Visible Signs of Care
As we continue on in this pandemic, I hear more and more people are making masks and wearing them. Different designs are out there- people are getting creative making them out of socks (clean socks I should add), handkerchiefs and any fabric they have. The first time I was out in public and saw people wearing masks it was a bit jarring. I realized how much I appreciate seeing other people’s faces when I am walking by them or talking to them. I tried a mask on my boys the other day – they had a hard time keeping them on and my 3 year old said that it looks like a band-aid for your face. He’s not wrong in his comparison.
We talked about the fact that a mask is both a way to protect oneself from getting sick, but even more so it keeps other people safe. And I remind myself that when I see a person wearing a mask- it is a visible sign that they care for others. Cares about the people around them and the world. We are looking for ways to help and serve each other when we can’t get to close together- who knew that serving and caring for others would look like wearing a mask on your face?
Jesus reminds us tonight in our reading that serving others means we are putting others first and are willing to make sacrifices in our lives. Whether that sacrifice is sharing wealth or resources, or making yourself look a little self conscious as you don a mask in public. If you find yourself hesitant in serving others in this way, you aren’t alone. Even though the disciples in this story seem awfully eager to accept the consequences of being a disciple, it doesn’t seem as if they really understood what Jesus was telling them.
And we have to mention the mother in this story- I love her! She is not going to let anything get in the way of her getting her children into positions of power and opportunity. She goes right up to Jesus and asks for a favor- if her sons can sit next to Jesus Christ in the kingdom of heaven! I can’t imagine having the guts to ask Jesus this. But on the other hand, I know that I pray for my children. I ask God for specific things for my kids and for other people- I pray for safety, for good things to happen in their lives. I ask God to fill up their hearts with love so they can be generous and caring to those around them. I ask the Holy Spirit to give them patience in moments of anxiety and hope when they are hurting.
Is it so different to go to Jesus and ask for good things for James and John? Is this more of a prayer for their well-being? This mother wants her children to sit next to Jesus, which means she sees how Jesus is, she sees his leadership style- a servant loving the outcasts and lifting up those who are oppressed- and she wants her sons to live their lives beside and among that kind of king.
What’s Behind the Request?
I have to believe there is more to this question than just a mom trying to push her sons into success. There is a real longing here for a different kind of life for them. And Jesus in his wisdom, turns to the sons to ask if they are ready to make this kind of commitment. Because you see when you pray for someone else- when you ask for God’s blessing in their lives- you aren’t praying for the answer to come back to you- it is for them. It is an unselfish ask- for someone else.
True Joy in Serving
I heard a podcast recently about some research social scientists and psychologists are doing about what it takes to be happy. What it looks like to feel positive about your life. And the key components to happiness and positivity had less to do with how much stuff you had or even your economic situation and had more to do with your gratitude for what you do have and the way you interacted and connected with other people. The more actions of generosity you performed, the higher chance that you would be a happy person. There was even a study where a scientist gave out free cash to people walking by on the street, some of the people were told they had to spend the money on themselves. Other participants were told to spend it on a random act of kindness for someone else- that they couldn’t spend it on themselves. The level of happiness for those who helped someone else was much higher than for those who were spending on only their own wants and needs.
I think Jesus gets this on a very deep human level. Because in his life and death, he served others. And when I think about Jesus, I imagine he was also able to find joy and happiness in this life. Not because everything and everyone around him was perfect, but because he saw this world and recognized all its goodness. He saw us and all of creation through the vision of love.
Are we willing to be like Jesus- to take on the commitment of James and John- to live like Jesus, to face the challenges and the consequences that come from being his disciples? Wear a mask, call a friend, give something away, share God’s love, forgive someone, be a servant to others and let’s find out together.