Tag Archives: service

You Gonna Serve Somebody

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

                                                              — Bob Dylan

So I guess the question posed by a host of folks ranging from Bob Dylan in his classic song to Jesus of Nazareth in scripture is this: just who are you going to serve? I’ve been thinking about this question often this week while pondering, praying over, and writing this week’s sermon (based on Mark’s gospel, 10:35-45).

The sons of Zebedee, James and John, are jockeying for power and position in what they assume will be the earthly rule of their rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, the anointed one; in short, the one who will kick Herod’s behind and send the Romans packing. They have the חֻצְפָּה (or chutzpah, as we know it) ask for seats on either side of the throne.

What they don’t realize is that the reign of God and the Way of Jesus looks nothing like the traditional notions of power and glory. Notice that when Jesus asks them if they can drink from his cup, they respond like eager puppies that don’t take time to sniff for hemlock or sour milk. And even after they answer in the affirmative, Jesus tells them it’s not his call to dole out the prime real estate.

This little exchange ruffles the ego feathers of the other disciples. Clearly they don’t have Paul Harvey to give them “the rest of the story” or the record of scripture to fill them in. What they do have is Jesus, in the flesh, living with them and constantly trying to teach them. If you want to be great, Jesus says, you have to serve.

Not much has changed in 2000 plus years. We humans still have to serve somebody. Even Bob Dylan had that right. The question is who–or what–will you serve? Who–or what–will you put first in life?

If you intend to put Jesus (and thus, God) first, then you must be a servant to all. Funny how that kind of resonates with the great commandment in Luke 10:27 to love God with every fiber of your being and your neighbor as yourself.

Of course, I guess if it was easy to follow the Way of Jesus, everybody would be doing it and church pews would be full, and no one would be hungry or lacking the basics to live. No, it isn’t easy. That’s why people serve fame, fortune, consumer culture, alcohol, drugs, sex, power, and any other number of gods.

It is impossible to serve all and follow Jesus under our own steam and of our own volition. Do-it-yourself faith is simply not an option. The only way we are able to drink from the same cup as Jesus (aka the cup of suffering) is to rely fully and faithfully on Him. By faith through grace alone can we then walk through this world with open eyes, hearts, minds, and hands. Only by grace can we serve all and serve God.

So, who you gonna serve? I continue to echo the answer of Joshua and countless other faithful folk who have said: “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15b).

Photos by JuditK and F3LONY. Thanks!

The Basics

This past Saturday my spouse and I, along with a couple of really cool women from his congregation, had the privilege of preparing and serving the noon meal at the Gettysburg Area Soup Kitchen. Another generous family from the same congregation funded the purchase of the food.

We made Sloppy Joes (a.k.a barbeques) from scratch, and served them with salad and chips, and homemade peach pie and zucchini bread for dessert. We served 36 people, a dozen of whom were young children. Including the four of us, 40 good meals were enjoyed.

Some of the dinner guests share their stories; others choose not to divulge much about their personal lives. Medical difficulties are a common theme, and several of the guests have chronic conditions that compromised their livelihoods and ability to work or have been devastated financially by healthcare costs. One guest was dealing with a medical issue but had no health insurance. Among the guests were single parents–both male and female, white and of color. The youngest guest was a toddler, and the oldest appeared to be several years past retirement. All were courteous, polite, and gracious.

It was humbling to realize that it is only by the grace of God and the help of family and friends that I was able to serve. Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time I was in seminary, had just gone through a rough divorce, and was rearing two daughters with no child support. I was riding the razor edge of financial insecurity, but thankfully many hands and hearts helped us through that rough time. We always had a roof over our heads, food to eat, work to do, and more than enough. It was tough sledding for awhile, but we were among the fortunate ones. Not all are so lucky, and times are even tougher now.

