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Serving Others: Requirement of the Law or the Effect of Gospel?

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

24  Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25  Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26  But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27  Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27 (NLT)

167  Make up the time you have lost resting on the laurels of your self-complacency, and thinking what a good person you are, as if it were enough just to keep going, without stealing or killing. Speed up the pace of your piety and your work: you still have such a long way to go: Live happily with everyone, even with those who annoy you, and make an effort to love —to serve!—those whom you despised before.  (1)

“Christianity is the only co-operative society that exists for the benefit of non-members  (2)

Thirty years ago, as I was a sophmore (Literally translated ‘wise fool’ and it fit) at a small Bible College, I was somewhat of an idealist.

The school’s motto was that it was to prepare “Servant-Leaders” who would change the world for Christ.  That was our mission, and many of us dreamed of the glory that would occur in our lives.  Some of us would head to the mission field.  Some into congregations where they would minister with children or youth or music, or some as preachers.

Thirty years later, I am less idealistic.  I lost long ago the visions of doing something spectacular in the sight of God and man.  And to be honest, with that burden gone, I find more joy in what i see God doing.  As I heard of how my church members minister to one of their own this morning, as I observed them caring for the new people who visited our church yesterday.  I hear of the sacrifice of others, as they care for their families, even their friends. These may seem to be little things – but it is amazing to observe God’s love pouring out.

At the same time, it is amazing to see the hunger and thirst for God’s word, for the sacraments.  There seems to be this connection between God providing for us, and our providing, in very meaningful ways, for others. There is something about knowing the presence of God, and hungering to be present for others, There is something about receiving Christ’s mercy, about knowing that God is compassion towards us, and is passionate in His care for us. It empowers us, it drives us, it raises our awareness of those who need to know God..

One of my favorite passages to teach/preach/use explains this connection between God serving us, and our serving others…

1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Romans 12:1 (NLT)

This is the norm, when you walk with God.  To imitate Christ as He served, serving those around.  Such is the blessing of being a living sacrifice.

I think that may be the problem we have had in recent years. That we’ve made serving God an obligation, that you are only holy if you serve

But what if serving is a way of finding out who we are in Christ?  What if it is a blessing, a gift from God as we realize how He has designed us to live?  What if in serving, we find out how much more God services us?  What if our serving is simply the side affect of becoming children of God?

Servants who lead – because our leader served.

This blog post has wandered a bit today… but there is an obvious need to return to these roots, to live in Christ, like Christ.  For our own sake, to be a church that is more interested in those who are struggling, than in ourselves.  But that can’t be done in a compensatory manner.  It comes as we know, as we experience Christ.  The Lord who served others in life, and by His death, and still serves us today…..

Lord Have mercy by guiding us to show mercy.  AMEN

 

 

 

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 916-920). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2) Northumbrian Community:   Celtic Daily Prayer,  Entry for May 5

 

To prepare servant leaders…

Devotional Thought of the Day…

12  After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13  You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14  And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15  I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16  I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17  Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.   John 13:12-17 (NLT) 

352         It hurts you to see that some use the technique of speaking about the Cross of Christ, only so as to climb and obtain positions. They are the same people who consider nothing they see as clean if it does not coincide with their own particular standards. All the more reason, then, for you to persevere in the rectitude of your intentions, and to ask the Master to grant you the strength to repeat: Non mea voluntas, sed tua fiat!—Lord, may I fulfil your Holy Will with love!  (1)

I’ve had to deal with a lot of memories this in the last month, and in the last few days.  And it has been intensely… thought and emotion provoking.

From seeing my extended family – most for the first time in 6 years, some for the first time in 30.  To seeing my old schools, and haunts, to remembering times with my dad, and mourning and being grateful for our lives together.

This morning – as the sun comes up on the pond, as the mist arises, I have to face that its time to go home.  Back to work, but its not really work. Its more than that.

Probably the most dominant memory this morning is from California – perhaps the biggest lesson I learned… which I remembered going back on campus of my alma mater about a month ago.

