4th Sunday in Lent
Part of the sermon series on our mission statement: Serving Christ and Community
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who serves us and calls us to do the same. Amen
This Lent we have been examining our mission statement
during our Sunday sermon time,
we’ve explored the grace that God has saved us by,
affirmed that we are rooted in Christ
and therefore called to flexibility and continual growth,
and last week we renewed our commitment to nurturing faith,
that of ourselves and others.
Today we reach the fourth and final piece of our statement:
Serving Christ and Community,
next week we’ll put it all together
and do some thinking about how we want to live out our mission statement
but before we get to that
we will consider what it means
when we say serving Christ and community.
Serving others is a hallmark of the Christian life,
Jesus’ whole life was lived in service to others
and he commanded his followers to do the same.
We see this in our gospel,
where Jesus on his last night with the disciples
washes their feet and tells them that they should follow his example,
so what is his example?
It’s taking the place of a servant
to perform a menial, undesirable task, yes,
but it is much more than that,
it is an act of love
made without the expectation of gratitude or immediate understanding.
On this last night with the disciples,
Jesus knows what is about to happen.
By the end of the evening
they will betray and abandon him
and leave him to die on the cross.
Jesus knows this
and yet we are told that
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
This service is an act of love
made knowing that it will not be reciprocated.
All throughout his life this is what Jesus did
he took care of people because they needed care,
not because they were going to thank him or love him.
Some people did have that response
but others did not,
and yet Jesus still served them
because for Jesus,
service is about the ones we serve,
not ourselves and any benefits we might get from service.
Because as altruistic as we may be about serving others,
as humans we are so used to transactional relationships,
you do something for me - I do something for you,
that it’s hard to turn that off,
so we still approach acts of service with the perspective,
what can I get out of this?
Even if what we get out of it
is feeling good about ourselves,
and if that is our motivation
what we end up doing is serving ourselves rather than others.
It’s giving pimentos to a food drive.
The only reason to give pimentos,
or something equally obscure,
to a food drive,
is to be able to participate in giving,
to feel good about contributing without actually making a sacrifice,
I can only think of two uses for pimentos,
martini olives and that southern cheese spread.
People who are food insecure don’t need pimentos,
especially ones that have sat on a shelf for too long.
Serving like Jesus
means actually filling a need,
taking the time to listen and understand
what is needed
or, sometimes the best way to understand how best to serve others
is to be served ourselves
have our needs filled by someone else
and that’s something we struggle with.
We see this when Jesus approaches Peter,
who asks “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
then states “You will never wash my feet.”
Peter doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of service,
especially from someone he wants respect from
yet at the same time
Peter has been a willing participant in Jesus’ ministry of serving others.
We like to serve,
but we hesitate to be served
this is a selfish approach to service
because it is a position that never relinquishes power,
and relinquishing power is the essence of Jesus’ life
at the beginning of his ministry
he refused to give into the temptations of the devil
who told him to use his power and relationship with God to fill his needs
and he carried this attitude all the way to the cross
where he gave up his life
for others, for us
Sometimes serving others
means relinquishing our own power,
sometimes is means
letting others serve us,
because serving others does feel good,
and builds self-esteem, and shouldn’t everyone have that experience?
I had this realization in college,
band would go on tour once a year
and we were hosted by churches,
we’d arrive set up, play a concert, take down,
and then it would be time to meet our hosts for the night,
since members of the congregation housed us.
At first I felt very awkward about this,
like I was imposing on my hosts,
and I wondered why they were so interested
in a couple of college kids who they’d never see again
until I realized
that if the tables were turned,
I’d be really excited to be the host
And so in accepting their hospitality
In addition to having a place to sleep for the night
I was giving them a chance at this excitement
An opportunity to serve.
We can’t always be the ones to do everything for ourselves,
there are times we need to be served by others.
Paul reminds the Corinthians this
when he uses the example of the body
to describe a community,
not everyone has the leading role all the time
but we need every single part to make up a whole,
the feet need to be directed by the eyes
at the same time the eyes need the feet to move other places
for more things to see.
We are part of a community,
and that means at different times
we have different roles to play,
sometimes that means serving
and sometimes that means being served,
even Jesus needed the hospitality of others
and he graciously allowed them to serve him.
In fact Jesus calls us to serve him
We serve Jesus when we take care of those in need.
In Matthew chapter 25 Jesus describes the final judgment
where people are sorted based on who served him during their lives or who didn’t
and both types of people wonder
when did we serve you? or when did we ignore?
and Jesus tells them,
‘whatever you did to the least of these you did to me.’
We serve Christ when we serve others,
we serve the community when we serve Christ,
we serve like Christ,
when we put our own needs and desires aside
and focus on the ones in need of service.
And we can put aside our own needs and desires,
we can serve selflessly
because of what God has done for us,
because we are saved by God’s grace,
because we have been given the gift of Christ
and nurtured in our faith,
when we serve it is out of thanksgiving for what God has done for us,
not because we’re trying to earn points toward salvation,
Jesus has taken care of that,
and so having been so comprehensively served by Jesus,
we in turn set out to serve Christ and community. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.