God demands no curtain call (Matt. 23:1-12) – Kenneth Tanner
Matt. 23:1-12 – A warning against attention-seeking
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
God demands no curtain call
The attention-seeking religious leaders in this weekend’s Gospel reading can obscure a vital subtext. They seek visibility and honor and accolades but let’s not make them center stage.
There is Someone—made visible in Jesus—who does not seek praise or demand attention, who serves the entire cosmos in anonymity and silence.
To follow this God, to lead others in following this God, is to care for the creation and all persons in obscurity and humility.
If we serve in order to be great, if we try to be “last” in order to be “first,” we have missed the mark.
It just so happens that if we live to love others without recognition or privilege then we will participate by grace in the greatness that God simply is.
I just took in a deep breath, and so have been breathing all day. God never once shows up and asks me to thank him. The sun rose and the sun set and the world and all other celestial objects are held in their unique life-giving trajectories. And God demands no curtain call. Today I ate the food that God causes always to grow and he did not show up at my meal demanding praise or recognition.
This is the heart of what Jesus makes plain in human flesh. Humility is the way to a life that is great as God is great, in anonymous labor on behalf of all things.