This way of prayer is based around James’s and John’s request to sit at Jesus’s side in the coming kingdom. The favour they ask, and the subsequent ruckus it creates among the disciples show that they are struggling to grasp what following Jesus actually means. It isn’t likely to result in them gaining significance, but scorn, as they live into Jesus’s ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’ universe.
Set up the ladder in the centre of the room/stage as a visual parable. Talk about James’s and John’s request to Jesus revealing a longing to climb the ladder of significance, to be more important, more powerful. Ask your congregation to reflect on which direction James and John are wanting to climb, and which direction Jesus is climbing. Talk about how difficult Jesus’s call to insignificance is, to living not for the praise and endorsement of other people, but quietly and humbly for the coming of God’s world in the midst of this one.
Remind the congregation where our significance comes from. It is not something that we earn or are awarded for services rendered. It is gifted to us by God. Jesus had this same experience in his baptism and again at the Transfiguration, hearing the words, “This is my child whom I love …” spoken over him.
Wonder aloud: Jesus climbs down the ladder to us. Then, rather than leading us back up the ladder (which represents significance and status) he leads us all down the ladder and right away from it altogether, into a wide open space where all people can find themselves on the level ground of God’s love. Invite the congregation to consider that the one thing we have to surrender in order to follow Jesus is the desire to be significant at the expense of others, then we are free to rejoice in our own belovedness, and that of everyone else.