The Suffering Servant

October 21, 2018

Where does greatness in the Kingdom of God come from?  James and John want the place of greatness and are bold enough to ask for it.  While the others are jealous and upset that they asked, Jesus is stern with His response.  He says that to be great one must drink of the same cup Jesus must drink of Himself.  The prophet Isaiah says it this way: ” through His suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt He shall bear.”  Suffering is a part of the journey to follow the Lord.  Jesus tells us that greatness is found in becoming a slave of all.

Those are powerful words.  A slave to all is a place where we realize we are imprisoned to service.  We are constantly in one position, that of a servant.   To serve others then invites us to a very humble place.  Even the most vulnerable are to find us beneath them.  In a month when we focus on life issues, this weekend we are invited to look deeply into suffering.  How does the suffering within one’s life have meaning and how do we respond to it as a servant of God?

Being a servant is about listening to the pain of others.  It is about being able to walk with them in the struggle.  The challenge of this being a slave to all is being non-judgmental.  To be servant listener is to offer a heart filled with openness.  How do we minister to those who made the choice for whatever the reason to have an abortion?  How do we listen to their pain and agony?  How do we listen to those who have been tragically abused in their childhood? How do we create a safe haven for them?  How do we listen to people who want to change their gender?  How do we offer to walk with them in the midst of their painful journey? None of this is easy.  It is complicated and complex.

To be active in pro-life is to be active in the lives of those most suffering in the world.  The different movements speaking out about abuse offer us a place to begin our servant listening.  The life issues must bring us to a place where we are first a servant to those mistreated, those who feel victimized, and those who feel that their life has no meaning or does not matter.  To suffer with the pains of life is an important place for the pro-life movement to be.  It is a messy place of anger, of mistrust, of devastating stories lived over and over again in the hearts and minds of so many.  Greatness lies here.  It is why it is so hard to be great in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was brutally honest about what it takes.  It takes our soul walking in non-judgment with those who are marginalized.  To be a servant and to become a slave is to realize that in the humility of nothingness, we have only Christ to give others.

May we walk together in this path.

Reverend John J. Ouper