This past weekend the Gospel reading for the worship service came from Mark 8. Jesus utters those famous, haunting words: For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, … will save it. Leaders within the church are especially susceptible to getting this wrong. Jesus speaks to this over and over again.
You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authoriry over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your slave: even as the Son of man cam not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a a ransom for many. – Matthew 20.25-28
James Alison, theologian and Catholic priest, speaks to this point powerfully and wistfully. Taking oneself too seriously is the cardinal sin.
“So the titles, the costumes, the weightiness of tone, the gravity of attitude are pure kitsch, fading remnants of prison life, unless they are brought to life by someone who is throwing themselves lightly into being your servant, which means finding out and ministering to your actual needs, not to what they tell you your needs should be. Only those who are prepared to sit lightly to being a nobody will be found, to their own surprise, to have become a somebody!” – James Alison, The Portal and the Half-Way House: Spacious Imagination and Aristocratic Belonging