The Circularity of Arrogance

“[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.'”
– Mark 9:35

No, I don’t really want to talk about the things
we talked about, not when you’d likely
have preferred we talked about the things
you said, the things we didn’t want to talk
about at all. No, not at all.

I really do not want to tell you, nor
admit, that we were one in mind
to not discuss what you had said,
and in the unity of our denial broke
into an argument of who is chief.

Um. After you, of course.

So really, we’ll just stand in silence, let
our shuffling feet reveal what you
already know without our saying anything
(and have I said just how annoying that
we know you know what we’d prefer you did not know?).

Our lips compress as you confirm you know
(we knew you knew) and tell us greatness is
the thing you said that we’d preferred
to leave unsaid: the first is last, the last is first,
and yes, we know, but honestly…

You know this doesn’t ever work – you know.
You know there’s prideful service just as much
as prideful leadership. You know
that some proclaim their martyrdom of self
as virtue though they only serve themselves.

So even were we to have spoken of
the greatest servant soul among us
(after you), we still would have been puffing up,
not building up. Do you not see
the circularity of arrogance?

I see despair has crept across your face,
the desperation as you take the hand of… wait.
You mean it’s just that simple? Serve the child?
Serve the growing child? Serve the child that’s grown?
Serve the child – and so we serve our God?

A poem/prayer based on Mark 9:30-37, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 20 (25).

The image is Jesus and the Children, a Carolingian fresco on the north wall of the nave of the Monastery Church of St. John in Müstair, Switzerland, ca. 825. Image file from James Steakley; artwork: unknown – Jean Hubert et al., Europe in the Dark Ages (London: Thames & Hudson, 1969), p. 152, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6941409.

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