Today’s readings, I think, invite us to “live in the tension” of a vital biblical truth that transforms not only our attitudes but also the way in which we direct our energies and our lives. In today’s Psalm, we are summoned to the active worship of God’s greatness and glory. The opening verses are filled with imperatives (which I’ve presented in bold text below):
Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced…
Of course, most of us are eager to worship God as He is revealed in these words. We want to be found on the side of the King who works wonders and puts His power on display. In fact, we secretly (or not so secretly) hope that some of that power and glory will rub off on us; so that we, too, can find ourselves at the top of the heap, receiving the respect and deference of others. [Maybe that’s why today’s Old Testament lesson features Absalom’s efforts to seize power from David, and the Gospel lesson features the disciple’s request to reign with Jesus when he establishes His kingdom.]
But how does one “make much” of a King who “makes little” of Himself?
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus takes our ideas about greatness and glory — and turns them on their heads:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
We serve a powerful God; but His power is revealed in weakness. We serve a wise God; but His wisdom is revealed in the foolishness of a cross. We serve a glorious God; but His glory is revealed — not in “lording it over” others — but in serving others, and in laying down His life in sacrificial love.
Will we be eager to exalt this “Servant King” today? And how will our lives reflect the “upside-down greatness” that puts His glory on display?