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  • Ellen Romer Niemiec

Rearranging Deck Chairs

Today's Readings


What do you wish me to do for you?


What a remarkable question to be asked by the Son of God, who is not even limited by death. And what do James and John ask for - seats of perceived honor.


At first it makes me laugh - that’s what you ask for? James and John can ask for anything and they choose seats of honor, to be seen as important. Then again, it makes complete sense. Human beings love to feed their sense of pride and power. We give in to what looks the most important, often at the expense of what is most important. The place of pride that Jesus will freely choose is going to be up on a cross with two other criminals - about as low as one can be in terms of pride and honor.


Paul’s letter reminds us that this is what Jesus freely chose - to be vulnerable and susceptible to all things, not bubble wrapped on a throne. Our unceasing desire for authority, power and pride - that is not what love is. Jesus isn’t uninterested in who sits where because he wants to shame James and John - it is just entirely beside the point. These two men are going to learn (the hard way) that the one who has the most authority and power will choose vulnerability and suffering. God chose to be close to and like us, to not simply ‘know’ our weaknesses but to live in them alongside us - with all that it entails - up to the point of death.


It is frustrating that after 2,000 years we are still chasing power and prestige at the expense of those we are called to love. We are more interested in exerting our authority than laying ourselves bare and meeting people in their vulnerable places. Profit margins take precedent over people. The recent reports out of France are another reminder of how deeply the power and perception of the Church mean more than loving it’s people, especially the youngest and vulnerable. How we seem to keep missing the point. How we want to lay claim to who can receive Jesus in the Eucharist instead of remembering that Jesus, over and over and over again, chose vulnerability and closeness. How we want to fight over the ‘right’ and ‘best’ liturgy to encounter God. These concerns take such places of honor in our hearts and minds that we might completely miss where God is trying to speak to us. We’re too busy fighting over who sits on the right or left to notice that God just wants us to be closer and the right or left doesn’t really matter. We’re rearranging deck chairs and God just wants us to sit down.


What is appealing to me right now? Am I placing my hope in a new job? Perhaps if I get a better title or a pay raise, I can feel good and secure in myself. If it isn’t a C-suite, if I don’t get 100k Instagram followers, if it isn’t _______, it won’t be enough. It is so tempting to look at any of those things as an affirmation of your own personal value and to place our trust in all of these things. All of it is entirely beside the point. It’s not about sitting on the right or the left or about a place of perceived honor. That is not the closeness to which God invites us. There is nothing God would not do. God came to be with us and willingly died for us. God made sure that, above all, we know the depth of God’s love that leaves nothing beyond our reach.


What do you wish me to do for you?


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