Mark 10:35-45 (below): Jesus “came not to be served but to serve,” and the community that arose to embody his life (us, that is) came to regard those words as God’s words about God. God comes to us “not to be served but to serve, and to give [God’s] life a ransom for many,” indeed for all.
We believe in a God who keeps turning our standards of greatness and power and success on their heads, a God who defeats our rejection by letting us do our worst and refusing to compete with us, a God who comes to us in the voices and lives of those we tend to discount.
That’s subversive service—not just service, but service that keeps disrupting our built-in wishes to have the whole world under our control, opening us to a world better than we could ever have imagined. That sort of service is the opposite of being a doormat. It’s subversive.
We’re not very good at practicing this. In fact, for most of our 2,000 year story we’ve shown ourselves to be fairly effective at domesticating servanthood. We’re good at lapsing into power games as usual. Some of us are good at using lip-service to servanthood as an excuse to get control, but just as crucial, many of us are good at letting others get away with that. Sure, they take advantage of us, but at least life is more predictable that way.
But God’s call to subversive service won’t be silenced, even if God has to work outside the channels we recognize. In Jesus God showed up and keeps showing up not to be served but to serve, and not just to serve but to serve subversively. We’re being drawn to serve the God who rules by serving us and everyone else.
Are we ready for that? Are we ready to drink the cup that God drinks, to be baptized (immersed) with the baptism God is baptized with, to give our very lives away to win back a whole world? Jesus says that, ready or not, that’s what will happen to us anyway. Yes, that’s daunting. It’s also our salvation.
Mark 10:35-45: James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”