Why is it as Christians we try to make our own rules. I have noticed in the world that anyone who is a Christians seeks to be a Christian, but only as long as it is convenient for them. They try to make their own terms, and ignore those vows that they have made with their church and with God when they were baptized or joined the church. The fact is that as we think about the vows we make they are very clear about the support we offer to our local congregations as faithful Christians.
In this sermon series I have been trying to give you a better understanding of what it means to be a member here in your local church. Reminding you of the vow that you took and the importance of each part of that vow. In looking at our prayers, presence, and gifts I have sought to show you exactly why each of these are so important to not only the life of your local church, but to God as well.
This week is no different as we ask, “As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by…your service…?” (UMH, pg.38)
When we promise our service we are saying that we will work for the church doing God’s work. This is our commitment to doing God’s work within our local congregations. As we unpack this vow we unpack what it means and in what manner we do this work.
As I read on a website this week in preparation:
“Service is where we put ourselves on the line to do something — to be the body of Christ incarnate. We become the hands of Christ, comforting the anxious, healing the hurt, feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely and imprisoned, housing the homeless, clothing the naked, and giving hope to the hopeless.” (http://doroteos2.com/2009/02/01/the-big-five/)
When we think of this and hear this our mind can often drift to the scripture from Matthew 25:40:
“I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matt. 25:40)
This whole passage from Matthew 25 is our ideal for ministry and service within our churches. We go out and we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick and imprisoned, and clothe the naked. Basically we should be seeking to help those who are in need of help, and as we examine the scripture read a moment ago we will see the primary idea behind our service is humbling ourselves in the service that is done.
It is understanding, much like in our other vows, that we do not do any of these things for self-gratification, but to lift up Christ. That is the message I hope you hear today, and that is why I want us to take a look at our scripture today from John 13. I think we have the understanding of Matthew 25. While we know the work we have to do we either make excuses for not wanting to do it or we do it out of our own selfish ambitions.
John 13 provides an excellent framework for the ministry that we are called to do and the way we are called to do it in. This passage opens up the conversation around what has become known as Servant Ministry. In fact the idea of Lay Servant ministry in our United Methodist Church takes life from this passage, because in this passage we learn that ministry is not about us, but it is about who we help and the work we are doing for the Lord.
Within the context of our local churches we are called to make this commitment to service and in doing that we do three things. We seek the service that needs to be done. We do the service that needs to be done. And lastly we do the service with a servants heart. Each of these points are emphasized in John 13. So let’s get started.
First we seek the service that needs to be done.
“And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (John 13:3-4)
In the context of our ministry we must always have a keen mind of what is happening in our community. We must always be observant of the need that is out there. In the story we see that Jesus recognizes a need within the room. In ancient times people rarely ever got a real shower, or bath even. However, what did happen regularly was that when people dined at houses they would often wash their feet. You see as people traveled they wore sandals and so their feet actually became quite dirty, so they would wash their feet.
Jesus recognizes that this work needs to be done, and so Jesus does it.
This leads us into our next point. Which is that we do the service that needs to be done.
“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean…’” (John 13:5-10)
You see when there is a job to be done we need to do it. Jesus does not make excuses for how disgusting of a job this might be, but gets in there and washes the disciples feet.
Often times we try and justify the service we do by doing the service that we want to do. The service that might make us feel better about ourselves…or about life in general. However, what we learn from Jesus washing the disciples feet is that when we see a need we should act. When someone needs our help we should spring into action. When someone is in pain we should help heal them.
It brings up that idea of the Good Samaritan. Most of us probably know that story. You have a man who is robbed and beaten half to death laying on the side of the road. One by one three people pass by him. The first a priest who did not want to become unclean so he passed by on the other side. The second a levite who did the same thing for the same reason. The last a Samaritan who came to the aid of the man, and found the man care. It is about the man who stopped and did the work. The Samaritan in the story saw someone who needed help and he did it…and we are called to do the same. (Luke 10:25-37)
Lastly we are not just called to do the work. It can be easy to do the work sometimes. We can do it begrudgingly because we feel forced, or we can do it for our own selfish ambitions to make our selves look better. However, when we serve we are called to serve with a servants heart.
“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’” (John 13:12-17)
This is the true point of this passage that we not only do the service we are called to do by God, but that we do it in a manner that is befitting to who God is in our lives. It is with the servants heart that we are sent to do God’s work. We hinge on verse 14, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) And when we take that verse and incorporate it into our lives we learn that service is not for us, but service is for others. It is to help other people.
There are numerous ways to serve the church. There are numerous ways to get your hands dirty. All of those spiritual gifts we talked about last week those are ways you can serve the church. Service doesn’t always mean going out and building a new house for someone. Service doesn’t always mean going out and doing yard work. But serving God through your local church incorporates any number of things. You could teach Sunday School, offer your gifts in a specific area of need to the church, or going out on mission trips.
Service looks like many different things, and I am here to help. If you are looking for a place to plug into this congregation then come see me and I am sure there is a place for you all you need to do is ask.
When you quit trying to set your own terms and conditions and let God work numerously more things can get done.