Of Good Boys and Slaves: An Advent Meditation

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Who is the coolest Star Wars character? I’m sure you know the answer. I imagine one could argue it’s Lando (because he’s played by Billy Dee Williams) or Boba Fett (because he’s so mysterious and owns a rocket backpack). But the obvious answer is Han Solo. The bad Good Guy, or good Bad Guy, of the galaxy. The scoundrel, the pirate, the bad boy who ultimately wins the heart of the princess.

When I was a child my favorite Star Wars character was Luke Skywalker. That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Why Luke and not Han? Because Luke was a good boy. I wanted to be a good boy. I was the first born, the mature one, the moral one who didn’t give mom and dad any trouble. At least until I became a teenager and repented. Luke was the incarnation of good-boy-ness.

Now that I’ve owned my good boy status, I hope it will not be insulting to say that Danny Bryant was a good boy, too. He and I both grew up desiring to be good, moral, and right. We both grew up in moralistic religions. Different religions, but legalistic nonetheless. While the rules were quite different we both sought to obey them.

It is no wonder then that we both grew up to be pastors. The pastorate is filled with grown up good boys and girls. It is no wonder that Wednesday night Danny was ordained a deacon (he will be ordained priest in a few months). A deacon is someone called to serve others in the Church, especially the poor. What better job for a moral person than to be the servant of all?

It’s somewhat surprising then to read the Gospel passage the bishop chose for the ordination service. Here’s part of it.

Jesus said “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.” (Luke 12:35-37, NASB)

Do you see what happened there? It is easy to miss if you read it quickly. Jesus is telling us to be ready for his coming. He is the master, we are the slaves. We don’t know when he is coming. What happens when the master comes? He knocks on the door and finds the servants alert. Then the master girds himself and serves the servants. The slaves recline at the table while the Lord waits on them.

The world and the Church don’t need good boys. They don’t need Luke Skywalkers. They don’t need Han Solos either. What the world and the Church need are sinners who will allow the Lord Jesus Christ to serve them.

Danny is not good enough to be a deacon. I am not good enough to be a priest. None of us are good enough to be Christians, the children of God, members of the new covenant community of the Church. Rather we are mere slaves who one day opened the door to find the Son of God standing there. It was he who came to us, who served us from the manger to the cross to the empty tomb. In his ascension, his sending of the Holy Spirit, and in his promise to return he serves us still.

The best Danny can hope to be is a sinner who, served by Christ and graced by the Spirit, might some days find the strength to serve others in Jesus’ name. That’s all any of us can hope for. To be moved by the vast love of Jesus and perhaps to love someone else for his sake.

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Thomas McKenzie is the author of The Anglican Way, a book he describes as a traveler’s guide to the Anglican tradition, as well as The Harpooner, an Advent reader featuring harpoons—how awesome is that. He graduated from the University of Texas and attended seminary at the Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1998 and planted the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville in 2004, where he is the still pastor. He’s also keeps samurai swords in his office, and wears a skull ring.


7 Comments

  1. Reba

    Thomas-
    Thanks for sharing. The best we can all hope for is to be a sinner, served by Christ and graces by the spirit, might some days find the strength to serve others. — I need to tattoo that on my arm so I see it all the time.

    Reba

  2. Jim Daniels

    Consider your post here a jumping off point for this Sunday’s advent sermon. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Thanks H.S. for timing out the needs of my faith community and this posting and my diligent Rabbit Room perusal.

  3. Tom Murphy

    Amen Thomas! Thanks for serving us through your writing. And thank you for not softening the weight of us being slaves (doulos). I find much comfort in having been moved by the Spirit of God from a slave of sin (Rom 6:17) to a slave of righteousness (Rom 6:18). The permanence of the relationship that God has covenanted to keep with us as His people is a soft pillow in the storms of the holiday season.

    For many, including myself with chaotic family interactions during the holidays, Christmas continues to remain “not a silent night” most years, but the stillness of soul that our slavehood brings surpasses all understanding. Praying that obedience is quick and sweet as he calls us to serve…

    Merry Christmas!

  4. JW

    “What the world and the Church need are sinners who will allow the Lord Jesus Christ to serve them.”

    My initial reaction was a feeling of indignation – Him? serve me? – and I thought instantly of Peter’s reaction to Jesus wanting to wash his feet: “No, you will never ever wash my feet!” (John 13:8, NLT), and Jesus’ reply: “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Amazing how much harder it is to let go of ourselves and let Him serve us than it is to keep trying to serve Him. But ultimately such a place of rest and life!

    Thank you for this reminder.

  5. Chris C

    Thomas – I must admit, at the beginning of the article, I was wondering (concerned?) where you were going to go with it. But, you wrapped it up nicely, sprinkling the story with faith and humility to make the offering tasty and nutritious. 🙂

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