It occurred to me, as it might to many others, that a person spends a great deal of time and energy to obtain celebrity status and then spends a great deal of time and energy to hide from that celebrity status. A curiosity, indeed. In much the same way, we tend not to notice celebrities when they show up where we least expect or fail to look like themselves.
On TV is a commercial in which Taylor Swift is a waitress and bartender and few recognize her even though her poor service and ineptitude at those roles should have suggested something was amiss. Perhaps you have seen it. It is a humorous take on reality. We could all be served by famous people and never know it because none of us expect to be served by famous people. That is the key to it all. We expect to be served by anonymous folks who have no names or special identities. We expect to sit in special places at special tables and to be served by people who are always in the background while all the attention is on us and what we are saying and doing.
A few weeks ago we heard something of a parable from Jesus about presuming our place of honor and choosing instead to sit lower rather than expecting privilege that did not belong to us. We hear Him all the time tell us about humility -- sometimes warning us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought and other times by demonstrating a servant's heart. He knows our hearts and bluntly insists to disciples competing for honor that it is not to be that way among us. But most of all He simply does what not one of us expects. He who should be served is the servant of all.
Now you may be wondering about a rambling thought in which Taylor Swift and Jesus are the only two named individuals. My point is not to compare the two but to describe how unlikely it is that celebrities might be servants or servants celebrities. Most folks work their whole lives to get up a step or two on the ladder of success where they are not the servants of all. Few look back as they make their way up that staircase of accomplishment and notoriety. Yet it seems curious how many long for anonymity and find the top of the heap is not what they expected it to be. They don't really want to give up that celebrity status but they would like to disappear ever now and then. They want a break from fame (though seldom from fortune).
Our humility is usually a temporary reprieve from exaltation, a vacation from the burdens of fame but not quite an embrace of servanthood. Our Lord is Son of God in human flesh and blood but this was no fantasy trip to see how the other half lives. This is His saving purpose and destiny. He is determined to embrace this servanthood even at the cost of suffering and death upon the cross. He does not take a break from the glory of heaven but leaves to accomplish a greater glory -- one revealed on the cross. And the miracle of it all is that He did this freely out of His great and profound love for us.
What is even more amazing is that this is the path He calls us to follow. Take up your cross and follow Me, He says. Love as I have loved you. We would do just about anything to avoid becoming servant of all until the Holy Spirit creates in us a new heart in which this servant life is not what we run from but run to. You see this in the history of Christianity and its mercy works on behalf of the poor, the sick, the orphan, the widow, the aged, the infirm, and those alone. From the cause of the unborn to the insistence that death cannot be consoled with a funny story and a smile, Christians continue along the way of humility, service, and mercy work. This is not and should never become a vacation time of service before we head back to our glory lives but the radical direction of this new life created in us in our baptism into Christ.
Given the way Christianity has been hijacked by those who make God into the servant of our own ignoble pursuits of selfish gain and the elusive dream of happiness, it has become a radical Gospel, indeed. We need to take care lest humility and the path of the servant become mere diversions in our self-centered lives. Such is a grave betrayal of the Christian Gospel and perhaps the chief threat to the vitality and viability of the Christian faith itself.