Friday, February 13, 2009

Caring for All

portrait of Absalom Jones

"Important leaders use their power over the people. It must not be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great among you, let them care for others. Whoever wants to be first among you must be the one who is owned and cares for all." Mark 10:42-43

Today we celebrate the feast day of Absalom Jones and also Richard Allen, two faithful Christians who were worshiping in a racially mixed congregation, until during a prayer, an usher told them they had to sit in the balcony. They walked out and many followed. They both went on to be ordained, both went on to be firsts in their denominations. Jones was the first African American to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church and Allen in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Both knew what it meant to step out and be a leader, and the consequences of that action. They both lived their lives in the service of others, for the freedom of others, for the safety and happiness of others - and today we have their example to follow. They did not agree on everything and after a time went their separate ways, but they stood up for people, braved the anger and rejection of polite society, and became leaders, not for one group alone, but for the whole of the Church in the world.

Jesus stepped in between James and John who both wanted to be first in God's kingdom. Jesus explained that being first asked a very high price. It asked that they put their own needs, their own goals, their own lives even, second to the needs and lives of other people. Their authority would come out of their willingness to love and care for others. Their firsts would come not from their power but from their level of care and concern. They would be asked to give themselves away in order to be first.

Absalom Jones and Richard Allen lived this kind of leadership. They could have stayed in place and kept quiet, moving to the balcony, making society more comfortable. But instead, they took on the pain of standing up and saying no to prejudice and yes to Christ's reconciling love.They were courageously willing to love others enough to step out in faith. May we all today remember Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, who took Jesus seriously. They led by putting others first, by putting their lives at risk so that true freedom and love might be found in Jesus Christ. May we honor their memories today, by offering ourselves as leaders who are willing to care for others. May our real leadership, our true power and authority, be made visible in the way we care for others.

Set us free, heavenly Father, from every bond of prejudice and fear: that, honoring the steadfast courage of your servants Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, we may show forth in our lives the reconciling love and true freedom of the children of God, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

No comments: