Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “there is something we want you to do for us.”
“What is it?” Jesus asked them.
They answered, “When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one at your right and one at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink? Can you be baptized in the way I must be baptized?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup I must drink and be baptized in the way I must be baptized.
But I do not have the right to choose who will sit at my right and my left. It is God who will give these places to those for whom he has prepared them.”
When the other ten disciples heard about it, they became angry with James and John. So Jesus called them all together to him and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.”
James and John’s sense of entitlement seems quite extraordinary. They may have listened to Jesus’ teachings, but not ‘heard’ the truth deep in their souls. They slipped into the patterning of their familiar Honour/Shame, hierarchical society, where ‘position’ denotes power and status, and is sought at every opportunity. This is particularly obvious when they approached Jesus alone, and not with the other disciples. The group reaction also reflects the rivalry of niggling factions that occur amongst a group, as people identify with one way of thinking or promote self-importance over regard for their neighbour.
Jesus names it, firmly placing their behaviour in the world of humanity. This is not the Way of God. Christianity and Christian discipleship are not a competition! In God’s realm, we all equally belong. This sense of entitlement and competition in and between our Churches is still prevalent to this day. May we ‘hear’ the teachings of Jesus and The Great Commandment deep in our souls, so that together, our loving, our thinking and our daily living, becomes a way of serving, coupled with generosity and kindly friendship. May our Churches and our Christian practice set aside our privilege, power and pretence, so that we offer, in humility, the love of God to the world through the fruit of the Spirit.
Prayer – Confessions of the Competitive
Generous and open-hearted God,
We crave so much to be accepted
that in our anxiety, we do not hear that you accept us as we are.
We jostle for recognition and position
to feel worthy, acknowledged,
recognised as a person of significance.
Yet, we miss that to you, O God of all, we are valued just as we are.
We cause distress and rivalry
between our Churches and in personal relationships,
forgetting that there are no boundaries nor divisions in your family;
To you, we each walk towards your light of love in equality.
Forgive our claims to fame,
our jostling and aggressive judgements,
our anxiety and lack of insight.
We wish to be your people, God of all, and follow your Way.
Words of Assurance
God honours us with gracious love.
We are accepted with open hands.
We are no lesser nor greater than another.
Simply, we are the people of God,
Honoured by the One who sets shame aside,
And holds us in an embrace that is never broken.
© Rev Anne Hewitt 13/10/2021
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