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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Served by Royalty

photo by Christopher Toothman/NPR
I heard an interesting story on NPR the other day. It was an interview of Lynwood Westray, an African American man who served faithfully for 32 years as a butler in the White House.

The story was about how up until recently, the only African Americans who lived in the White House were men and women who were servers, cooks, maids, and even sometimes (appallingly) “property” of U.S. presidents. Westray was reflecting back on his history of service and expressing his elation over finally seeing the first African American elected as President of the United States.

One part of the story that moved me in particular was Westray’s account of his fondest memory in the White House:

When reflecting on his fondest memory, Westray talks about a time in 1979 when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visited the White House. After dinner, Prince Philip went into the Red Room, next to the state dining room. Westray and his buddy were serving liquor. Westray says he was carrying the tray and glasses.

“The prince was in there by himself, which was odd, because everybody else had gone down to the other end of the building," Westray says. "I said, 'Your Majesty, would you care for a cordial?' He says, 'I'll take one if you let me serve it.' What do you do? I didn't do all that because I had the stuff in my hand. And he says, 'If you let me pour it, I'll have one with you.'
"... So he poured it, the one he wanted, and we took the same thing that he had. And we had our drink there together and had a little talk while we were there. He told us if we were ever over there in London to stop at Buckingham Palace and see him.
Can you imagine the prince serving you? I enjoyed it. You know, we're not supposed to drink and carry on at that time. We're not guests. It was just the three of us in the room, so nobody knew what happened. And I drank my little cordial, we all drank, and had a little conversation. But that was one thing I'll never forget, having been served by royalty.”

Wow, I cannot imagine what it would be like to be served by Prince Philip and casually invited to stop by to see him at Buckingham Palace!

In our world, it is scandalous to think of a prince serving a butler. Yet really, it is still just one man serving another man; it is just one sinner serving another sinner. As I was thinking about it, I realized that I too have been served by royalty, but in an infinitely greater way. How incredible it is to think of our Perfect Creator God serving His own creation after we willfully rebelled against His goodness! The God of the Universe left His throne and stepped into the messiness of this fallen and broken world. He came and washed the feet of 12 humble Jewish blue collar men. Not only did He defy the hierarchy of the cosmos, but He crossed enemy lines to do it. He died a criminal’s death, tortured and punished for the sins of those who betrayed (yes betrayed!) Him. He came into my world of pride, selfishness, hopelessness, sin and death, and revealed Himself to be my Glorious Savior. He engages me everyday even though I still stumble in sin and struggle to have faith. How great is our Heavenly Father for sending His Precious Son in love for us who were once His enemies! How great is Our Precious Savior for leaving His Glorious Father for us who were once His enemies! How blessed are we to be called the children of God the Father and co-heirs with God the Son and a dwelling place for God the Spirit!

While I do think it would have been amazing to be served by Prince Philip, I am infinitely more amazed that the God of the Universe stooped down to cleanse me and make me His own!

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Revelation 4:8-111 “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,who was and is and is to come!” 9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

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