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Commentary: "The call to serve"

On January 23, the Canastota Area Association of Churches will honor those who serve or have served as volunteers in the local ambulance corps and fire departments. Our nation observed the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 18 with a National Day of Service. Regardless of one's politics, the inauguration of the first black President of the United States on January 20 last year shows how far we have come since the great civil rights leader was slain. First and foremost a minister of the Gospel, Dr. King believed that following Christ and living by his teachings should inspire all of us to make a difference.

Just months before his assassination, Dr. King preached a sermon entitled "The Drum Major Instinct," based on the account of two disciples who beseeched Jesus for the most prominent seats in heaven (Luke 22:24-27). Dr. King described this desire for distinction as a "quest for recognition," likening it to that of an extreme drum major who tries "to push others down to push himself up." Yet Jesus did not rebuke James and John for their ambition; instead, he taught that true reward follows humble service. "The great issue of life," Dr. King declared, "is to harness the drum major instinct."

Our Lord gave his disciples "a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you; greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:12-13). Dr. King noted that the "tide of public opinion turned" against Jesus when he was still young, calling him "an agitator [who] practiced civil disobedience [and] broke injunctions." Despite being betrayed, denied, cursed, killed, and buried penniless in a borrowed tomb, Christ now "stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history." Though Jesus was, is, and ever shall be King of kings, "he just went around serving."

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