• Chris Smith

Do as I say, not as I do

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:35-45

They teach you in seminary that you should never preach angry. That you shouldn’t take unfiltered rage into the pulpit because the word of God demands a sound mind and a humble and contrite heart from those who would dare to proclaim it to the church. I can’t say that I could preach this without getting visibly angry in the pulpit and so this message remains #TooSpicyforSundays, which is why you’re finding it here.

In the past week news has broken about a growing list of politicians and powerful people who flagrantly violated lockdown restrictions in their own jurisdictions to go somewhere hot and sunny over the holidays—or, slightly more understandable but nevertheless just as wrong, those who travelled to see family, or attend funerals—while telling their constituents that they needed to avoid doing the same for the sake of everyone else and for the good of the province/nation.

Some of the offenders have paid dearly for their transgression, the Minister of Finance in Ontario was forced to resign, while others have made half-hearted apologies or weak attempts at justification for their premeditated duplicity (really—it was a family tradition? 37 million Canadians were asked to set aside their family traditions for the good of society this year!). In every case though what we have is an issue of people in power saying one thing, but then doing another. We are used to the global super-rich or the Hollywood Celebrity caste living by a different set of rules than us common folk. It’s not right, or moral, or Christian—but we’ve long since given up on expecting that from those sorts of people (during the height of the last lockdown the Kardashians rented out a private island for a huge birthday party simply because the lockdown was hard.) but we have higher standards and expectations of our civic, provincial, and national leaders.

What makes this doubly-aggravating is that these are the same people who have been telling ordinary Canadians like you and me to stay home, lock-down, give up our family gatherings, our holiday traditions, and our in-person connections with each other for the sake of battling his pandemic. To what end?

Were they lying?

Does our compliance make no difference?

Or do they just think themselves so far above us that they don’t need to play by the same rules.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a referendum on the efficacy of pandemic measures—at this juncture that’s not the point. The point is that we have fallen so far as a culture that our leaders (many of whom claim to espouse quasi-Christian values and morals) look a lot more like James and John right now than they do like Jesus.

The rulers of the Gentiles do indeed lord their position and power over them. May it be said of the church “not so with you.” Thank you to all of you who played by the rules this holiday season. Whether you agreed with the restrictions or you didn’t. You have shown more integrity than many who lead. May you take this example, and take this anger, and allow it to push you into the opposite action. Where you would consider your sphere of influence, your place of authority—be it your community, your business, your family, or even just your own home—and may you follow the example of Jesus instead.

And if you ever catch me lording my authority over you like the Gentiles do. May you become sufficiently angry enough with me as to call me out like Jesus did his disciples.

Like premiers and party leaders ought to do to their caucuses.

Like 37 million Canadians are doing right now in response.

I’m Pastor Chris and this has been #TooSpicyForSundays

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