Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Go down and sit in the front pew. “Wow! I think this is the best seat in the church, I wonder why more people do not sit down here?” We all love the best seats, we love places of honor, and we love to be recognized. If you went to the recent Elton John or Keith Urban concerts, you might have spent extra money to be closer to the front? Our challenge by our readings is, are we seeking the right kind of honor and recognition?
In our Gospel Jesus has just told the apostles for the third time that he would have to suffer and die to be glorified. James, John, and Peter are the three disciples that are in the inner circle with Jesus. James and John are showing how much they do not understand what Jesus has been telling them. The brothers are being very arrogant, and are seeking power and glory as they ask Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do something for us?” Jesus responds, “What do you wish for me to do for you?” “See to it that in your glory we sit one at your right and the other on your left.” Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink from the cup or be baptized in which I am to be baptized?” They respond “We can!” When the apostles heard this, they became indignant, but the reason they get upset is that they did not get to ask the question first. Jesus continues by saying “If you wish to be great be a servant. If you wish to be first, be the slave to all.”
I want to make sure we all understand what Jesus is asking of us? Jesus is telling them they need a transformation of who they are. It is not enough to provide a “service.” Jesus says, “You must become a servant or better yet a slave.” Anyone who has held a job knows what it is like to be a servant. A servant goes looking for a job, gets hired and is paid for their services. A slave is chosen by an owner and usually does the jobs that no one else will do. None goes looking to be a slave! A slave knows only one master, and the master gives the slave the things he wants them to do. Jesus is asking us to be a good servant, but if we want to know glory and honor, then we need to be a slave to those we meet.
Our reading from Isaiah says, “People who are truly faithful to God even in their suffering and pain, will know glory.”
The writer of Hebrews says, “We can be a slave because we have a great high priest who knows all about suffering because he has suffered.”
As we gather it does not matter where we sit if it is the front row or the back row. What matters is that we are here, acknowledging that we are in need of God’s help to accept our suffering and that we one day will know glory by being a good servant and slave in Christ.