I was waiting around in a big commercial establishment and of course I was listening to the muzak Christmas carols. I like everyone else was barely paying attention but my ears (really just my one good ear) perked up. The lyric “Jesus Lord at thy birth” caught my attention. It seemed so incongruous with the consumerism on display all around. It was jarring and I was struck again with the truth “you cannot serve two masters.”
Before our family came to Saint John we lived in a little community on Canada’s prairie, Elkhorn Manitoba. Linda and I were trying to turn an old hospital into a retreat and conference facility and I did a lot of itinerant speaking to pay some of the bills. Each summer I would create a travelling children’s program and hire some students to take it on the road. One summer I was a bit stuck with how to teach the concept of ‘serving Jesus as Lord’. Finally (and happily) I struck on the idea of ‘simply living to please Him’. As I child I remember trying to please my mom, and then my teachers and then my peers. Children know what it is to live to please someone so we took advantage of that to show that it is Jesus we are to please as Lord.
Not long after that summer I had an opportunity to learn this lesson about whom am I going to live to please. For some inexplicable reason Bruce, our National Director, asked me to go with him to a Church Army World Leaders Conference in England. One of the events during this conference was that participants would be meeting the Queen, at Buckingham Palace. Just before I was to board the flight out of Winnipeg, my son handed me a crossword puzzle book and as he thrust it at me he said “give this to the Queen for me. He had just read in ‘Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader’ that the Queen liked crossword puzzles. We arrived at Buckingham Palace just after the changing of the guard and were escorted through the front gates past a throng of tourists and their clicking cameras. We were led upstairs to what I think they referred to as The Chinese Ballroom. We were carefully arranged in a horseshoe shape around the room and told that the Queen would make her way around and chat with each of us. She seemed delayed for some reason so I wandered over to the window and parted the curtains. The motion must have caught the tourists’ eyes because they became excited and started to wave. I happily waved back my best imitation of the ‘royal wave’, when behind me I heard stirring. The Queen was coming! I found my way back to my appointed spot and patiently waited my turn. I had chatted with the guy who was in charge of protocol for our visit and he assured me that my son’s gift was too tacky to give the Queen besides they had a painting to give Her Majesty! As she neared I was torn, “Who was I going to please, this protocol guy who I would never see again or my son?” Finally she arrived in front of me and I whipped the crossword book out of my pocket and presented it to her as a gift from my son. She was very gracious (maybe the song is right?) but hoped it was not to difficult. She seemed comforted when I pointed out the answers were in the back. I thought that was the end of the adventure but a couple of weeks later there were two pieces of mail in my post office box from Buckingham Palace, David’s read “Her Majesty wishes me to thank you…” mine read “ Her Majesty commands me to thank you…” I told David later “Your wish is my command!”
We are all faced with similar dilemmas each day, will we please God or mammon. The choice, like mine, really should be simple. I knew I had to go home and face my son, whom I love. I might have to endure momentary discomfort but our relationship makes the choice simple! The same holds true with our decisions about loyalty to Jesus. I am only with my peers temporarily but I am looking forward to an eternity with the Saviour I love.