PCC’s motto started out, “to prepare servant leaders…

And besides going back to my wife and son (Which I can’t wait for the hugs from) that’s what I’m going back to do.  To prepare people to serve…as Christ did.  To serve each other without thought of what they will get in return.  To serve each other as Christ would.   To even as they are finding healing in Christ, reaching out out help others.  You see, I think we rip something away from it, when we translate the greek as “ministry”.  It is simply the verb, “serve”.  And every minister, whether priest or pastor or deacon or bishop or Sunday School teacher, or wortship leader… that’s our calling.  N

To train them to serve others, and lead them into the presence of Jesus, to reveal God’s love for them – a love that cannot be measured.

It’s time to go back to california – to get back to my mission field… to serve.. for that is the only way to teach others to serve…

No matter what else anyonr else does – that’s where my ministry lies…..that’s where I’ve been called and trained to be… to serve and thereby teach others to….

Time to get back to it.

Will you come along?

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1631-1636). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are pastors professional leaders, or servants? ( Evangelical Catholic XIV – plus some Luther)

 All who have given up home or brothers and sisters or father and mother or children or land for me will be given a hundred times as much. They will also have eternal life. 30  But many who are now first will be last, and many who are last will be first.    Matthew 19:29-30 (CEV)

If service, in our serving. In Greek it reads διακονίαν, ἐν τῃ̂ διακονίᾳ, that is, “in ministering.” “Ministers” are all those who serve in ecclesiastical offices, such as the priest, the deacon, the subdeacon, and all who have to do with sacred rites except the administration of the Word of God, and also those who assist a teacher, as the apostle often speaks of his helpers.

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contain...

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contains the incipit Liber generationis of the Gospel of Matthew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(1)

Has this man reached a level of spiritual maturity in which his competence as a pastor and his security as a man and a Christian disciple express themselves humbly? Does he see his ministry as one of empowering in others the gifts the Holy Spirit has bestowed on those in his pastoral charge? Does he treat those who help him implement his pastoral ministry as collaborators in the work of the Gospel, or as indentured servants? Does he foster talent, not being threatened by it?  (2)

Most pastors aren’t called to give up homes or family, in the USA even few are called to give up their lives.  But there is something that continues to grow, that goes against everything I learned in my early training, and more and more, I am finding,  in the historic church.

My Bible College drummed it into us that those in ministry are servants.  Whether they are going to be Children’s Ministers, Youth Ministers, Senior/Preaching pastors, or Missionaries – each are called to serve… each are called to lay behind our personal preferences, our wants, and yeah – even sometimes our needs, in order to reveal to people the love and mercy of Christ, and to show them how to love and be merciful to those around them.   This isn’t easy… it takes realizing that we aren’t superstars, that we are as broken, and the chief of all sinners, that God may show our people what can be done in our lives..

That’s different than the idea of professional clergy, it’s different from the times in history where the pastors and priests were looked up to as “Herr Pastor” or  the idea of the “high priest”.  (I have to admit a certain level of pleasure watching Pope Francis take this attitude on in the Catholic Church, where others have simply tolerated it – and more than a smidgen of jealousy as I consider our leaders…)

Luther reminded us that we are servants – not just those who have inherited the apostolic office, but all those who assist as helpers as well.  Weigel dreams of a priesthood as well – where we see our co-workers in ministry as our collaborators, not as our servants.  We have been called to serve them, to train them, to see them develop.   Last week, one of the men I get to assist in growing up in the ministry preached another awesome sermon.  Even more, he preached it in a place few others could go, to people that most “professionals” would discount, would see the doors closed, because it wasn’t enough.

there is something in his work, that I wish every professional pastor could learn, could observe, could emulate.  That they too could take on such a group of guys and serve them – work with them, patiently, lovingly, helping them see God, helping them see God working in their brokenness, helping them see that relationship develop…. and transform those that they work with…completely.  Then as they transform, watching them care for others.

Weigel dreams of this for his church body, he loyally suggests this is the track it is taking (and did so prior to Francis being elected.)  Luther knew it – his co-workers literally faced persecution and death – and rose up from nothingness…

I pray this for the churches and pastors I work with as well….

That we would serve… content to follow the example of Christ… and to seriously look at passages like Phil. 2:1-11, Romans 12:1-8, and 1 Corinthians 12-13……

And may we, in ways sometimes seen, and often not seen…on earth.. praise and give glory to God our Father, who sees all, as we obey His commands.

(1)  Luther, M. Luther’s Works, Vol. 25 : Lectures on Romans. Ed. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann. Luther’s Works. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1972.

(2)  Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 123-124). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

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