Committed To Service
Over the past few weeks I have tried to be intentional as we begin this journey together. I wanted to start by sharing my vision for the Greenbrier Family, one that I believe is worth our talents and abilities. Even though I am still trying to learn your names, and the best way to get around the city, I already know that God has given this congregation and the individual members of this family all of the time, talents, and resources we are going to need to get His will accomplished in this community.
We spent the last two weeks laying our foundation. looking at how important it is that our relationship with Christ and one another is built on the Bible and prayer. This morning we get to the next part of my vision for the Greenbrier family, and I believe that it works so well with Fathers Day. Usually when we celebrate Mothers Day, we talk about how our moms taught us how to love, forgive, be compassionate, and show mercy to others. But what do we learn from our dads?
It’s not a secret that over the past few generations the role of dad has diminished in the home. There was a time when the dad was revered; men like Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson emulated the strength and steadfastness that was present in all of the homes in our society. But over the past 3-4 generations we have noticed that dad has become more of a punchline than a source of stability, or even worse they have become missing in action.
Dad’s teach us so much more, than how to change the oil in our car or the proper way to skip a rock across a pond. Dad’s who are dedicated to their homes and families show us what it means to sacrifice and give of their selves so that their families can reap the benefits. It was our dad’s that taught us the value of hard work, and what it truly meant to be a servant. That’s why this morning I want us to look at the next part of my vision for the Greenbrier Family, we must be committed to service. Look with me at our text for this morning, it’s found in John 13:1-11. (Read Text)
Jesus gathered with His disciples in an upper room to celebrate one final meal together before He would die on the cross. If you are familiar with the story you know it was the custom of the day for a host to provide a servant at the door of any dinner party to wash the feet of the guests. Think for a moment about what it was like to walk down those dusty roads; it was not just the dust, when it rained I am sure that they had the same problems with mud puddles that we do. Plus there were animals that roamed their streets. While I haven’t spent a lot of time around large animals, but I did march in plenty of Mardi Gras Parades behind the Clydesdales and I can tell you it’s not pretty.
Once they got to the room they would recline around a table that was a foot to eighteen inches above the ground. Many meals were spent resting on the floor with someone’s feet close to your face and food. So you can understand while having a foot washer to greet guests at the door was standard practice. The foot washer was an important aspect of the meal, because they made the meal much more enjoyable.
The scene opens with the twelve arriving with Jesus; the first disciple walks in the door, looks for the foot washing servant and notices they are not there. Does he wash his own feet? Does he take off his garment and become a servant and wash everyone else’s feet? Not on your life. This was a special meal and their position at the table was not only a place of honor, but dictated their role in the evenings festivities. There were prayers to offer and Scriptures to recite. So you would want a good place at the table so you could participate in the festivities.
So the first disciple enters the room and hurries to the table; in comes the second, third, fourth, and so on. Everyone notices that there is no servant to wash feet, and everyone comes in and looks for a good spot at the table. They all go right past the water basin and recline at the table, making themselves comfortable as they stick their dirty feet in each other’s faces.
Jesus is also in the room, and he not only sees the water basin, He also sees, and probably smells, the filthy feet of the disciples. Unbelievable! After years of hearing sermon after sermon, illustration after illustration, confrontation after confrontation, and not one of them is willing to serve his brothers, or even more heartbreaking, not one of them was humble enough to serve even Jesus.
After giving every one of them the chance to take the role of a servant, Jesus gets up from the table. When He get’s up no one knows where He is going or what He is about to do. Jesus quietly walks to the water basin and begins to remove His outer garment. He carefully picks up the servant’s towel and tucks it in His belt, exactly the way a common servant would. Then He pours the water into the basin and kneels down at the feet of one of His followers.
And while this is a pretty powerful moment in the lives of the disciples, the magnificence of the moment is seen in verse 15 when Jesus says, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” In other words, Jesus calls them and us to be like Him! It’s a call that He has made time and time again; and if you consider yourself a Christian, then at least on face value you have accepted that call. Jesus would not have called us to do something that was impossible. We all have the ability to walk like Jesus walked. John paints a beautiful scene to give us a glimpse of what serving like Jesus looks like.
First we see that Service is proactive.
Let me make a confession here, one of my biggest problems in my personal walk with Christ is that all to many times I have been reactive in my Christianity.
Let me unwrap that a bit. I tend to react to the sin I have seen in the world and in other peoples lives. I’m not saying that I haven’t been a part of some pretty cool things. I have attended marches on the state capital demanding government action, I have participated in debates about teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuses, among other things. While all of those things have some value, in reality they are all reactive things. Marching on a State Capital to change a law is reactive, but changing someones life is proactive.
Reactive Christianity has crept into our churches and can be seen in two different ways. First, we tend to have a “it’s not my problem” type of attitude. Sure we want to serve, but we are pretty particular about how and where we want to serve. We believe that some things are beneath us and other things are not worth our time. Jesus was different, He is showing us how we are to live with one another. He saw a need that was definitely beneath Him and then He met it.
