Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Numbers 17:1-11, Romans 5:1-11, Matthew 20:17-28
James and John were brothers and apostles. One day their mother asked Jesus: might her sons sit at his left and right hands in heaven? Jesus said the favor their mother asked was beyond his power to grant. The other ten apostles were outraged when they learned of the request, but Jesus assured them that in God’s kingdom, leaders were not masters but servants. They were upset not that the favor had been granted, but that it was asked.
A church that was active in resettling refugees, particularly people fleeing the violence of the Congo with nothing but the clothes on their backs, sometimes posted lists of needed household items. One woman – who was not ungenerous and frequently delivered baskets of groceries to the food pantry – would look at the lists and mutter, “Always looking for a hand out.”
We get offended when people ask for things the “wrong” way. One of the first lessons I learned on missions trips is that what we are prepared to give may not be what people need. Someone who arrives with the skills to replace a damaged roof can be taken aback when instead they they are asked to scrub floors, as if that task is somehow beneath them. We can talk a good game about being servants, but unless we are willing to surrender control and serve under someone else’s terms, it’s just talk.
Most adults don’t like to ask for things because we fear being characterized as weak or lazy. We resent what people ask of us when they are things we are ashamed to ask for ourselves. John and James were devoted. Refugees are in need. Hurricane survivors are perfectly capable of prioritizing tasks. To be able to ask, to lovingly consider what is asked … these are signs of servant leadership.
Comfort: It’s OK to ask for what you need.
Prayer: God of generosity, give me the courage to ask for what I need, and the loving heart to respond graciously to the needs of others. Amen.
Discussion: What are you afraid to ask for? Why?
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