Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 24
Tuesday after 4th Sunday of Lent
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Third Way of Service – Work
Jesus took on himself the form of a servant. He came not to be served, but to serve. He went about doing good: healing the sick, preaching good news to the poor, and binding up the broken hearted.
From St Francis:
How the Brothers are to Serve
All the brothers, wherever they find themselves serving or working for others, are not to be the administrators or officials or preside over the house where they are offering service. Nor are they to accept any office which would cause scandal or bring harm to their souls. But let them be the lesser ones and subject to all who dwell in the same house. (Rule of 1221, Chapter VII)
In the Franciscan community we try to be careful about the titles given to office bearers. Where other communities have Priors, Mothers Superior, and Abbots, we have deliberately chosen to use words such as Minister and Guardian. This is an attempt to reflect the servant nature of the community to which we belong.
Of course this can easily become an exercise in semantic gymnastics. After all there are ‘Superiors’ who are gentle caring servants and ‘Ministers’ who have a tendency to rule over those in their care. But whatever title we bear we should still, like Christ, find the role of the servant to be our natural home regardless of words before or letters after our name.
Any position of authority we have is simply because of accidents of birth, circumstance and the occasional bit of hard work. We would do well to remember the words inscribed around the edge of the £2 coin ‘Standing on the shoulders of Giants’. For the most part we are where we are because of the deeds of others. Of itself there is nothing great about being in charge but something special happens when we learn that true greatness consists in serving.
The first disciples struggled with this:
So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10.42-45)
I have struggled with this too. In the early days at seminary in Imbali township in Natal those with a White racial background had to learn to sit on their hams and allow the student community to find its own leaders. It would have been simpler for those who had been used to being in charge to take control of affairs but that would make the church, a witness against prejudice, to be a facsimile of the Apartheid ridden society we lived in. In those days it was truly liberating for me to find myself waiting for other people to tell me what to do instead of always being the one leading from the front. I freely admit to having found It difficult to break the habits of a lifetime of taking charge of things… and I still do!
To choose to serve is not easy. It may mean clearing up the mess made by other people with a smile on your face and accepting the blame for the deeds of others to boot! But then are not slaves supposed to be the whipping boys and scullery maids of society? Choosing to serve is one of the most Christlike things we can do. Hard work yes, for many people it goes against all their natural urges, but a holy path to follow.
Lord Jesus, we greet your coming,
pilgrim messiah, servant king, rejected saviour.
You rode into Jerusalem on a donkey,
symbol of humility and lowliness,
mocking our dream of pomp and glory,
demonstrating the foolishness of God before the eyes of the world.
You have shown us the way of humble service,
the way of true greatness.
Lord Jesus, help us to follow.
(Patterns and Prayers for Christian Worship)
Whom have I served today?
Over whom have I ‘lorded’ today?
How will I choose to serve in future?
99 Words to Breathe:
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human
is a guest house.
a new arrival.
A joy, a depression,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks)
(the choice of Gill Doust – psychotherapist)
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged