February 2018  
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Luke 22: 24-27   “Come On Home to Servanthood” - # 5                                              7/30/2017               BUMC                 Rev. Jerry W. Krueger

Go back into your memory and tell me who said this famous phrase, “I am the greatest. I am the greatest.” Cassius Clay, later named Muhammad Ali.  I recall my Dad saying that an athlete should not bring attention to themselves like that. He called it arrogant.

My Dad told stories of the baseball great Ty Cobb, as a hostile, unlikable player for the Yankees. An athlete should not like that. Richard Nixon, a US President brought angst and resentment to the White House. What my parents said was a sorry way to live.

Arrogance, Hostility, Resentment. A dangerous triad that we may have encountered, or participated in.  Jesus in today’s text, has previously completed the Last Supper, intimating that a traitor exists among the 12.

And within minutes those same 12 disciples are fussing and fighting, clawing for a rung up the superiority ladder.  With open arrogance and hostility, they resent any disciple who might usurp their expected place.

Jesus reminds his disciples, Gentile kings are called “benefactors,” the definition meaning “those who do well for others.”  Gentile kings as the disciples know, oppress others, and hoard wealth by unfairly taxing the Jews, and THIS is the way the disciples desire to act?

For many who have been oppressed politically or culturally, the slightest chance of lording it over another, looms with great opportunity.  But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples or us, an out.  In verse 26 Jesus says, “But you are not to be like that.” Don’t misbehave, and don’t lord it over others, like has been done to you.

I find it ironic the people closest to Jesus, his disciples, his 12 faithful followers, are the ones fighting about who is the greatest, and who will be the greatest.  The ones who have heard the teachings about humility, caring for others, loving others, giving selflessly.

That would be like any university NCAA Ethics Compliance Officer taking bribes and inappropriate gifts, all the while making sure the athletes and coaches complied with the ethics rules in their sports.

As we talk about arrogance, hostility and resentment, hear these stories of each.

A minor celebrity years ago was asked if he believed in God, here is the arrogant answer. “Of course I believe in God. We’re good buddies. When I get to heaven, I’m going to play golf every day. In fact, I’m going to ask Jesus to play golf with me. And if he doesn’t want to, I’ll let him be my caddy.”

Really, you arrogant clown? You assume you are going to be in heaven, and treating Jesus as your buddy, your caddy? Don’t stand to close to me when the lighting hits you.

We can’t approach the Lord, or the Lord’s Table with that type of arrogance, failing to hold the Triune God with awe and honor. God, the Father, the Christ and the Holy Spirit, is not your Friday night bowling buddy. He is Creator, of YOU. Leave the arrogance behind.

2. Hostility- I was at Chicago O’Hare airport several years ago, standing in line to check a bag.  A man rushes up to the line, cuts in line, pushes his way forward and proclaims in a loud, frantic and demanding voice to the employee behind the counter,  “MY flight got cancelled. I have to get to New York. You have got to bump someone off the next flight. My appointment is more important than you can imagine. You NEED to get me booked….now.”  And I settled in mentally for what I hoped what be a good show. As did the other passengers in line.

I guess the man assumed the airline counter employee was his subservient being.  The airline employee took a deep breath, calmly looked up at the hostile man and said, “Sir, respect the other people in line. Some have flights cancelled, flight delays and important appointments at their destinations. Please move to the end of the line and I will take care of your travel issues, to the best of my ability.” He smiled a friendly smile. And that did it.  It was like the hostile customer had a fuse lit. Expletives and threats filled the air, the customer turned to several of us, shouting the employee was an idiot, and how could he, hostile man, be treated this way. I looked at him and said, “Buddy, get in the back of the line.”

As the two Chicago police officers approached the man, he was warned calm down, and get in the back of the line. But he told the cops they were idiots, should get fired and he was going to “get their badges.” As he was spun around and effortlessly handcuffed and led away, one of the cops said, “Mr. you could have done a better job of handling the situation. Don’t be so hostile.”

The disciples are hostile toward each other in their table situation. They are willing to jump ahead of the others, sensing that their feelings, their self-worth, their arrogance demand that they be at the top of the ladder.

We cannot come into the presence of God with arrogance and hostility draining our souls. That is sinful behavior.

The third leg of these unsavory behavioral triad of arrogance and hostility, is resentment.

When my kids were younger, I know it was rough for them, having a Dad who was a pastor.  The church I was serving had an early and late Christmas Eve service. One at 3 and one at 10.  I drove to the church for the early service, took care of things afterwards, and drove home about 6PM.  The boys were excited about Christmas, playing with friends next door, and were pretty ramped up.

At 8: 30pm I tried loading them in the car, to this tune, “Dad, why so early, all we‘ll do is sit there until the service starts. Why can’t we stay with the Stombaugh’s?  Resentment growing.  Then I hear this from the back seat of the Suburban,Mike touched me, John punched Will. Mike, stop shoving me.”  I was wishing for a Silent Night about then.

“No one has a clue,” I thought to myself. (Resentment rearing its head.) Two blocks from church and John Krueger throws up. “Dad, JOHN barfed. EEEEWWW. Gross!”  We drive to the church, I get the kids out, put them inside and go clean up the car. I am resenting my kids,  and cleaning up the car on Christmas Eve, and now I can’t find my sermon notes, I break the zipper on my robe, the battery in my microphone chirps it needs to be replaced, my foot hurts from standing in these stupid shoes, and then time for worship.

Here I am leading Christmas Eve worship, and resentment is taking a ride on my coattails.  And then - comes the sacrament of Holy Communion.  I realize that I am not in a state of being worthy of approaching God with my fussy heart at that moment.

My boys are sitting with the Reed family, and I spot son John who is still feeling a bit punk by the looks of it. Before I know it, Will and Mike, John’s brothers are receiving communion from me and I tear up.  Mike whispers, “Dad, give me another piece of bread.” Why Mike? “So I can take it to John.”

In that moment any resentment is washed away in gratitude, gratitude that a savior of the world would give his life for one like me. A fallible imperfect, human.

Each of us may have been arrogant, hostile or resentful at times. Christ calls each of us to come Home to a Life of Servanthood. Christ goes against the world’s outlook in the scripture text, and says to the disciples, “I am the Christ, I should be elevated above you all, yet I come with the heart of a servant, to serve, to live, to pour out my life for you, on the cross. So that you might be washed free from sin, free of arrogance, hostility, resentment, guilt, anger, doubt, and anything that draws you away from me, and life eternal.” 

Living a servant’s life is not about glory, accolades, bright lights or attention and recognition. The life of a servant can be seen by many, as a life of lesser value.  But how can the life of a person who is a true servant of God, be anything but glorious, as we live to model the life of Jesus Christ. “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader, like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you, as one who serves,” says the loving Christ.

Jesus, the Son of God, fully human, fully divine, is the gift of the Father’s unfailing grace, and he humbles himself like a servant, caring for us, setting self aside. Jesus is never arrogant, never resentful, and never full of hostility.  Jesus Christ call us into the extra- ordinary life of going against the grain of the world, and instead of shoving our way to the top to be first, to get ours, to have the most, he says, “serve others, so others will know who I am, by your service.”

We are invited, instructed by Jesus, to come to life itself without arrogance, without hostility, nor resentment. We willingly come as loving thoughtful children of God, and as one of Christ’s faithful, humble servants.

And all of God’s people proclaimed, Amen.