…whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:35-45)
Today’s sermon by the Rev. Aidan Rontani and the gospel on which it is based sends a reminder that we, as Christians, must always “check our egos at the door” when we seek to act as God’s servant. In organized religion there is always a hierarchy, and it is easy to make it “all about me” in terms of who is the recipient of favors or attention from that hierarchy. We want and need that special attention that is usually conferred when we are asked or permitted to play a special role in our church life. Sometimes this is normal, like when we prepare food or decorations for a church event—in return for our contribution we receive praise and thanks, an evenhanded arrangement. But in my life I know I have been guilty of self-flattery and ego-boosting when I have been asked by church leaders to perform some service or take a position that seems to set me above the rest of the congregation—“look at me, look at how important and essential I am.” And I have also been disappointed when I have not been asked to do these things—“What’s wrong with me? Why wasn’t I chosen?”
However, as Rev. Rontani said in his sermon, we often derive the most satisfaction over the quieter episodes, where we find ourselves helping someone or performing some service in a spontaneous, unplanned way. Providing directions to someone who is lost or helping somebody to their feet after they’ve slipped on ice can suddenly provide us the good feeling that you have made somebody else’s day a little bit better even though nobody else may know about it. It’s a feeling that you can share with yourself but also with God—and if He knows about it, isn’t that enough?
“We preach not ourselves but the gospel”—what a simple but effective way to keep our priorities straight when our own vanity and self-image loom large before us.
- How do I separate my ego from my service to Christ?
- When do I know I am doing something for my fellow men and women and not for myself?
- When will we know we are walking with Jesus and not ahead of him?