Striving for the wrong things | Advent December 14, 2018

December 14, 2018

Caroline Armstrong ’20

PSALMS 16, 130; ISAIAH 7:10-25; 2 THESSALONIANS 2:13-3:5; LUKE 22:14-30

In Luke 22, Jesus breaks up a petty conversation among the disciples about who is the best. He tells them to put aside competition and aim to serve others rather than be better than them. His suggestion that a person being served at a table is no mightier than the person serving him is radical and refreshing. There are a number of implications of this for many of us.
For me, I think about status. Back in middle school, I definitely cared about being “cool”. I’m happy to say this sad chapter of my life is over, but I think that generally many of us still care at least a bit about being perceived in a certain way or maintaining an image we find desirable and want to “broadcast”. It’s fortunate that there’s been an increasing amount of pushback against social media and a lot more awareness these days that channeling energy into broadcasting an idealized version of oneself isn’t a good use of energy. But other than that more obvious way in which people might concern themselves with status, what are some of the more subtle ways in which we engage with status? Perhaps we might devote a lot of mental energy to status: What outfit can we wear to this event? What concert can we say we went to? What exceptionally clever remark can we make in our class discussion? Well, who cares? None of this is important. Understanding that this is actually stupid is what Jesus wants us to get a feel for. When we’re focused on that nonsense, we fuel anxieties about others’ perceptions of us and turn inwards to the kind of self-focused worrying Libby talked about in one of her sermons earlier this fall. And the point of our being is to serve and help others rather than drag ourselves through some sort of mucky striving for positive perception and superior status.