Behold! the household plunger. (Show plunger) Great for fixing drains in sacristies. Wonderful for unplugging the kitchen sink when the garbage disposal stops working. Great for making thrones useable again. And great for any disciple who would sit upon a throne in glory. Let me propose it is the most appropriate household item for a disciple. Why?
1) There is no way to carry this ‘proudly’. You certainly don’t want to grip it on the rubber part – you know where it’s been and where it’s going. It looks rather silly to carry it like this: (Visual image of carrying it as if it were a crown on a pillow). The closest you come is like this (holding near the bottom, as if it were a sword) but then you look like a soldier in the idiot army. By its physical design, it’s almost impossible to feel any sense of entitlement while you are carrying it.
2) Because of what the plunger does, it’s hard to FEEL important when carrying it to your assigned task. Unlike the business briefcase, the cell phone, the palm pilot which bear with them a sense of power and prestige, no one carries a plunger thinking: “Look at me – I’m important. I’m carrying a plunger.” Plus, unlike cell phones designs which are very chick and very trendy, the plunger hasn’t changed shapes or style almost since inception. (You never hear people say: Look at this, the latest in plunger models, the Plunger 210 – isn’t she a beaut?)
3) Then, there are the types of jobs that you are doing when using the plunger. Non glorious. You have to get your hands dirty. Involved. ‘Nuff said.
4) When the job is over, no one looks at the plunger and says ‘good job’. They look at the sink that is now flowing, the throne now working, or the drain now unstopped and give thanks that THOSE items are now working. It’s not about the plunger, it’s about the sink, the drain, the throne. The plunger is placed in the back of the closet, without further ado.
“You know those recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority felt. It shall not be so among you.” It shall not be so among you… Those are iron hard words from Jesus. Because in that one simple sentence he undercuts the merit system of religion – the Deuteronomic system where enjoying the good things of life was a just reward from God and a sign that you were living right. Turning that on its head, Jesus tells us greatness is only measured in service. Only measured in service. And those who know the secret of the plunger, know also how to best be disciples. For just as it is not about the plunger, so it is not about the disciple.
As I was praying this week about all this, a story that a college student shared with me came to mind. She was stressing over some papers and some tests that had to get done before Thanksgiving break. It finally got to her. So at about five in the morning she calls her mother at home, even though she knows she will see her in just a couple days. And she goes on and on and on about her problems. And her mother just listened to her. And was so present to her. What she did not know is that her mother had been up all night caring for her father who had just been diagnosed with cancer and had just come home from his first chemotherapy. For the past four hours before she called, her husband had been throwing up, and she had been caring for him. They had decided to wait till she got home from break to tell her. So while her mother was having perhaps one of the worst nights of her married life, she made the choice to be so present to her daughter. The student said “it was the most loving thing that I have ever experienced. And I knew that I would spend the rest of my life trying to live into that gift of service from my mother.” Ah, a disciple who knows the secret of the plunger…
This week, if you have a plunger, take it from under the sink, and put it on your dining room table. Or at the foot of the cross that is on your living room wall. Or wherever you will notice it on a daily basis. And let it teach you its secret – the secret of the Son of Man, who came, not to be served, but to serve…