24 November, Sunday- He came to serve rather than be served

24 November

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2 Samuel 5:1-3

All the tribes of Israel then came to David at Hebron. ‘Look’ they said ‘we are your own flesh and blood. In days past when Saul was our king, it was you who led Israel in all their exploits; and the Lord said to you, “You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.”’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.

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Colossians 1:12-20

We give thanks to the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.
Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.

He is the image of the unseen God
and the first-born of all creation,
for in him were created
all things in heaven and on earth:
everything visible and everything invisible,
Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers –
all things were created through him and for him.
Before anything was created, he existed,
and he holds all things in unity.
Now the Church is his body,
he is its head.

As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead,
so that he should be first in every way;
because God wanted all perfection
to be found in him
and all things to be reconciled through him and for him,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.

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Luke 23:35-43

The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

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This is the King of the Jews.

As I reflected on today’s gospel, I imagined myself as one of the 2 criminals hanging on the cross there with Jesus, one on his left and the other on his right. Which one of the two criminals would I be? Would I be like the leaders who stood by watching Jesus, not believing that He is indeed the King of the Jews? If I were honest, I’d probably be the one who said “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  If I were that criminal, not having met nor encountered Jesus, I would probably be a bit sceptical, and also a bit anxious and afraid about my impending death. I may not go to the extent of expressing contempt, but I would surely be challenging him to prove himself and his ‘powers’ to save me from this painful death. In contrast, the other criminal was full of remorse for everything he had done in his lifetime. He recognized that Jesus is indeed the Lord and Saviour. His heart repentant, he humbly asked Jesus to remember him in His Kingdom. He didn’t demand this, he asked.

Unlike the 2 criminals, we don’t have to guess or wonder about Jesus’ power and royalty. We are blessed to have experienced the hand of God and Jesus in our lives, in big or small ways. Can we walk in faith that no matter what circumstances we face today, whatever challenges, pain and suffering, we can be assured that Jesus, the crucified King’s only aim is to help and protect the weak, and restore dignity to the poor and the helpless?

Today’s first two readings focus on kingdoms and power. In 2 Samuel, the tribes of Israel anoint David as king, following the will of the Lord who put him in charge of the Israelites even when Saul was still king. The Lord had, at the time, given David two charges, the second of which was to be “commander of Israel.” The first, however, was to “shepherd my people Israel” — to care for them, to love them, and to serve them. Power serves — it is not served. Jesus did not come to earth to declare a material kingdom of power and might, but came to serve us and save us. He came to serve rather than be served, and that service extends throughout time.

Just over the Deepavali weekend, social media was abuzz with news of a certain resident arguing and verbally abusing a security guard at his condominium. He was purportedly unhappy with a rule by the condominium’s management, which imposed a S$10 fee for visitors who park their cars there after 11pm. Being a guest of our country, he really upset many Singaporeans (and me) with the way he treated the innocent security guard, who was merely doing his job. He showed a disdain for those who live in public housing and had no respect for a fellow human being, deemed below his social status, I suppose. Like all fellow Singaporeans, I waited till the holiday weekend was over to see how this story would pan out. Would he lose his residency, his job and all credibility? His life must have been a living hell that Deepavali weekend – the backlash of his actions. Did he feel that his status in life gave him the power and ‘authority’ to treat others without respect? To demand service, without first serving?

As upset as I am over this incident, I am reminded that Jesus forgives those who wrong him — as he says, “…they do not know what they are doing.”

Can we step back, recognize what we are doing or not doing, and make a concerted effort to change? At the same time, can we extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your Kingship. For being a perfect example of what love, compassion and service means. May our lives be a true reflection of what it is to be Christian. Thank you for being Lord of our lives.

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