St James

Matthew 20:20-28 

‘The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

Wanting the best for your sons seems the most natural thing in the world. I often wonder what James and John had told their mother about Jesus and what it was really like to follow him. Perhaps they had spared her their growing unease when Jesus spoke of his death and alluded to suffering. She sees the world through the classical lens of thrones and positions of authority. The brothers are beginning to glimpse another reality.

In two-thousand years of Church life we haven’t managed to avoid the language of prestigious appointments and the deference due to the hierarchy. The landscape is complicated and what we expect of our leaders comes into sharper and sharper focus as scandals are revealed. Today’s Gospel gives us a touchstone:

‘Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

A yearning for servant leadership has been expressed in much of the Synodal process. We can map out what we would most hope for in leadership that images Christ. As I was reflecting on today’s Gospel a line from a hymn kept coming into my mind: ‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me’. I wonder if I can change ‘peace’ for ‘servant leadership’? Might what I yearn for best begin in my own life? If I long for a Church that is at the service of others, can I see this modelled in my own life?

How is Christ calling you to servant leadership?