As we finish our last week of the Revive sermon series and the five practices that we improve as followers of Jesus, we end with Service. I was not in worship this Sunday, as I was preaching at my home church in Ormond Beach, but I watched worship and Pastor David’s excellent sermon online. The scripture that we look at today was from John 13:1-5 and 12-17. Here is the story once more.
13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. John 13:1-5;12-17
I will admit that this is one of my favorite stories of Jesus. When I picture the person of Jesus in my mind’s eye, I often picture him kneeling with a towel wrapped around him washing smelly feet. I grew up in a mission-oriented home and church and so I take great comfort in this version of the Jesus story. Probably unlike most children, I can remember that Christmas in Ormond Beach often had a mixture of smells for me. One vivid memory was the mixture of the smell of cornbread and cigarette smoke. You see, on the cold nights in Ormond Beach, whenever the temperature was at or below 40 degrees, my father would volunteer to drive the 15 passenger van around our area and pick up homeless men and women and drive them to shelters. I would be in the front seat with a pan of my mother’s warm and sweet cornbread to add to the chili at the shelters. And so, when I think of the meaning of the Christmas season, I cannot separate it from these two smells.
In his sermon on Sunday, Pastor David talked about how service blesses us, the servers, in a number of ways. He reminded us that we can’t follow Jesus if we aren’t also in the habit of serving because in order to know Jesus and grow in relationship with him, that happens most tangibly through service. Serving connects us to our purpose, puts us in a front-row seat to witness God’s miracles and helps us know Jesus more deeply. And while I couldn’t agree more with each of these, I would like to add one more for the purpose of our time together. Serving blesses us because it becomes our legacy.
You know that I am a proud mom of Emmaline and Charlie and every day they show me more of God’s grace and love. Two days ago, we were having a picnic with my parents after church and once again Emmaline’s birthday party became the focus of conversation (which it has occasionally since July). We are having an outside tea-party for a few of her friends and she started naming all of the activities, games and party favors she had thought through and talked through many times before. But just as I was about to check out from “Cruise Director Emmaline’s” plans she said something that took my breath away.
She said, “At the end of the party, I want to pack up lunch bags with apples, granola bars and maybe some juice and have my friends and I find hungry people and hand them out.”
Wow. Thank you Emmaline for reminding your family what it means to serve others. And so I would add that one of the blessings of service is that it becomes our legacy. When we are modeling a servant’s heart, we begin to notice that our children and grandchildren are watching us; they are soaking it all in. There have been several times that the kids have been in the car and we come to a stop near a major road and they notice a person with a sign. I don’t usually have cash, but we usually ALWAYS have snacks in our car and the kids love to offer to the hungry person some of their snacks. As long as we are safe and I am the one handing the snack to the stranger, the kids look into their eyes and see firsthand what it means to serve our neighbor.
I tell you this not to brag on my family, but to show how children are watching and how they associate that feeling of service with ease. Making lunch bags was so fun and easy that she wanted to include her friends in it and make it a part of her Birthday Party. And that kind of outlook is more about being open and willing which children always remind us how to embrace. Pastor David ended his sermon with the challenge to see availability as more important than ability. And so we now have a chance to model that for our future generations for those little eyes and little ears that are watching and listening. What a privilege and responsibility that is for us the church to model and I pray that God gives each of us the strength to model Service like Jesus for those in our lives.