Rumblings from the Pastor’s Study:
“He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Since this past month marked one year since Donald Trump was inaugurated as President, I found myself thinking back about his campaign slogan for the 2016 election, “Make America Great Again.” The intent of the slogan is pretty clear. For anyone who believed that the United States has slipped out of its top role in world power and prestige as a nation, dropping below other countries in creativity, productivity, and even quality of life, the Trump campaign urged a trust that he could turn that lapse around, returning America to its former position.
As I considered further, it occurred to me that the church might at times find itself wanting to take on that slogan for itself—“Make the Church Great Again!” For certainly the position of the church in American life has faced a decline. It’s an old story, at least in the mainline churches, that membership is in a steady fall, compared to a time a few decades back when most people attended some church, mostly a mainline one. In addition to this, at that time many if not most of our political, educational, civic, and business leaders had at least a nominal relationship to those denominations as well. The church had a lot more power and influence in society than it does now—a lot more clout. Perhaps it is time, I pondered, that the church take over President Trump’s slogan for ourselves—“Let’s make the Church great again!” And that would be just fine provided we kept in mind at least one thing—the definition of “great”—at least as the Bible defines it.
And perhaps the clearest place to look for that definition is in the story several of the gospel writers pass on to us, one line of which, in Mark’s version, is quoted at the head of this page. In that particular passage, as Jesus and His disciples are traveling toward Jerusalem for Jesus’ final week, several of the disciples get into an argument, the subject of which is, “Who is the greatest among us?” When Jesus later asks what they were going on and on about, they were quite appropriately shamefaced about it—Mark says they were “silent.” But apparently Jesus already knew. So gathering them together, Jesus pronounced the truth of the kingdom of God that is quoted above—“If you want to be great, be a servant—if you want to be first, serve God and each other and Me, and be willing to take last place in the power parade, ready to serve all.” Then bringing a child into their midst, a child with no power or influence or any kind of social standing, He told them, “Whoever welcomes this child and values him or her in My name welcomes Me. And whoever doesn’t, does not welcome Me.”
Such is Jesus’ definition of “great”—the kingdom definition. And it appears that of we tale this at all seriously, for us to make the church great again, we need to really learn to serve—to reach out in love—not to be concerned about prestige or influence of clout, welcoming those who have no of those advantages just as we would welcome Jesus Himself. This is great in Jesus’ eyes—let’s make the Church great again.
In Christ’s love, Pastor Steve