Proper 24B – Mark 10:35-45
We are sixteen days from the midterm elections and one day from the start of early voting. Ads are running, rhetoric is raging, and lines are being drawn. And here’s what I wonder. What if Jesus’ name was on the ballot? Would you and I vote for him?
I want to believe we would. I hope we would. But let’s not forget, this is the candidate who says that we should love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind. This is the candidate who says we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This is the candidate who says we should love our enemies. This is the candidate who says we should do good even to those who do not do good to us. This is the candidate who says we should forgive not seven times but seventy times seven. This is the candidate who says that if we have supported and cared for the least, the last, the lost we have supported and cared for him. This is the candidate who privileges others over himself. This is the candidate who asks not just for our vote but for our life.
Would you support his campaign in which greatness means being a servant to others? Would you support his campaign in which being number one means being a slave of all? Would you vote for him?
Today is the third time in the last five weeks we’ve heard these or similar words from Jesus. Last week he said, “Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” And three weeks before that he said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Those words or words like them are in each of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This is a theme for Jesus, the thread running through his life. What about us? Is it our theme? Is it the thread that runs through our life and, if so, how far does it go?
In today’s gospel (Mark 10:35-45) Jesus is describing a reversal of fortune, a reversal most of us do not aspire to and one the world rarely teaches and neither rewards nor encourages. It makes no sense, become a servant to others and a slave of all.
Can you imagine yourself being a slave to and servant of Ted Cruz (Republican)? “Mr. Cruz, what is it you want me to do for you?” Can you and I drink from that cup?
Can you imagine yourself being a slave to and servant of Beto O’Rourke (Democrat)? “Mr. O’Rourke, what is it you want me to do for you?” Can you and I drink from that cup?
What does it say about us if our answer is yes to only one of them, and only no to the other? What does it say about us if our answer is no to both of them? Or yes to both of them? Whatever our answer may be it probably says more about us than it does either Mr. Cruz or Mr. O’Rourke. It says something about where we are with Jesus as a candidate.
We tend to back the one who will “do for us whatever we ask” of him or her, the one who supports our beliefs, the one who advances our agenda. Isn’t that what James and John want from Jesus? “Teacher we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you … Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” They are privileging themselves over others, and we often do too. Give us. Do for us. That’s politics as usual. “But it is not [to be] so among you,” Jesus says.
Jesus is not about politics as usual. He privileges others over himself. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” What if that was also our politics? What if that was the campaign trail we followed?
What if we traded our self-privileging for the privileging of others? What if we met each other asking, “What is it you want me to do for you?” What if we sought the well-being of others first? What if we sought to be instruments of peace: to sow love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness, joy where there is sadness? What if we sought to console more than to be consoled, to understand more than to be understood, to love more than to be loved? (Adaptation of “A Prayer Attributed to St. Francis,” Book of Common Prayer, 833) That sounds to me a lot like one who is a servant to and slave of all.
Isn’t that the kind of life you want for yourself and your loved ones? Isn’t that the kind of future you want for your children and grandchildren? Isn’t that your hope for America? It’s what I want and what I hope for. And it’s also what I struggle with; how to live this, how to become this. I don’t know how to do this. I have no quick or easy answers. I only know that it’s the only vote that will make a difference.
In sixteen days the ballots will be cast, the polls will close, and the election will be over, but the voting will never be over. We vote everyday, not with ballots but with our lives, our choices, our priorities, our words, our actions.
How will you vote?