Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Year B Lent 2 WED A Servant's Heart

Year B Lent 2 Wednesday, 28 February 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“A Servant’s Heart”  
Collect: O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only- begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven: Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 
Matthew 20:17–28 
While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.” 
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 

Today’s reading is interesting. It fits hand and glove in what I said Sunday. I try really hard not to do sequels, but I cannot resist today. If you missed Sunday, I talked about how in our world, too often our interactions are more Transactions. Do this for me, I do that for you. Often, we use money as the brokering tool for these. Jesus invites us to a different model. One based on Abundance in God’s Kingdom, and on Grace, that unexpected and undeserved gift free of strings and impossible to repay. 

Today, we another example of Jesus’ disciples missing the point. They are still caught up, listening to WII-FM (What’s In It For Me.) 

James and John, and in this account, their mother, come to Jesus asking for seats of authority when he comes into power. Notice they are still thinking it is an earthly kingdom, and that when he talks about his death, burial, and resurrection that must be metaphorical. (How often do we take Jesus literal statements metaphorically and vice versa?) 

In Jesus’ kingdom, he paints a different picture from the world. “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” This model of Servant Leadership and Sacrificial Love goes against most everything the world teaches us. Still. 

Not only does the reading for today match with Sunday, it also coincides with one of my favorite American saints. Anna Julia Haywood Cooper. I taught at a school named for her, and love what she stood for, and how her name and legacy live on in Richmond. A short bio from Holy Women, Holy Men: 

Anna Julia Haywood Cooper was born about 1859 in Raleigh, North Carolina, to an enslaved woman and a white man, presumably her mother’s master. She attended St. Augustine Normal School and Collegiate Institute, founded by the Episcopal Church to educate African American teachers and clergy. There she became an Episcopalian and married George Cooper, one of her instructors, who was the second African American ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in North Carolina. Widowed in 1879, Cooper received degrees from Oberlin College, and was made principal of the African American high school in Washington, D.C. Denied reappointment in 1906 because she refused to lower her educational standards. Cooper emphasized the importance of equal education for African Americans. An advocate for African American women, Cooper assisted in organizing the Colored Women’s League and the first Colored Settlement House in Washington, D.C. At the age of 65, in 1925, Cooper became the fourth African American woman to complete a doctorate, granted by the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1930-1942, she served as President of Freylinghuysen University. She died at the age of 104.  

Born into slavery, and lived to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. give the “I Have A Dream” speech. Demanding that African-Americans were just as intelligent and capable as anyone else, and willing to be fired for it. Receiving her doctorate when most are slowing down, and then president of a University. She loved. She taught. She served. She followed Christ all the days of her life. That is what Jesus was talking about. And today, we remember her in the Episcopal Church. Thanks be to God! 

With that model, more than WII-FM, let us continue in this holy Lent, following closely to Christ wherever he may lead. 

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Blessings, Rock