he stops in his old stomping grounds, the place where it all started, and he got back to the essence of the gospel—one must become the servant of all.
Page One is the first page I write for the sermon–one page, long-form, stream of consciousness. It does not go in the sermon, it is a simple practice whereby I just write reflecting on what I have encountered thus far in the sermon-preparation process.