Monday, April 02, 2012

To be Served? Or to Serve? - Peter A. Black

“What is a weekend?” she asks, incredulous. Presumably, Lady Grantham – Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham – had never heard the term before. She frames the question, her steely eyes bulging and her expression conveying her typical overbearing air. She has no idea “how the other half lives.”

Veteran British actor Maggie Smith plays splendidly the imperious matriarch’s role. Violet heads the aristocratic Crawley family of the fictitious Grantham estate in the widely popular and critically acclaimed television series, “Downton Abbey.”

Lady Grantham’s whole existence having been spent as a member of the aristocracy, with her every need in life catered to by hired servants, resulted in her having no sense of common working-class people’s working long hours all week and looking forward to a break from their labour. Therefore, the idea of a weekend was a foreign concept to her. (By the way, I think Downton Abbey will likely be my favourite period series for a long time to come, and Lady “Granny” Grantham,” in some respects, steals the show!)

Set in a large manor home in England, with much of the filming done in a castle, the first series spans two years beginning with news of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and concludes with the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. It provides insight into the cultural divide prevalent in the class consciousness of that time.

The second series concludes the war and follows developments to 1919, and in the process shows the distinctions between the classes beginning to break down. That was barely a century ago and is still within living memory for some.

Recently my Lenten journey approaching Good Friday and Easter transported me in thought on a trip to the Grantham household, in particular to considering “Granny Grantham.” To some extent she viewed that the role of the common classes was to serve, while her role and that of those in her privileged station in life was to be served.

For me, the inspirational significance dawned with the freshness of a bright spring morning in the immortal words of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, in declaring of Himself, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Mark 10:45).

What a contrast – the Lord of glory, through whom the worlds were formed, voluntarily stepped into time, took on human flesh, assumed the role of a slave and served humanity with love and compassion, in truth and grace!

He knew beforehand that despite the healings and miracles He wrought by the power of God and His blessing of multitudes, many hearts would be hardened. Knew that they would reject Him and ultimately call for His crucifixion. Knew he would serve them and all humanity by giving His life up to the death on a cross; to be cruelly nailed – suspended, bleeding and broken in nakedness, at the crossroads of the nations. His life, a ransom.

A ransom is a price paid to redeem; that is, to buy back and reclaim. This is what Good Friday is about: Jesus Christ, promised Messiah and sinless Son of God, in agreement with the Divine Will, gave His life a ransom to redeem humanity from the curse of sin and bring us into restored relationship with God.

On the third day He arose. Resurrection Sunday. Unbounded joy!

Peter Black writes a weekly inspirational column for Southwestern Ontario's The Watford Guide-Advocate. A version of this article is to be published there on April 5, 2012.
Black's children's / family book, "Parables from the Pond," is published by Word Alive Press; ISBN 1897373-21-X, and is available through Christian bookstores and Amazon.


Anonymous said...

Peter - I loved the way you made comparisons between Downton Abbey, one of my new favorite shows, and being a servant for Christ. Your steely bulging eyes description of the dowager is so perfect.

Rose McCormick Brandon

Peter Black said...

Thanks Rose.
I smile at your picking up on my description of the dowager's eyes. Maggie Smith is so perfect for the role! :)
Among numerous reasons for my liking the series is this one that, whereas -- pretty-well true to life -- several affairs take place, there is an absence of gratuitous portrayal of the sex act. You knew what happened, and it was sufficient.
Let me also add: I think that Downton encompasses a great variety of characters and personalities, from sterling character to treacherous, and a great range in between; but in general they are believable and have depth.

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