The upside-down kingdom

This week, we had a guest preacher while Nigel is enjoying a well-deserved vacation, so we don’t have a copy of the sermon to post. Instead you’re getting a few thoughts from me, Jan, on the Gospel reading.

Who’s The Greatest?

 

We read in Church yesterday about the disciples disputing amongst themselves about who is the greatest. Don’t you just love those disciples; they aren’t “plaster saints” perfect in every way. They are just like us. Don’t we want to stand out from the rest if the group – to be seen as the best – whether it’s the best athlete, or artist; the best dressed, the one with the nicest house or fancy car?  Or even, as with the disciples, the one closest to God? Yes, our pride can even cloud our faith and devotions, which is perhaps the most insidious way we can try to outdo our friends and neighbours. Jesus wasn’t going along with any of this. He told them:  “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all”. This is so counter cultural. It’s been called the upside-down gospel. Position, power and prestige are not part of following Christ, the one who was crucified for standing up for what he believes, and by that execution, he showed us that suffering and apparent defeat are the way to new life.  This is what St Paul calls “the folly of the cross” in 1 Corinthians.

Turning discipleship on its head

This Upside-downness is central to the Gospel. It permeates Jesus life and teaching: love your enemies; whoever wants to save his life must lose it; the time he spends with the marginalized of society, while calling some religious leaders “whited sepulchers”. He always prompts us to look at our lives, our actions and everything around us with different eyes, the eyes of a servant rather than of the elite. Our culture teaches us that to have more, do more or achieve more makes us better and happier. Jesu says No; blessed (happy) are the poor, the peacemakers, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  These are the ones who are blessed. This is how we become children of God. Our ego tells us that popularity and approval are ways to happiness. Jesus says: Blessed (happy) are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. This is the upside-down kingdom.

The Kingdom Come on Earth

This is the kingdom we pray for every week when we pray “Thy Kingdom come …” and it is then up to us, as followers of Jesus, to live the kingdom life. Otherwise, how can it come on Earth? God calls each of us to servant-hood, in different ways, As we listen for his call, he will make it clear to us, maybe in the “still small voice” within our souls; maybe in some words we read or hear; maybe in a need we see around us. As we each meditate on this,

I leave you with the words of the French mystic and teacher of The little Way, St. Therese of Lisieux:

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.

And with a poem by the Spanish Mystic, St Theresa of Avila:

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.