Approaching Jerusalem with Jesus, two of his disciples (James and John) came and asked a favour.
They were looking for the top jobs in his kingdom. The other ten were furious. If there were top jobs on offer, James and John had stolen a march on them. (Mk 10: 35 et seq. Matt 20:20, et seq). In response, Jesus summons all twelve and tells them, in no uncertain terms, whoever wishes to be first, must be your slave.’ adding that he came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life. As he later added I have set you an example, …. you ought to serve others likewise (Jn 13: !3-15 paraphrased).
What economists call ‘the Service Sector’ is big money; as a nation we live by it, but is it service? As Jesus also pointed out, and as we all know from experience, in the world at large; all too often those with power and influence expect others to serve them.
It’s not just the rich and powerful, as James and John demonstrate. In many aspects of life we all take our right to be served for granted. The health service, public services, armed services, church services; most of the time we pay these little attention, until we need them. Then we expect them to be there for us. Jesus turned the familiar pyramid on its’ tip. God the creator, gives himself in the service of his creation, even as his creatures rejected him; an example he calls his followers to take to heart. Our call is to serve, not to be served.
Service of others is a way of life, not an optional accessory. In a speech broadcast on her twenty-first birthday, in 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth, ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service …’. This weekend we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth; 70 years in the service of the Commonwealth of Nations. With God’s help, she has honoured the vow she made in 1947.
Our opportunities for service may be less global, but no less important for that. As we thank God for Her Majesty’s life of service, may we also rededicate our lives in the service of God – and those he calls us to.
Rev’d Philip Payne Pentecost 2022 The Notice Sheet for 5th June can be found here