The Longest Walk

When you are invited to a wedding, do not sit down in the chair of highest honor, lest perhaps someone more honored than yourself may have been invited by the bridegroom. And then he who called both you and him, approaching may say to you, “give this place to him.” And then you would begin with shame, to take the last place.

I watched a college game this weekend; and of course, it was a football game with a terrific young player at QB. The swagger, bravado and confidence of the young man almost pulled you from your living room through the plasma screen and onto the field. “Have you checked the temperature lately?” I mean, who wouldn’t wanna have this guy calling signals and making adjustments during the action. This guy makes bad plays look like a genius is in the booth directing the offense; cuz he simply makes ‘stuff’ happen. Of course everyone’s glued in on the guy and every commentator has some opinion about the guys demeanor, it’s so tight, meaning the analysis, if the guys left nostril hairs flicker two-shades to the left instead of right, some former great is gonna make mention. “Have you noticed the temperature yet?”. The national media grants you a nickname and starts talking about all the wars you’re gonna win in the future; and, everybody with a fast car and a little cash to blow wants your attention. Remember the story of the slave who road in the chariot alongside the conquering Caesar; and he would whisper into Caesars ear, “All victory is fleeting.” “Someone needs to checkout the thermostat very soon.”

I don’t know about you, but I like the man in charge to have a little ‘swagger’. Confidence by the leadership exudes confidence in the troops. There’s a story about Abraham Lincoln in the book “Team of Rivals”, after Lincoln was shot, he’s laying in the Peterson House across the street from Ford’s theatre, they’ve pulled his shirt off and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton sees Lincoln’s bare arms for the first time. He couldn’t believe how enormous they were. I’m sure there was a similar response by some, not so noteworthy bystanders, as Jesus drove the money changers from the temple as he scourged the crowd and turned over the tables, his bare arms showing as the sleeves of his garments winnowed up his shoulder? They say Lincoln once told a story while sailing to Petersburg near the end of the war; he held an axe with his arm extended out with just his thumb and finger gripping the end of the handle. The story was humorous; but the impact of his delivery left on the sailors aboard the ship was staggering. It says in Isaiah: “Who has a right hand like the Lord.” Jesus and Lincoln, a couple of pretty good examples in history. Now, don’t think for a second that I’m putting them on the same level, I’m simply saying, here’s two guys that rocked the world, one for a period in the nineteenth century, the other for eternity! One got handed a war he didn’t want and couldn’t seem to win and made everything from nothing. Consider the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln wasn’t even the key note speaker, can you name the man who was? My point, exactly. Jesus, who had the power and authority to ‘level’ Pilate, Caiaphas and the rest of the world, did not, and took the courageous road, he chose the honorable path, they crucified him and three days later he swaggered back onto the scene. If there is any comparison it lies in this; Lincoln chose to live a courageous life with a humble spirit. Jesus was the embodiment of both courage and humility, the greatest of all servant leaders. How does the verse go: “He humbled himself, even to the point of death on a cross?”

We ask our heroes today to walk with a little swagger, talk with it, dress for it, pick a nickname and few signature hand signals to verify their importance in our hearts. The temperature is rising everywhere around us; and, like the frog, we just keep kickin’ along in our pond acting like there’s nothing’s going wrong. But, when one of our heroes jumps out of the pond, everyone starts yelling for him to get back in and swim nicely.

In the post Christian America that we now live in, it is hard to understand that the last shall be first; that servant-leadership was, and still is, richly rewarded. Strength of character is first found in a humble spirit and the real swagger is held by men who never seek the chair of highest honor, they get led there by the bridegroom. The “Johnny-come-lately’s,” well, let’s just say, it’s a long walk from the penthouse to the outhouse.  Ain’t it so.

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