Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The cost of trophies

My sermon for this week was based on Mark 10: 35-45.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

Most of us have some kind of trophy at home.  Whether it is a ribbon for best horse in show, a picture of us with the Queen, a golf trophy or the Stanley Cup, we have trophies of some kind.  Trophies commemorate great moments in our lives, moments where we excelled, moments where we conquered.

Now don't get me wrong, I think we have every right to be happy, pleased and proud of our achievements, but it behooves us remember the flip side of trophies:

For every best horse in show, there are a dozen nags who become dog food and glue.

For every person who gets their picture with the Queen, there are hundreds at the event who don't even get a photobomb credit.

For every Tiger Woods, there are dozens like me who can't even hit the ball reliably.

For every Stanley Cup victor, the Leafs go home empty-handed.

You get what I'm saying.  Every trophy, it seems, comes at the cost of someone else's defeat.

But what if we had spiritual trophies?  What if, instead of putting tokens on our walls and shelves for when we bested our fellow men and women, we gathered memories of when we aided them?  How different the world would be if instead of affirming victory, we affirmed assistance.

We would be much more cooperative, rather than competitive, for starters.  Perhaps we would share the world's resources rather than hoard them.

But I am getting off topic...

The Gospel for today underscores the fact that the Kingdom Christ envisioned was one of cooperation rather than competition.  Here's the scenario:

James and John, who by this point in the Gospel have already been identified as being part of Jesus' inner circle, decide to push their luck one step further, and they ask Jesus for a favour.  They ask to be seated at Jesus' right and left hands when he comes into his kingdom.

What we have to know is that James and John are talking about a real kingdom, here.  They still bought into the Jewish prophecy that the Messiah would be a great warrior-king who would lead the people in an uprising that would decimate the forces oppressing the Jews and restore them to their proper status.

In other words, what James and John are asking is to be Jesus' lieutenants or deputies when he kicks the emperor down the stairs of the palace and takes his place on the throne.  They are literally asking to be seated flanking him on the lesser chairs in the throne room as his seconds.


But of course, you and I both know that was not the kingdom Jesus had in mind.  The kingdom Jesus had in mind had nothing to do with victory or defeat, conquering or being conquered.  And he takes the time to sit the Disciples down to explain this to them.

"Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all", he tells them, clarifying that greatness is not a factor of how high you sit in the pecking order, but how much you go out of your way to raise up your fellow human being.

There is no ribbon for helping an old lady across the street.  Nobody takes a picture of you giving to charity.  There is no trophy for working in a soup kitchen.  Nobody gives you the Stanley Cup for volunteering at a suicide hotline.  They really should, but they don't.

And they don't need to.  The humble don't need trophies, the meek don't seek thanks, the generous require no accolades, because those actions are their own rewards.

Try them sometime.  You might be surprised how valuable those trophies can be.

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