March 16, 2015


Like many, I got hooked on the sophisticated PBS  English soap opera set in the early 20th century, "Downton Abbey" which recently concluded this season's episodes. It is somewhat a take off on the old Masterpiece classic, "Upstairs Downstairs"; both shows not only about English upper crust society but, in most cases more interestingly, the lives of their "servants" as well. As we all know, all too well,  our American culture has had its history with a servant class, badly stained with the vestiges of prejudice and racism.
The concept of "servant-hood" seems an old fashion one today. Our goal is to be anything but that! To be number one is the usual goal; To be "on top", with all the accolades and status and comfort that go along with it,is the goal. Sometimes I find it humorous, that around the church in our changing so called upscale non religious millennial community, which so emphasizes having the best, being the most popular and looking out for number one; that some commercial establishments bring in mission and religious vocabulary to sell their products. From the new hair salon "Immortal Beloved" to Whole Foods emphasis on buying a three dollar orange but "feeling good" about it because they sponsor programs to help the poor.  I guess they realize that we humans still have an innate need to look beyond self and value service to others.
Jesus said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be last and a servant to all"; and he explained this concept in several ways on many different occasions. One thing he never meant was that it is OK to be exploited or to see oneself as less than others. There are no second class citizens in the kingdom of God.
What I think he did mean, which is what we at 15th St Church try to learn more about during Lent, is that life is less about striving to get to the top and worrying all the time if we are not there yet; and more about this amazing gift of life that we have been "served" up and sharing it with others. That life becomes better - truer, and faith grows as much by caring about and serving others as is does by looking inward.
In fact, Jesus went beyond servanthood and said something even more extravagant and perplexing. He said, "if you try to save your life you will loose it, but if you give it away for God's sake, you will find it". Not only just helping when the mood strikes us or when we have all "our ducks in a row"; but with our whole life by making love the goal and benchmark in everything we do. For many of us there might not be a one time or occasion where we are dramatically called upon to "give away our life". More often it manifests itself in a daily choice to live in empathy, forgiveness,  compassion and great love for this winter weary world and those most in need. The promise, ironically enough, is that this will make us happy and that we will find something that we are looking for, deep inside us,  that perhaps we did not know was there all the time!




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