To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Sermon based on Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus as we know throughout his ministry was very critical of the Scribes and Pharisees. In our gospel lesson this morning from Matthew he accused them of imposing too many demands upon the people. He criticized them for laying heavy burdens upon their shoulders, without helping them carry the load. Jesus warned that their ethical teachings should be followed, but their example should be avoided. Throughout Scripture they often made a spectacle of their religion. Their focus was upon raising their social status through religion. Their religious acts were for the purpose of distinguishing themselves from others, wearing long fringes, taking the best seats in the synagogue, insisting on being called “Father.” They dressed and acted in a way that drew attention. While the example of the Scribes and Pharisees were admirable and worth emulating, we learn from the life and ministry of Jesus, that our faith is not about putting on a show to gain the approval of others but rather serving others.
Our acts of service in God’s Kingdom should be done because of our love and devotion towards God, not for the benefit of winning the approval of other people. People will respond to leadership when they begin to trust our commitment to serve others. In relationship to our service in the church I would venture to say that the demands and rewards of leadership in the church are greater than perhaps any other organization. Leadership in the church does not come from election to an office or the occupation of a prestigious position, but rather from our service. For us as Christians our goal is to become Christ’s kind of leaders!
Here are helpful traits that will allow us to become Christ’s kind of leaders.
First, we must recognize and be sensitive to the needs around us. Before we speak or act, we have to listen, observe, analyze and study things to become acquainted with those needs. Earlier this week I was talking to someone about my work experience prior to ministry. As many are aware I worked in the garbage business with many character building jobs growing up until after my graduation from college when I moved into sales and marketing. This person asked me, “How did you market and sell garbage collection?” I jokingly replied that’s why I’m in ministry now because I was never able to figure it out very well! The company I was employed with was the first to offer recycling services and that brought some new business initially. Soon however other companies began the same recycling services. When other garbage companies started reducing their prices to acquire existing customers, we did the same to keep customers. While trying to sell and market garbage services to both new and existing customers I was fully aware that the product we were selling was just the same as the other companies. Customers did not care whether their dumpsters were blue, brown or burgundy but the difference the “selling point” was our commitment to go that extra mile in customer service. In relationship to leadership in the Church throughout Scripture we learn how Jesus always met people’s most pressing needs and indeed would go that extra mile. Whether it was feeding the five thousand, restoring sight to the blind, or even raising someone from the dead, Jesus helped others with their needs. Likewise we as a Church must be willing to discover the needs of others and respond accordingly.
As we become aware of these needs, we as Christ’s kind of leaders will need to support each other. Max Lucado in his book The Eye of the Storm wrote about the story of two paddleboats. They left Memphis about the same time, traveling down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. As they traveled side-by-side, sailors from one vessel made a few remarks about the snail’s pace of the other. Words were exchanged. Challenges were made. And the race began. Competition became vicious as the two boats roared through the Deep South. One boat began falling behind. Not enough fuel. There had been plenty of coal for the trip, but not enough for a race. As the boat dropped back, an enterprising young sailor took some of the ship’s cargo and tossed it into the ovens. When the sailors saw that the supplies burned as well as the coal, they fueled their boat with the material they had been assigned to transport. They ended up winning the race, but burned their cargo. God has entrusted cargo to us, too: our children, spouses, friends even this congregation. Our job is to do our part in seeing that this cargo achieves its full potential.
Finally we must be accountable to God in what we do and say. Sometimes our faith can often be like riding a two-seated or what is often known as a tandem bicycle. Most people on a tandem bicycle prefer the front seat to the back because the person on the back pedal doesn’t get to guide. The person on the front holds the handlebars and determines the direction of the bike. While it’s easy to be content and take the back seat and coast along in our faith, we must move forward. In Jesus we have our guide who sits in front and directs us, and requires us to pedal together with him. Sometimes human nature creates a desire for us to be out front leading. However as Christians we realize we are accountable to God and we must allow God to guide us in all we do and say. Our call to leadership as a church is a commission to servant hood. We should approach our service as our passage from Matthew indicates with humility.
The late John Selden was an Englishman who taught law in the 17th century. He once said the following about humility. Humility is a virtue all preach, none practice; and yet everybody is content to hear.
This morning as I think of the subject of humility I am reminded of this following Scripture passage that says:
He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:8)
The greatest symbol of servant leadership is behind me this morning. The Cross represents our greatest symbol of servant hood. Our greatest leader in life was placed upon a cross. He suffered and died upon the cross so that others might live. Jesus through his sacrifice gave to us the promise of eternal life. As we strive to become Christ’s kind of leaders, let us avoid the path of the Scribes and Pharisees and remember that it is not the amount of religious knowledge that we possess that is most important. Rather it is how we use this knowledge to glorify God. Together let us become Christ’s kind of leaders!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
November 5, 2017