Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday Reflection - Roger Butcher
This homily was given by Roger Butcher, a first year ordinand, at Evening Prayer on Monday 7th February 2011.
Over the next few weeks, the first year Ordinands will be looking at the Diaconate. Today’s text gives us a view of what it is to be a deacon, interpolate that with our earlier lectionary reading and it seems there is a simple analogy to be made; that all we need to be is ‘nice chaps’. But is it really that simple?
The Philippians struggled with the problem we also face every day; how to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in a hostile environment in which a large majority of our neighbours do not share out convictions. Paul’s advice was to follow his example as he followed Christ, in living in this world with very different values to guide them. “In the world, but not of it.”
In tonight’s epistle, Paul divinely inspired gives honour to Timothy the co-author expressing his own humility. Paul does not pronounce himself as an Apostle, finding authority within his title, but he refers to himself and Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus. The Greek word ‘doulos’ we heard tonight as servants of Christ, a more accurate rendering is slaves of Christ. Not only do they love our Lord whole-heartedly but also they become a slave, a much deeper metaphor than just being ‘nice chaps’. The form of a servant is just a pleasantry for a religious way of talking about it. So, what is to be said about the ‘shape of the slave’?
God initiates a human life on earth, which more and more is entirely given over into the hands of others. This is what slaves experience; their lives are given into the hands of others. It is a shocking fact and difficult language when you think of what slaves really are. The form of a servant will make us think of serving supper on Thursday, assisting in Church duties, or helping an old lady across the road, that sort of thing. The image of a slave evokes something much deeper, dare I say even threatening. The slave is a person who belongs to somebody else; they are in their hands. Paul saw Jesus for who he was, everything became about Christ and Christ became everything to Paul. There was no higher purpose for his life than being a slave of Jesus. God’s love is such that he puts himself in somebody else’s hands, there is this motif of setting apart. When Jesus captured Paul’s heart, Paul was changed he was set apart. Is it any wonder when we find ourselves in difficult situations, out of our comfort zone, that we find such abandonment from the environment we find ourselves in? This environment of setting apart is the place where we need to remind ourselves that we are slaves in the service of our Lord in body, mind and spirit. We share this with the Apostles and the Saints.
The very word ‘slave’ is a frightening one, but we must take comfort in the fact the form of God becomes a slave in his final embodiment. Becoming this slave to our Lord is to be close to God so that we may be pure of heart. That our humility is not forced, that we are not just simply ‘nice people’; or worse still, those who look over their shoulder to see if their good deed has been noticed. However, we seek this joy of pureness of heart, filled with the fruit of holiness that comes only through being a slave to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray;
Almighty Father, who gave your only begotten Son to take upon himself the form of a servant and to be obedient even to death on a cross. Give us the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, that sharing his humility, we may come to be with him in his glory; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.