Rev. John Kha Tran
A truck driver stopped at dinner and ordered a cheeseburger, coffee and a slice of apple pie. As he was about to eat, three men on motorcycles pulled up outside. They came in, one grabbed the cheeseburger and took a huge bite out of it; one drank the trucker’s coffee, and the third wolfed down the apple pie.
The truck driver didn’t say a word, got up, paid the cashier and left.
When he was gone, the bikers snickered and congratulated each other on being so bad. As the cashier walked up, one of them growled, “He ain’t much of a man, is he?”
“He is not much of a driver either,” the cashier replied. “He just backed his 18 wheeler over three motorcycles.”
What is your opinion on the behaviors of these men? They are having fun, but they have overstepped their boundaries. They are misbehaving. Their behaviors are childish and immature. They are having fun at the expenses of the rights of others. We might say this kind of behavior is bad. And usually bad behaviors will result in bad consequences. The trucker lost his delicious meal; and the motorcyclists lost their motorcycles. There are many people spending much of their times having fun in this world without thinking about consequences.
It’s been more than twenty years, but some of you might still remember the case of the “Texas-Cheerleader-Murdering-Mom.” Wanda Webb Holloway of Channelview, Texas wanted her daughter Shanna, 13 at the time, to be picked for the high school cheerleading squad. Her rival for this honor was a girl named Amber Heath.
Wanda Webb Holloway was the organist at the local Baptist church. She was a respected member of the community. However, that did not keep her from going to extreme measures to try to get her daughter on the cheerleading squad by eliminating her chief opponent. The first year, Ms. Holloway tried to have Amber disqualified from the competition on a technicality. The second year, she showed up at school and handed out promotional pencils and rulers imprinted “Shanna Harper cheerleader.” This was a violation of school rules which got her own daughter Shanna disqualified.
If only she had stopped there, she would not have made national headlines. But her obsession only deepened. In 1991, Wanda Webb Holloway attempted to murder Amber Heath’s mother just before the tryouts. She figured that, if her mother were killed, Amber would be too grief-stricken to compete in the cheerleading contest. Holloway had asked her ex-brother-in-law to arrange for a hit man to perform the murder, but he went to the police instead. He told the police Holloway toyed with the idea of killing both mother and daughter, but couldn’t afford the $7,500 fee.
It was then that Wanda Webb Holloway became nationally known as the “Texas-Cheerleader-Murdering-Mom” and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (Blind Ambition by King Duncan, esermon.com).
Every one of us would agree that this mother was not normal if not crazy. Her action was wrong and evil. Everybody wants to be somebody. It is natural for parents to dream for the success of their children. This seems to be part of being human. But there are people out there who are so power-hunger that they are willing to do evil to achieve their goal. This is blind ambition.
Since the dawn of history, human beings have been driven to move up on the scale of life in the world. Adam and Eve was tempted by the serpent to go beyond the realm of their boundary, "when you eat of fruit of the tree of good and evil, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). Cain killed his brother Abel because he did not want his brother to be better than he. Many people are being misguided by this drive for power. God puts human beings on earth not to seek power but to love. God created Adam and Eve to accompany each other, to love each other and to create life out of love. But the devil came and tempted them to replace love with power. We continue to have wars around the world through all the ages because people and countries want to seek power and sovereignty over others instead of seeking to love one another.
Serving with Love
There are also people who want to seek power and achievements an easy way. We love to achieve our goals quick, easy and without pain. For example, EZ pass on toll roads are our modern way to make life easier for drivers. Rather than stopping at a toll-booth to toss some change in a hopper or to pay the clerk, you can now purchase an EZ-Pass to continue your drive. Your data is quickly read by a tollbooth electronic antenna as your car zooms on through. It automatically deducts your appropriate toll tax. EZ-Pass is quicker to pass through at the tollgate with a price. Including James and John, the brothers Zebedee, who want front-row seats numbering two and three.
Wanting to have a quick way to glory and fast track to success, James and John come to Jesus seeking honor and powerful positions in Christ’s future kingdom. They are willing to pay the price that Jesus proposes to them. They claim that they are able to take the challenge. Their ambitious attempt somehow offended the other disciples. All of them were ignorant and misguided on being Jesus’ disciples. Jesus had to call them together to explain that greatness in the Kingdom of God must come from serving others, and not ruling over them. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
Author Max Lucado tells about some people in his church that he calls people of “The Society of the Second Mile.” In one place he describes one of those second-mile servants. “By profession he is an architect,” says Lucado, “by passion, a servant. He arrives an hour or so prior to each worship service and makes his rounds through the men’s restrooms. He wipes the sinks, cleans the mirrors, checks the toilets, and picks up paper off the floor. No one asked him to do the work; very few people are aware he does the work. He tells no one and requests nothing in return. He belongs to the Society of the Second Mile. (Every Day Deserves a Chance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc., 2007, p. 109).
We admire this architect of the Society of the Second Mile story. We do have a number of people like this architect in our parish. But in my opinion, as followers of Jesus, we are not just doing our services as members of Society of Second Mile. We are doing everything in this life and in this world in the spirit of service with love. Service with love must be our life-style. Serving is Christian life-style and Christian identity. We want to walk as Jesus walks. “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”