It’s too easy to make sweeping generalizations about poverty and those who live close to the margins. When we do, however, we don’t see the whole picture or learn the story behind the person. The New York Times featured a fine photo essay about homelessness on Sunday, and the latest edition of American Life in Poetry featured a striking poem by Minne Bruce Pratt entitled “Temporary Job.” Both the photos and poem help put a face on a complex issue and remind us that each person, regardless of station in life, is a beloved child of the Creator of the universe.

Mercy, compassion, kindness, generosity, and relationship are among the world’s greatest needs. Yes, we all need the basics–food, water, and shelter–but we need more to thrive. We need each other, the richest and the poorest among us. We have much to learn from one another, and all of us have something important to share and contribute. When we stand (or sit at the table) together as equal partners and children of the Creator amazing things can happen.

Small acts of kindness can spread sweet like honey between the most unlikely of folks. Sloppy Joes shared with strangers and friends can be a feast of love and grace. When hearts and minds are open barriers fall away and basic human dignity blurs the lines between serving and receiving. That is how it should be; all of us need to give generously, and all of us need to learn to receive gratefully. Above all, we need to learn to love and serve one another lavishly. That just about covers the basics, doesn’t it?

(Photos courtesy kirinqueen and sblezard. Thanks!)

Give Thanks for Hands

Tonight we celebrated Maundy Thursday with a reminder to give thanks for hands that serve and hands that love. Jesus’ act of washing his disciples feet prior to their final Passover meal together was a focal point of the gospel reading (John 13:1-17, 31b-35). Modeling servant leadership for those who would carry on, Jesus also issued a command that they love one another. In effect, God made flesh illustrated what it means to serve and love, and he did this by using his hands in service to others.

Before coming to the table for Eucharist, those present had the opportunity to stop and dip their hands in the waters of the baptismal font and dry them on a towel held by a servant leader. (You have to understand that most Lutherans are rather reticent about exposing their feet for a ritual washing, but since “cleanliness is next to Godliness” we have no problem washing our hands!)

Not only did this simple act serve as a reminder that we were washed clean in baptism, it also illustrated the value of hands that serve others. So we washed, we ate and were strengthened, and we were sent to serve in the world. We are to love one another actively, using our hands for the good of our community and world.

Whose hands do you need to give thanks for? Perhaps your mother’s or father’s hands or maybe those of a grandparent. What makes their hands so remarkable? How do (or did) they use them in service to others? Close your eyes and see their hands before you.

Remember the words of Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! (NLT) How beautiful, too, are the hands that serve others in love!

Whether it is preparing food for a family gathering, holding a hurting child, mending clothes, tending a garden, preparing the altar for worship, or repairing a window in the church building, the hands that serve are beautiful indeed. Don’t forget to give thanks for hands!

Lent 40/40/40 Challenge

Honoring Relationships

I was saving him for last, but thinking about hands that serve reminds me to honor my spouse. He has amazing hands! They knead bread to keep our family fed, they are handy with household repairs or changing oil, they are creative as they tap, tap, tap on his computer keyboard, and they offer amazing back and neck rubs. Thank you, dear wonderful life partner, for using your hands to serve others, to show your caring and love, and to lift the bread and wine as the officiant at Christ’s holy meal. You are a treasure!

Giving Possessions

Have you ever read Sandra Cisnero’s short story “Eleven”? If not, I highly recommend it to you. Click here to read it online. I have a red sweater that has always sort of reminded me of the sweater in Cisnero’s story–even though it isn’t ratty like the one in the story. Well, today I’m finally releasing it from my closet to find a new home. Bye, bye red sweater!

Giving Thanks

Tonight I give thanks for hands. I give thanks for my mother’s hands that have held me and stroked my hair when I’m sad. I’m thankful for my father’s hands that worked so hard to provide for us. I’m thankful for my spouse’s hands as he kneads bread dough each week. I’m thankful for the hands of those in our faith community who do so much and serve so well. I am thankful to have two hands to put to good use in the service of others. Blessings abound!

Photo by Nojhan used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!