Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Daily Devotional: May 17

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 10

Perhaps the greatest sermon ever preached on Mark Chapter 10 was given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on February 4, 1968. This sermon, "The Drum Major Instinct," (please listen to it here) masterfully expounds on not only Mark 10, but also a unique darkness that exists in each and every one of us.

James and John are walking with Jesus as they did almost every day during His ministry on earth. I've done a few group hikes in my life, and funny conversations and arguments can help pass the time on tedious parts of the trail. Jesus and his posse walked everywhere. I can imagine how boring it would be to be walking for hours a day, and can imagine how my mind would cook up bizarre theories and ideas as it looked for ways to keep itself occupied. James and John are walking with Jesus, and they ask Him an innocent enough question:

"Hey, when this is all done, can we sit on either side of your throne in Heaven?"

Dr. King's sermon identifies the single driving force behind human activity is the Drum Major Instinct. This instinct, this desire to be recognized, is the gas in our engines. We want people to think we are important, we want people to desire us, we want people to listen to us. Dr. King points out that our very first cries as infants were cries for attention and affection, and it never stops as old as we get. James and John were acting out of their Drum Major Instinct because all of us do. All of us want to be the greatest. 

Jesus in one of the few instances where He gives specific instructions for living, tells His followers exactly what is needed to be first among them. Be last. If you want to be great you must be a servant to all.  Using Himself as an example, as we all should, Jesus says He did not come into the world to be served, but to serve. 

I'm not a nice person when I get stressed, cold, or hungry (or am in an airport). I become even more selfish and needy than I usually am. My selfishness is born out of my Drum Major Instinct to be served. I deserve speedy service and good food. I deserve recognition for the good things I do. 

Our desire to be recognized, to be in the lead of the parade, isn't inherently evil. It is easily corrupted by our hearts, but is also something we can use for good. We can be drum majors for Love. We canbe drum majors for Hope. We can lead by serving. At the end of the sermon, Dr. King gives his hopes for what people would say about him when he dies. 
"I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace.  I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.  I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.
Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side,  not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Flour & Yeast & Salt & Water & Grace & Peace

There's cheese and then there's cheese. The former comes in a resealable bag and the latter usually has a funny french name and funnier smell. The earliest records of cheese being made by our ancestors is from 8000 years before Jesus would have been dipping bread into oil and fresh goat-cheese.

There's bread and then there's bread. The former comes from a plastic bag with a twist-tie and the latter comes from an oven. The former has tons of funny sounding ingredients, the latter usually has about four. Humankind had been baking wheat flour into bread for up to 30,000 years before Jesus said he was bread.

Most evolutionary biologists say homo sapiens acquiring the ability to cook food is what allowed us to grow our big brains and earn our place at the top of the food chain. Our ability to make milk and heads of grain into things like cheese and bread allowed us to develop agricultural societies, and civilization itself.

But we didn't have to make good cheese. We didn't have to bake good bread.

There really isn't a reason, from a strictly evolutionary perspective, for our desire to constantly innovate and create good food for our families. The ancient Egyptians cooking bread in ovens in 8000BC probably wouldn't immediately recognize the need for the five dollar red velvet cupcake at Sprinkles in Dallas, but they would find it delicious.

Something in us drives us to create. Something in us drives us to enjoy delicious food, and to share it with the people we love. We aren't just creators, we are--by our very nature--sharers of our creations. Tonight I baked a loaf of whole-wheat bread from scratch, dipped it into balsamic vinegar, placed a slice of chèvre and three slices of cherry tomatoes on top, and took a big bite. I don't deserve food to taste that good.

I mushed some ingredients together and shoved them into an oven, but then something else took over and made it into bread. At the most I put seeds into the ground and watered them, but something else took over to make tomatoes. I just bought the cheese at the store! I did next to nothing and was given a gift of a delicious bite of food. The next bite was my wife's, as I ran and made her try this delicious bread.

About 2000 years ago, Jesus was speaking to a large crowd of people next to the shores of a lake. Many of the people in this crowd had been present when He performed a miracle, feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish. He made an allusion to that miracle, then to the feeding of the Israelites in the desert by God, and then made a declaration.

"I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

As important as bread is in our lives, in Jesus' day it was even more important. One of the Aramaic (language Jesus spoke) words for bread was the same as the word for life. Jesus was saying "I am the life of life."

Because there's cheese and then there's cheese. There's bread and then there's bread. There's life and then there's life. 

The understanding of how little I deserve and how much I get anyway comes only from the understanding of what life is. Humility isn't thinking less of myself, it's thinking of everything around me in proper perspective with respect to my needs. It's understanding the entirety of my life is contained within Christ's energy moving through the world. In Him there are miracles everywhere I look. In Him I live, move, and bake my bread. 

About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.