Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. –Mark 10:43, CEB
I didn’t become an ordained minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to “be great.” But, apparently, that’s the outcome of ministry: greatness.
Now, for the sake of modesty (ahem), let me reel that back in and give an explanation. Recently I came across a translation of that verse in Mark’s gospel that I had never seen before. In a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Life Together: A Discussion of Christian Fellowship, the Lutheran minister and anti-Nazi dissident martyred for his implication in a plot to assassinate the Fuhrer translates Mark 10:43, “Whosoever shall be great among you shall be your minister.” Bonhoeffer refers to this bible verse to highlight what he calls “genuine spiritual authority.” That authority can be found not just in ordained ministers, pastors and priests, but in all who serve one another and their neighbor in witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are so many great people who would never assume to have genuine spiritual authority, let alone boast of their greatness. But the truth is that they are great because of their devotion to servanthood. See, regardless of the translation of that popular Bible verse, at the root of the word ‘servant,’ and in the spirit of Jesus’ lesson to his followers, is “the minister”—the one, anyone, who would serve humankind and the earth we share with compassionate, loving kindness. This is a reflection of the heart of God and an embodiment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today I’m thinking of people in our congregation who volunteer at the Brazos Church Pantry each month, or at the food distribution ministry next door at Peace Lutheran Church on Fridays, working to assure that our neighbors without money for groceries have food on their table. I’m thinking of those in our church family who help our unhoused friends residing in a local motel to get the groceries and personal hygiene items they need in order to get by and move forward. And I’m thinking of the ones among our Christian fellowship, as Bonhoeffer would call it, with the eyes of their heart on our neighbors who can no longer afford to even reside at a motel during these hot, humid days of Texas summer, and how they are scrambling to locate resources to help the ones suddenly pushed to the margins of our daily living. Ministers, every one of them. People with genuine spiritual authority based on nothing else than their desire to serve. As they roll up their sleeves to bag groceries, take boxes of food to a stranger’s car, or email each other to see how they can help a couple living on the streets, I wonder if they have any idea of how great they are. And I wonder if those of us who see or come within the circle of those servant’s affectionate work realize that we are in the midst of greatness.