Committed to Service!

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, October 28, 2012.

READINGS: Psalm 37:3-5, Malachi 3:13-181 Corinthians 12:1, 4-18, Mark 10:35-45

This week we’re continuing our series on commitment.  As United Methodists we believe that every committed person of faith is called to uphold the mission of Christ through the local church by freely and fully offering their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.  When everyone is upholding the mission of Christ in these ways, we believe that the world will become a better place transforming, by the grace of God, into the Kingdom of God, Heaven here on earth.

We started this series by talking about our commitment to PRAYER and our need to set aside intentional alone time with God so that our souls might be nourished and our lives given direction.  We then talked about our commitment to PRESENCE.  God demands and needs our full presence—body, mind, and soul—so that we might truly grow in love with God, each other, and the world God so loved and came to save.  Last week, we talked about our commitment to GIVING.  We each have an obligation to earn all we can and save all we can (be frugal) so that we can give all we can.  Today, let’s talk about our commitment to SERVICE.  Are you committed to serving Christ and using your God-given gifts so that the body of Christ, the Church, might reach out with God’s love and transform the world.

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Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world.  Amen.

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YOU ARE IMPORTANT.  If there’s one thing I’d like to you to get out of worship today, it is that you are a priceless part of this community.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here for 50 years or 5 months or 5 minutes.  It doesn’t matter if you 8 years old or 108 years old, you are an indispensible part of this community.  You are important.

In three of our readings for today, people forgot and/or misunderstood their importance.  In Malachi, the Israelites were discouraged because all the unfaithful jerks around them were prospering while those who sought to follow the LORD were, in their eyes, being punished.  In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, there were several different factions who were trying to claim superiority based upon what they’d done in and through the community: some tasks and the individuals who did them were, they reasoned, more important.  In our lesson from the Gospel of Mark, James and John, having heard that Jesus is about to die at the hands of the Romans, make one final plea—one final request—so that they might feel like the last three years following Jesus wouldn’t be wasted.  After Jesus died and rose from the dead, James and John wanted Jesus to reward them by allowing them to sit at Jesus’ right and left side in heaven.

The Israelites, the church at Corinth, James and John want what each of us want.  They wanted to be valued.  They wanted to feel important.  They wanted to know that the things they had done and given up for God’s sake really were making a difference.  And, that’s not all bad.

We all want to feel valued.  We all want to feel important.  We all want to know that what we’re doing is worthwhile.  That’s not the problem.  The problem comes in how we understand and seek out our importance.

The Israelites wanted to feel important, blessed by God, while the unbelieving twits around them suffered from God’s wrath.  The church in Corinth wanted to esteem and elevate others at the expense of those who did what appeared to be less significant acts of faith and service.  James and John wanted to be given a special seat of honor over and above everyone else.  In our readings for today, the people—the Israelites, the church in Corinth, James and John—were seeking importance based upon the world’s standard.

We live in a world that defines importance based upon power, possessions, prestige, and position.  We foolishly believe that the more people we can order around the more important we are.  It does not matter if we boss them around at our job, at church or in our families, importance, according to the worlds standard is based upon the number of people who serve you.

“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” [Jesus] said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”[1]

Importance in the church—importance in the Kingdom of God—is not based upon the number of people who serve you.  Importance in the church—importance in the Kingdom of God—is based upon the number of people you serve.  Importance in the church—importance in the Kingdom of God—is not based upon where you sit, the status or position you hold.  It is not based upon the amount of money in your bank account, the amount of money you give to the church, the clothes you wear or the car you drive.  Importance in the church—importance in the Kingdom of God—is based upon how faithful we are to serving others in and through the body of Christ.

This is Good News!  Because by defining importance based upon service instead of status,

it means that everybody can be [important], (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.[2]

You can be that important, valued, indispensible part of the community of faith, the body of Christ.  Because?  There is no appendix in the body of Christ.  There are no varicose veins in the body of Christ.  There are no replacement or disposable parts in the body of Christ—the community of faith.  Because…

God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like [God] wanted.  If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body?  But as it is, there are many parts but one body.  So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

[God has meticulously brought the body of Christ together, giving each a special and indispensible function] so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it.  You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.[3]

We are together, though many, the body of Christ.  And you, whether you’ve been here for 50 years, five months, or five minutes, have an important role to play in making sure that this body can go where it needs to go and be the community God needs it to be so that the mission of God, the redemption of the world, might be accomplished.

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YOU ARE IMPORTANT, because God has called you here.  Without you, this body—this community of faith–would be incomplete.  Without you, we would not be able to accomplish God’s mission of outreaching love in the world.

I truly believe that God provides all the people and resources necessary to accomplish the work God has called us to.  We so often fail to do what God has called us to, not because we lack the vision, but because we lack unity.  We bicker.  We gossip.  We withhold our monetary support or pledge because we’re not happy with the decisions of a committee or the pastor.  The foot is jealous of the hand.  The ear is sad he’s not an eye.  And, the individual parts, ceasing to function, cripple the entire body.

But, when each part of the body is working—serving—to its fullest potential…miracles occur.

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Throughout this commitment drive you have been asked to do your part in making this community a vibrant and healthy representation of the body of Christ.  You’ve been challenged to freely and fully

  • commit to prayer by spending 30 minutes a day alone with God in prayer so that you might find direction for life and nourishment for your soul.
  • commit to presence within a community of faith by attending worship 48 weeks a year and Bible Study 26 weeks a year so that you might grow in your love of God, each other, and the world God so loved and came to save.
  • commit to giving at least 10% of your income (however it is earned) so all persons might experience the generosity of God’s blessing through a church that feeds the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the stranger, care for the widow and fatherless, defend the oppressed, and meet the need of those who are sick and in pain.

This week, I’d like to ask: will you commit to service?  Will you freely and fully use your God-given gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ so that it might be a vital and healthy community that reaches out to its fullest potential in the name of Jesus Christ?  Are you willing to serve in and through this body of Christ at least 5 hours a month?  Will you commit to serving in and through this body of Christ?

I pray so…because without your faithful service we’ll never be able to walk where God calls us to go.  We’ll never be able to fully extend ourselves and reach out to the least, the last and the lost.  Without your service, we’ll never fully represent Christ in a world that needs to see and experience his love and grace.

I hope you’ll commit to serving…because you’re an important part of this body.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here 50 years, five months, or five minutes.  You have an indispensible role to play.  You are the only eyes.  You are the only ears.  You are the only hands.  You are the only feet Jesus has in the world to accomplish God’s mission of redemption in the world.  YOU ARE IMPORTANT.

Amen.


[1] Mark 10:42-45, The Message.

[2] “The Drum Major Instinct,” a sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on February 4, 1968, at Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, Georgia) <http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_the_drum_major_instinct/> Accessed October 26, 2012.

[3] adapted from 1 Corinthians 12:18-21, 24b-27, Common English Bible.

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