Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, November 20, 2016
Scripture Reference: I Corinthians 12:4-11, Matthew 25:37-39, Romans 14:18-19
Sermon: Committed to Christ: Service
Lately Jacob has been telling us that he wants to be a knight or a jockey when he grows up. When we are little we start to think about what we want to do when we grow up, and it is often based on a story or something we’ve seen that seems exciting. As we grow older we still imagine and think about what we want to do with our lives, but often that which starts to influence us more is someone in our lives that we look up to a – a teacher perhaps that made an impact on our lives, a father who loved working outside, or maybe a police officer or fire fighter that you saw responding to an incident. We see something in these persons that we want to emulate in our own lives.
It is no different in our Christian walk of faith. We, too, have moments of reflecting what we want our lives as a Christian to be like, the witness we want to offer. And this too, is often shaped by what we have seen in others; who we want to become, how we want to grow as a Christian is influenced by those we have looked up to.
I can remember visiting my Great Grandma Bueche when I was in junior high and trying to hold in my laughter. She was telling me about her day, and how she had spent her day baking bread for the older members of the church. I couldn’t imagine how old they might be since she herself was 80, but I never forgot that conversation. It made an impression on me that no matter how old you become there are things you can do to serve others. Grandma Bueche loved to bake, and she was good at it, and she used that gift to share Christ’s love with others. Even when she became homebound she sent cards to others.
I also think of Florence, who was one of my Sunday School teachers. She had already been teaching Sunday School for 35 years, and she wasn’t ready to quit. She loved the children, and so even though her children or grandchildren weren’t in her class she kept teaching. She became everyone’s grandma.
Then there is Wayne and Mike, two carpenters. They had their own business that kept them busy during the week, but on the weekends they were just as busy. They were using those same gifts to work at Habitat for Humanity sites, or to help friends or older members of the community out with something in their homes. Only it wasn’t just their skills to fix or make things, sometimes they were just there to help move something. Mike and Wayne were two people you knew you could count on.
I also remember Marie. She had a gift for prayer. If someone had a prayer concern they went to Marie. They knew she would find the words, and that she would keep praying. People knew this because months later Marie would follow-up, asking how things were going.
Each one of these persons left an impression on me because of what they did. Each one was different, because they had different gifts. Yet they all used the gifts God had given them to serve others. Paul reminds us in our reading today that each one of us has been given gifts by the Spirit that we can offer and use for the good of the community, and when we do we are witnesses to the Spirit. Using our gifts, living our lives serving others, is one of the most powerful ways in which we demonstrate our commitment to Christ.
That is certainly heard in today’s reading from Matthew. Jesus makes it clear that serving others, using our gifts for the betterment of someone else, is the equivalent of serving Jesus himself. There is no better way to please God than to serve others. This was how Christ himself lived – feeding hungry, healing the sick, the blind, the dead, teaching in the synagogue, praying for others, washing feet. There was nothing Jesus would not do to raise someone into a better life, even when it meant dying. It was as he was washing the disciples’ feet, as he was preparing to give his life, he said, “I have set an example for you. This is how you love one another.” That is what made Christ so different from any other King. It was never about what others could do for him. It was never about power or position, about glory or fame. That which defines Christ as King is what he did for others, how he gave of himself for the good of all. And the truth is that even in this example Jesus was giving us life; for as Jesus spoke on that last night he said, “Now that you know the truth, how happy you will be if you put it into practice, “(John 13:17).
Anything who has served others knows how true this is. This week I was reminded of this as I listened to a colleague tell her story. She shared how she was struggling and had been feeling very depressed, but she said, “I’m doing better. Two things have changed. One, I’ve listened to my daughter and am taking more vitamins, but then I got this in the mail.” She showed me a poster sheet flier from Fox Valley Volunteer Agency listing all the different opportunities there were to serve, and then she started sharing which ones she was going to do. At the prospect of serving others, she herself was finding meaning and enthusiasm for life again.
I’m sure you would hear similar accounts from those who have been on a mission trip. There is a reason so many keep going year after year. It isn’t just being able to make a different for someone else, it is how we ourselves grow and feel alive. We understand ourselves more fully.
Each one of us has been given gifts by the Spirit. Each one of us has something to offer the community, whether it is through the church or another agency. Some of us are good at organizing and planning. Some are good at recruiting help. Some have the gift to work hard and help where it is needed Others are good at listening and praying. We all have something, and when we use our gifts to serve others, we are giving witness to Christ, who came to serve. When we serve the community, we are in fact demonstrating our commitment to Christ, our King.