This past fall I was out to Halifax for a weekend, and decided to worship at the historic “round” church, St. Paul’s Anglican. I was warmly welcomed, and since I was a guest in someone else’s house, I behaved myself.
But, I was sorely tempted! At the front of the sanctuary, on the right side, there is a “Royal Pew”.
This is a church that was built originally with money granted by royalty. When most of it burned down, members of the British monarchy supported the rebuilding efforts, and made significant contributions.
Trip Advisor’s piece about the church notes that many “royals” have used this pew, and it had even seated Elizabeth the Second.
I noticed there were no “royals” using the pew the Sunday I was there.
No one used it. It looked like a great place to sit. I wondered if it always sits empty, just in case. I also wondered what would happen if I sat there.
The Good Courage devotion for today includes the story of two of Jesus’ closest friends and followers, James and John. The writer notes that even after having seen and heard Jesus bringing his message of God’s love for all people, no matter their circumstances, these two seem to seek special status.
“And they [James and John] said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:37)
The writer suggests that not all implications of Jesus’ message of self-giving, serving, love has sunk in. Even so, these were members of Jesus’ inner circle, amongst those he would trust, and commission, to go forth and continue his work after he was gone.
The Jesus movement is made up, for the most part, of ordinary people, like you and me.
In 30 plus years working in churches, I’ve met some very saintly people, who shone with God’s love and compassion, and had deep and profound prayer lives. I’ve also met a lot of people who are more like me- mostly interested, most of the time, in doing the right thing, and being kind.
We don’t always want to do the right thing, and we don’t always know what the right things are. We muddle, and fumble along. We have unreasonable, or poorly considered expectations, like James and John. Our feelings can get hurt, when we don’t get the recognition we thought we were due.
We can circle back, again and again, to two of the lessons in the story about James and John seeking special status.
The first is that even though they didn’t “get” Jesus and his message, all the time, he loved them, and accepted them, and did not give up on them.
The second is that knowing that they (James and John) did not always get it right, reminds us that we don’t either. That’s a reminder to stay humble, even, and maybe especially about the things about which we feel the most certain.