In the Gospel reading for today our Lord Jesus speaks with the Disciples about what greatness in God’s eyes looks like. The Disciple probably used the sort of measures of importance that we often do. Who seemed to spend most time with the Lord? Who did he talk to most often? Or perhaps who came from the best family, or had been wealthiest, or had the best education, or was the most religious? We can still apply all of these criteria to ourselves and to others.
But the Lord Jesus turns all of their expectations, and our own, upside down. If you want to be most important, he says, then you need to live as if you were the least important. If you want to be first, then you have to put yourself last. He says that we have to become the servant – and the word he uses is deacon – we have to become the servant of everyone. Not just the servant of the person we value and respect, and want to be noticed by, but the servant of each other, and the servant of those we do not have such a high opinion of.
This season of Lent is a period in which we are encouraged to say NO to ourselves, as we struggle with eating less and eating more simply, but it is also a time for us to learn to say YES to the service of others more easily and quickly. In Church, and at home, and at work, with friends, and family, and colleagues, and our congregation, we must become those who practice putting themselves last, and putting others first. Is there a job that everyone wants to do, then we should perhaps let others enjoy it. Is there a job that no-one wants to do, then perhaps we need to be the first to volunteer. Does someone ask us to do something, then our first response should be to say yes. At home we should be cheerful sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, in our service of others. At work we should be relied upon to be helpful and considerate of others. In the Church we should be known as those who are busy in the ordinary jobs that need doing every time we meet, and a quick to think of others, and slow to think of themselves.
In this diaconate of all and to all there are no restrictions based on age, or gender, or ability. It is one to which the Lord Jesus himself ordains all those who follow him. It does not mean that we are never able to say no, or sorry, I can’t. We are still to be reasonable and prayerful in our service. But in this time of Lent, above all, we are to reorder our lives and our estimation of what is important, so that serving others, wherever we find ourselves, is understood to be the true measure of Christian greatness. To put ourselves last and least is to be in the only place where we can experience, through humility and in obedience, union with God in Christ, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who made himself least, and sets us the example for our own life of faith.