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489Homily for 4/1/12 - L5 - Christian Leadership

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  • Fr David Moser
    Apr 1, 2012
      Mark 10:32-45

      In the past couple of weeks as we read the Gospel, we have seen that
      Jesus has begun to prepare his disciples for His coming crucifixion,
      resurrection and ascension. Gradually He introduces them to the idea
      that even though it may appear that He has been taken from them, that
      this will not be the case and that even death will not be able to
      separate Him from them. As the time of their journey to Jerusalem draws
      near, Jesus more and more begins to give His disciples the tools that
      they will need in their coming ministry as the leaders of His Church
      which will be built upon the rock of His own life and resurrection and
      which will be realized by the coming of the Holy Spirit. For this
      reason, in today’s Gospel account our Lord takes advantage of an
      internal rivalry among the disciples about who is or will be greater in
      the Kingdom of Heaven to teach them how they will lead the Church.

      James and John had asked Jesus in a moment of privacy for the privilege
      of sitting one at His right hand and one at His left in the Kingdom of
      heaven. Still seeing the Kingdom of heaven as a worldly institution,
      then aspired to the seats of honor next to the Great Lord and King
      Himself. Taking this moment to teach them, Jesus pointed out to them
      that if they were to aspire to be with Him in honor, that they must also
      suffer with Him saying, “Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the
      cup of which I drink? and be baptized with the baptism with which I am
      baptized?” and yet this by itself did not qualify them to occupy the
      positions of honor in the Kingdom of heaven to which they aspired. When
      the other disciples heard of this, they began to grumble and complain
      against James and John, thinking that these two had tried to push aside
      the others and secretly take for themselves the greater honor.

      This was the moment that Jesus took to teach His disciples about what it
      meant to receive honors and positions of leadership in the Kingdom of
      heaven saying, “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the
      Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise
      authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever
      will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you
      will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man
      came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a
      ransom for many.” This saying points out the basic difference in the
      order of men and the order of God. Among men, Jesus pointed out, rulers
      exercise authority over their subjects, but with God, those who are
      given the responsibility to lead do so by serving their subjects. And
      the greatest example of this is Jesus Christ Himself, the God/man, the
      creator of the world who will voluntarily give up His own life for the
      whole world. He does not command the world to follow Him, but rather He
      loves mankind and through His own sacrifice and service opens the way
      for them to follow Him in love. This is the essential difference between
      worldly honor and leadership on one hand and heavenly honor and
      leadership on the other. Men lead from a position of authority –
      commanding their followers, but Jesus (and those who would follow after
      Him) will lead from a position of humility – serving others and leading
      by love and compassion.

      The disciple of St Silouan, Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov) of Essex,
      gave a pair of images to point out this difference. He spoke of worldly
      authority and honor as a great pyramid. At the broad base of the pyramid
      were the greatest mass of people who would be led. As a person rose to
      positions of greater honor and responsibility, they also rose higher in
      the pyramid. Each layer supported all those above it and were supported
      in turn by those below it. Thus those at the base of the pyramid, those
      of the least honor, supported all the rest by their labor and loyalty
      while those at the top of the pyramid supported no one and were
      supported by all, and yet they were responsible to guide the whole of
      the pyramid. With greater honor and responsibility came also a greater
      host of people supporting that person. This pyramid looks very familiar
      to those of us who have encountered the worldly forms of government and
      leadership (whether governmental or in other organizations). Those at
      the top have the vision and guide the whole group while they are
      supported by all the other members on lower levels who do their bidding
      and realize their plans.

      The Kingdom of God, however, is a different image given to us by Fr
      Sophrony. He describes honor and authority in the Kingdom of God as the
      same pyramid, but upside down. The one of greatest honor (our Lord Jesus
      Christ Himself) is at the point of the pyramid upon which the weight of
      the whole rests. He is not supported by all the rest, but supports them.
      Those of greater honor and authority in the Kingdom of God do not lead
      from above, but support from below. As one is given greater honor, he
      also receives greater grace from God so that he might also participate
      in supporting all those who are “below” himself while being supported
      only by those “above” himself – and in the end being fully supported and
      carried by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This image is remarkable for
      it shows us that in the Kingdom of God those who are called to greater
      authority are also called to the greater labor of supporting all those
      who are under that authority. This is the image of the truth of the
      words, “whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And
      whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”

      What then does this mean for those of us here in our own small parish
      here in this city. We are not, after all, in positions of great honor in
      the world. We do not lead the Church but strive to conform ourselves to
      the life of the Church as we are led and taught by others. But that does
      not mean that we do not ascend to places of honor in the Church. God
      gives to each of us a place and in that place there are those who
      support us and those whom we support. Most obvious of this is the place
      of parents and children. The commandments speak to us and say “honor
      your parents”. But that honor of being a parent comes also with the
      necessity and responsibility that the parent has to support his own
      child and to care for him and provide for him in every way. Not only do
      we see this “upside down” pyramid of honor in the natural order of
      parents and children, but we also see it in the relationships of
      godparents, (spiritual parents) and their spiritual children. Godparents
      step into that place of honor and support their own godchildren in their
      spiritual life and growth. In every parish there are those who have the
      responsibility to keep order, to teach, to serve in the altar, to sing,
      and so on. Each of these roles carries with it its own honor and
      therefore also demands that we serve and support others through our
      There are those who simply by their own age and experience in the
      spiritual life are honored as elder brothers and sisters – these too are
      called upon to support those in the parish who have less experience and
      maturity than themselves. At times we elect parish officers and parish
      council members – again positions which bring with them some honor and
      authority, but which also demand that we serve our brothers and sisters.
      There are also the clergy, the priest and deacon and those who are
      raised into the minor orders of the clergy. These are positions of
      honor, and our traditions about how to treat the priest or deacon and
      how to interact with them indicate for us how that honor is expressed.
      But this honor also carries with it the responsibility to serve the
      parish and the pastor by his labors and prayers supports the whole
      parish in its spiritual life. Of course our bishop is greatly honored
      and yet he holds not only our parish, but every parish and clergyman in
      the diocese in his hand and by his labors and prayers we are supported.
      This is how the honor and authority of the Kingdom of God is expressed.

      If we have this responsibility to support others, how then do we do so?
      First and foremost we do this by praying for one another, but not only
      for one another, we pray with one another. When we pray for someone, we
      reach out and offer some of our own strength to them in their need. When
      we pray with someone, we pick them up and walk together with them for a
      little time, supporting them by our own strength. Other means of
      supporting one another is to simply offer encouragement – to listen as
      one pours out his heart, expressing his frustration, his weakness, his
      sorrows, his hopes and dreams and to offer words of comfort and
      encouragement along the way. Sometimes no words are needed, but simply
      to be present and by your very presence ease the burden of another
      person. At times a more active role is needed – to provide for some
      physical need or to offer assistance in some labor. To work with one
      another is a means of supporting one another. If we work together in all
      things, we fulfill the spirit of this Gospel of the vital necessity to
      serve one another.

      We are here together in the Church, not as a social club or as a service
      organization or for some other worldly purpose. We are in the Church
      first and foremost to work out our salvation. In doing this we are
      supported by others, by our elders, by our clergy, by our bishops. We
      are supported by those who have had some experience or who simply have a
      greater reserve of strength at the moment. We, in fact, are here to work
      out our salvation together. In this undertaking, we are all supported by
      our Lord Jesus Christ Who in His hand carries not only you and I, but
      Who carries all the Church and Who, by His grace which He pours out upon
      us all, enables us to support and help and encourage those around us so
      that together we might enter into the Kingdom of God praising and
      glorifying Him to whom we are united in love.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org