I Come to Serve – Br. James Koester

Matthew 5:1-10

I Come to Serve[1]

There is a legend told of St. Edward the Confessor, whose feast we keep today, about 2 pilgrims, an old man, and a ring.

One day King Edward was out walking near his great church, Westminster Abbey, when an old beggar approached him asking for alms. The King removed from his hand a valuable ring, which contained a large sapphire, and gave it to the beggar. Years later two pilgrims from England travelled to the Holy Land, where they encountered an old man. The man revealed himself as St. John the Evangelist, gave them the King’s ring, asking that upon their return to England they restore the ring to Edward.

It’s a fun story, and we can leave it at that. We can also dismiss it as a pious, yet impossible legend. Or we can consider where lies the invitation, and what the story is really trying to say.

Even before his death, Edward was considered a holy man. He was in fact canonized less than a century after his death in 1066. Since then, he has long been considered a model of kingship. In fact, we saw hints of that at the coronation of Charles III, as he stood in Edward’s great church and prayed: God of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth.[2]

We hear in the Beatitudes, the marks of service in the name of Jesus, where true freedom is found, among them mercy, purity, and peacefulness. These are marks which were so evident in Edward during his life, which are demonstrated in the legend of the ring, and for which he continues to be honoured 1000 years after his death. They are the marks of true servant leadership.

We live in a world where such leadership is seen as weakness, and where greatness is based not on the blessedness of meekness and mercy, but on vigour, might and force. But those are not gospel values.

The invitation for us today as we celebrate the life of St. Edward, as it is every day as we live the Christian life, is to be a people of the Beatitudes. Who knows, perhaps one day as you carry out an act of generosity, you will find yourself face to face with St. John the Evangelist, or even the Lord Himself. When that happens, you will be rewarded, as was St. Edward, with eternal life. But don’t wait for the perfect opportunity, for as Luke reminds us, blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.[3]When that happens, eternal life is already yours.[4]

1] Opening words of King Charles III at his Coronation: In his name, and after his example, I come not to be served but to serve.

[2] From the Coronation Service of King Charles III

[3] Luke 11: 28

[4] John 5: 24

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