A Life of Service
Last week, the message in worship was about seeking--seeking purpose, seeking
meaning, seeking one another and, most of all, seeking God. We considered wise men and shepherds and angels and gleaming stars; we considered, also, a frightened tyrant, a megalomaniac with a fragile ego, so shaken by news of the Messiah's birth that he tried to outwit the wise men and to use them to identify his rival--a baby, lying in a manger. Seekers, seeking Jesus.
This week, we jump forward as we consider the Gospel of John. Still, in the first chapter, we read that Jesus has begun to call others to follow Him into a life of service--a life of sacrifice. Perhaps Jesus didn't tell Andrew and Simon and James and John and Nathaniel--or any of the others, for that matter--exactly how much sacrifice would be required in their lives of service; not at the beginning. Later, of course, He would tell it all and they would refuse to believe until, at last, He was Risen and they were shaken into the apostolic life.
Service and sacrifice go hand-in-hand; Jesus knew. There was no way His followers could do all that He required of them without sacrificing huge portions of themselves. The best way He could teach them--the only way to really teach them--was to model the service He expected from them. And so, for three years, they walked by His side as He met the least, the last and the lost right where they were--in the slums, the leper colonies, the streets and the dusty villages--and they saw how He loved so deeply that He touched the untouchable, healed the hopelessly diseased and confronted the harshest demons and called them out. Too easily we dismiss His service as being risk-free, as though Jesus was a superhero, an alien with powers that rendered Him invulnerable to the dangers He faced; we should know better. Jesus was fully human, just as He was fully God. All that might afflict us could, and often did, afflict Him and, yet, He persisted. Jesus sacrificed, that His followers might see and might emulate His loving-but-risky service.
Sacrifice is not in vogue today. We are encouraged--by advertisers, by politicians, by some religious leaders, even--to think first of ourselves. We are urged to seek our own "best life now"; we are told that it is time for us to take back "our country." Those in need and those on the outside are compared to inanimate objects to obscure our sense that they are, in truth, just like us. We are encouraged to value our time, to pursue our interests and to look out for number one.
We're busy fooling ourselves again. There is no faith without love, no love without service, no service without sacrifice. But there is good news, and it is
really, really Good News. The world is watching. The world is watching. This is a special time; the people of this world--our neighbors, our co-workers, the folks who work or play or just drive in our community (wherever we are)--they are looking for purpose in this life. They are looking for meaning. Young people--many, many, many of our younger generations--want to change the world, at least in some small way. And, so, they are watching--us. What shall we show them? What shall we model? Shall we conform to the image of "your best life now" or shall we, instead, conform to the image of Jesus, fearlessly and selflessly serving, unafraid of sacrifice.
There is no time like the present to change the world, but we will do it--we will do it--one person, one heart, one hurting soul--one service--at a time. Serve. That's the message for our time.
We Can Hope (even in the darkest of times).
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