Leadership is Service – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant”

Mark 10:35-45

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Hey It’s good to be back home again!! Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend, Yes it’s good to be back home again.” I love John Denver songs. There are many great things a faith leader can benefit when he/she sets sail away from his/her local community for a while, even when it’s only one week. While I was away in Seoul Korea to attend the Episcopal Asiamerica ministry Consultation as a member of the EAM Council, and to attend the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Anglican Church of Korea, I met great world leaders as well as local people who continue to spread the love of God to all through partnership and collaborations. I had the chance to meet the rector and Vestry members of Trinity Wall Street New York, one of the richest parishes in the whole of the Episcopal Church, who were so humble to visit our Filipino migrant workers in a poor neighborhood outside the city. We danced and we ate together a tasteful Igorot delicacy, Chicken soup / Pinikpikan style. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.” Not only did I make a connection with faith leaders and local people, but I also learned and witnessed the history and geography of the North and South Korea. I sat down on top of the Observatory building looking below the river that divides the two nation. I began to sing quietly Bob Dylan’s song “Blowing in the wind”……. Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist Before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind The answer is blowin’ in the wind. I thought what happened after South Korea experience was the highlight of my being away for two weeks. I had the most wonderful experience being with my family on our first cruise vacation to Ensenada Mexico. I will never trade such experience with the world. It strengthened my spiritual journey and my being a husband and a father. I encourage you all to do the same. Have sometime for your self and family or friends. Experience that which you have been deprived. I believe God is calling us all to enjoy life, experience the mountain top feeling, the smooth sailing at sea, then come back renewed and ready to face what life has to give. Those who have been there will surely agree that we need a time to be with God in many mysterious and wonderful ways. I could certainly relate now with what Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to be great among you, will be your servant.” The name “Great Britain” says a lot on greatness. Among other things it points out the basic desire in every person to become great. It is so basic that if one cannot become great, one tries to attach oneself to something that is great. If that too is not possible, some strive at least to look great. Moved by this universal desire to become great, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus whether they could be a sort of Bishop, Rector, Vicar and a Deacon when he becomes King. Jesus does not blame them for asking this, but points out to them, perhaps to their embarrassment, that true greatness is achieved through service: “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness, must serve the rest”. Jesus first outlined in today’s gospel, the accepted standard of civil authority: domination, authoritarian with rulers lording it over their subjects. But this is not how it must be in his community. He saw authority as an opportunity to serve.

In this coming year, it is good that we reflect on who can be a good leader in the light of today’s gospel. People seek authority for different reasons. Some people like the power that goes with it; it makes them feel important and in control. Others like the prestige it brings. Others like the higher salary. All these reasons have one thing in common – authority is seen as an opportunity to promote oneself. Authority can be distinguished into two kinds: an authority which imposes, dominates and controls; and an authority which accompanies, listens, liberates, empowers, gives people confidence in themselves and calls them to be aware of their responsibilities. Jesus sees authority as an opportunity to serve. As always, he set the example himself. He did not lord it over people. He appealed, he invited, called them by their names but left the response to them. This is how he wanted authority to be exercised in his community. Authority should not be given to those who seek it, but only to those who have proved that they are willing to serve. Service is not to be understood as meaning only servant jobs. Service is also any noble and unselfish act. It includes one’s daily duty taken as God’s will for us. We do serve God and human society at large whenever we do our daily task with a sense of dedication and justice, also offering a helping hand to those with whom we live and work. Of course duty, however praiseworthy, is not the ideal Christian service. Christ challenges us to go beyond one’ duty and serve our fellow human beings without hope of gain or reward, without gratitude or praise. True Christian service is, therefore, that which is done solely out of love without any personal advantage, in order to continue Christ’s work of bringing light and hope, help and healing into the lives of others. Suffering and service go hand in hand. Service always involves suffering because one can’t help another without some personal sacrifice. Let us ask ourselves: Am I willing to render selfless service to all my fellow human beings? Am I growing a good seed within me? There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

May we all do service to all, for by doing service comes greatness. Let us not be afraid to become vulnerable for that which God calls us to be. I would like to share this wonderful prayer of Sir Francis Drake which I learned at yesterday’s Diocesan Convention. I would like to invite you all to say it with me:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake


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