You might not realize that it wasn’t Jesus’ fault that there was no one there to wash feet. In Luke’s account of this story we see Jesus told Peter and John to go and prepare a place for them to have the Passover. Making sure there was a servant to wash feet was an important part of getting the preparations ready. Also Jewish tradition dictated that if no one was there to wash feet, the job feel to the youngest person in the room; that would have been Andrew.
Jesus didn’t scold Peter or John for not making the right preparations. He didn’t force Andrew to do his job. He didn’t clear His throat and draw attention to the need and say someone needs to get this done. When He saw something that needed to be done, Jesus acted like it was His responsibility and His problem and went to work. Sometime service is as simple as seeing a need and meeting it.
Secondly, sometimes we have a wait to be asked type of attitude. Peter didn’t look at Christ and say could you give me a little help here? Matthew didn’t say boy my feet could use a good washing, if only someone who was near the water basin could help us out. Jesus saw a need and met it.
I know there are times we act in caution because we don’t want to step on someone else's toes or take over someone else's ministry. But in reality when we are talking about service, there are plenty of things that need to be done, plenty of needs to be met. If we sit around and wait to be asked to do something, then Greenbrier would need to employ a full time asker; someone who spends 80 hours a week just asking us to do simple acts of service that is all around us. So if we are going to serve we need to be proactive.
That brings us to the next idea about Service and that’s Service meets a need.
Remember they had been walking down those dusty roads, the disciples needed to have their feet washed. It wasn’t a good idea, it wasn’t a nice little treat, it was a need that had to be met.
Very often when we talk about performing acts of service our struggle is the ways we find to serve others can usually be done by someone else, or the folks we are serving can do them themselves. After all we don’t want to enable the laziness of others by doing the things they can do for themselves.
It’s pretty evident that the apostles had the ability to wash their own feet. They even had the ability to wash each others feet. Just having the ability doesn't always see the need. Jesus didn’t condemn them for being lazy, Jesus didn’t condemn them for not doing what they were able to do. Jesus lovingly met their need. That’s what service does, it lovingly sees a need and meets it.
Other times we struggle with service because we are looking for something big to do, something that other folks will notice. Something great like the work that Mother Teresa was involved in, or something flashy, but we have very little interest in the little things. There have been times I have forgotten the purpose of service is to point people to God and not to show them how wonderful I am.
Jesus was more than just our model of service; He also gave us some suggestions on how to serve. In Matthew 25 starting in verse 35 He said: I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
Look at that list again: Feed someone who is hungry, Give water to someone who is thirsty, give a coat to someone who is cold, visit and comfort those who feel lonely. All of these acts are not flashy, they are not a huge front page of the paper story. But this is service that meets a need.
I spent a few moments this week thinking about different types of service that would meet a need in our community. I want us to be a family of believers that are involved in acts of service, it doesn't have to be something huge, just simple acts of service. Here is what I came up with:
Complement your server at a restaurant to their manager. Enough folks complain, spread joy.
When you are in a drive through pay for the meal for the car behind you. That could be a HUGE blessing.
If you see garbage on the floor or in the parking lot pick it up
Visit the sick, the shut ins, or the nursing home. Folks need to be heard, just go and spend 15 minutes listening to someone. If you want to do a super act of service if you see a homeless person, take a few minutes to talk with them. We devalue them because they are not considered a productive member of society. More than food, they crave feeling normal.
Call people that aren’t here today. You sit in the same space every week, and so do the folks who sit around you. If they are gone call them just to see if everything is Ok.
Offer to babysit for a young couple so they can get away for a night, or buy them a pack of diapers.
Hold the door open for someone, or help them carry heavy stuff, or help them get heavy items out of their shopping cart and into their car.
Send cards to let people know you were thinking about them.
Park a little farther from the store, leave the premium parking spot for someone who may be pregnant, or elderly, or have a special need.
Visit the fire and police station and take cookies or pies, or just go by to see if they need anything and then pray with them.
Pray for the houses in your neighborhood
Clean your own table or at least scrape and stack your dishes at a restaurant
Service is not always big and flashy, most of the time service just meets a need.
Finally we see that Service blesses the one who serves.
Our world view is a bit skewed. We like to be the one who gets, the one who is served, the one who receives. But Jesus says that that greater joy, the greater gift is to be the one who can give a gift.
You know how your grandmother used to say, It’s better to give than to receive? She didn’t come up with that on her own. As a matter of fact, Luke attributes that bit of wisdom to Christ in Acts 20:35, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
Christianity is built on serving others because we understand that’s where the real joy in life comes from. Think about it, who is happier, who has the most joy? The one who holds on to what they have so tightly that their knuckles turn white, of the one who is willing to let go of what they have?
It wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood the true joy of Christmas. The best part is not getting gifts from the boys, but watching the excitement in their eyes as they tear into the brightly colored paper. We understand what Jesus was talking about. It is truly better to give and it is truly better to serve.
But the biggest reason that we are blessed when we serve, is because in that moment we get the chance to be Christ. We get to wear His mantle, and live, and love, and act just like He did. And in that moment we find true joy because after all we were created to be like Him.