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Called to Serve (15-05-23)

A Bible Reading: Matthew 20. 20 - 28

Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. “What is it you want?” he asked.She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the 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 your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was drawn to the wording and symbolism of the service itself. The main theme of the King’s calling to serve his people was written large throughout the service like Blackpool through a stick of seaside rock. Welcomed to the Abbey in the name of the King of Kings by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King responded very simply:

“In his name, and after his example,

I come not to be served but to serve.”

This set the tone for everything that was to follow. Each symbol presented had that call to serve etched on it along with a commitment to rule with equity and justice, to work for peace, to exercise mercy and compassion, and to do it all with God’s help.

In society around us, there is much jostling for power from the school playground to the arena of politics and celebrity. It appears that the disciples were no different. James and John’s mother clearly had high aspirations for her sons. Apparently the other ten disciples were put out by this request. Where would it leave them in the pecking order? However, Jesus’s response is not one of criticism, but gentle challenge. He recognises that James and John have no idea what they are asking or the personal cost involved.

Reminiscent of a priest’s ordination, the most private and deeply personal moment of the Coronation service was the anointing with oil hidden from public view by three screens. The oil was an outward sign of the invocation of the Holy Spirit to equip the new king for his weighty burden of responsibility and service. It was a truly poignant and moving moment, the high point of the whole service, reminding us all, that, as Christians, we are called first and foremost to serve others and to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us.

The King’s Prayer (from the Coronation Service) God of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth. Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace. through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Zadok the Priest, Coronation Anthem by Handel

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