Stewards Living with Purpose – 3 LSB #’s 842, 848, 894
Text – Galatians 5:13
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Serve One Another
When your family or friends describe you, would the word “servant” be used? Probably most of us would not be described as a servant. However, whatever our position or status in life, we are called to share God’s love in acts of service to our neighbor.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) is a command that reaches out to everyone. Paul exhorts His readers, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Of course, the description of a servant would fittingly describe Jesus. The Son of God, in His own words,
“…did not come to be served, but to serve, & to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) This is the Son of Man Who lived a childhood in obedience to His Father & to the earthly parents who were chosen for Him. This is the Son of Man Who preached & taught, Who healed the sick, confronted the wicked, & comforted the despairing.
This is the Son of Man Who calls us to “…deny [ourselves] & take up [our crosses] & follow [Him].” (Matthew 16:24) Jesus taught powerful lessons about servanthood. He taught a lesson on the night of the final meal He would eat with His disciples. Luke tells us that all 12 were gathered in an upper room with Jesus in their midst.
Off to the side, nearly forgotten, was a basin. In the basin was water, but no one was standing behind the basin. No one had it in his grasp. It stood unattended, unnoticed. That basin was meant for the washing of feet. In ancient times, the mode of transportation was a little messier than it is today. The person who was traveling would not only come into your home with a dust & dirt, but his feet would be stained by donkey droppings as well. Washing feet was the job of the least servant. In our terms, the servant with the lowest amount of seniority got the basin as the guests came into the home. He would kneel down & wash their feet.
On that night, when the 12 were gathered with Jesus, the basin was unattended. There were no men pushing & shoving to see who would serve. “No, no, my turn, you got to do it last time. I get to be first. Get behind me. I get to serve. Who do you think you are, pushing in front of me? It’s my turn.”
The basin stood alone – until Jesus knelt down & began to wash the feet of each disciple. It was a very awkward moment. They knew He was the Son of God, from the right hand of the Father. Finally, speaking up as if to voice the concern, the awkwardness, & the embarrassment of the whole group, Peter said,
“Lord, You can’t do this.” Of all the people in the room, Jesus should not be doing this! The Twelve could not see that He was teaching them about a more blessed way of life. Jesus was getting them ready for what was going to happen within 24 hours.
As He hung on that cross, & they watched Him bleed & groan & gasp, the same thought washed over them that should come to us as you & I picture that scene. It’s supposed to be the same feeling the disciples had when Jesus took that basin: “Lord, this isn’t right. You’re not supposed to be doing this. I’m the one who should be there. I should be suffering, not You.”
Yet the Lord makes it clear that, through that cross, He gives more than an example; He gives new life. It is new life as we look to Jesus & recognize the blessings of His service, of His ransom, of His deliverance. We rejoice & hold onto & remember that great beginning. That beginning, our salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, enables us to serve one another.
The very nature of Jesus is the power that should be our encouragement to serve others.
Acknowledging Christ for Who He is & what He has done to redeem sinful people, we begin to understand His nature & purpose for us. As those who are forgiven, we have the redemptive purpose of living a life of faithful service to others in Jesus’ name.
Christ’s love for us & our love for Him make our lives of servanthood possible. Through a loving relationship with Him, we are willing to live lives in faithful service. As God’s people, we are called to love God with all of our hearts, souls & minds & to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37, 39)
The key to our service is living with an attitude that is God-centered. With God as our focus, we want to love & serve Him by loving & serving others. Unfortunately, because we are naturally self-centered, our interest is in serving ourselves instead of serving others.
When we succumb to the temptation of putting ourselves first, we place ourselves in the center of life, & become less interested & ultimately unaware of the needs of others. God’s grace turns us around. In Christ, He has put us first, so now we are freed to put others first.
So, how do we love & serve people who are repugnant & unlovable? How do we get away from using a to-do-list? How do we put ourselves in positions to serve? Here are four suggestions:
As God’s stewards, we are to serve all people, not just those who bring us status or clout or return the favor. Helping others minimizes the problem of self-absorption or pride that interfere with a life of servanthood. When we do mundane, unnoticed acts of service for others, we receive the reward of knowing that it really is Christ we are serving. (Matthew 25:40)
Being a servant means, first of all, being available. It means to be willing. We may at times need to have our agendas interrupted for service opportunities. True service comes without thinking because it happens naturally.
Jesus also calls us into servanthood not just because others need our service but because of what happens to us when we serve. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) We receive through our giving. In serving others we often gain more than those receiving our service. When we serve others, God’s love within us overflows through us to others. This thought can be illustrated by two large bodies of water in the Holy Land. The one to the north is filled up by the streams that run down from the mountains with the melting snow & the rains that come in their season. Standing along the banks of that northern body of water, the Sea of Galilee, this is what you’ll experience.
You will hear children splashing in the water, fishermen pulling in their catch, birds flying overhead & diving to catch fish. Flowers grow along the bank of the lake. It’s a place of life, of celebration, a place of giving & receiving. Then the waters of that lake make their way down the Jordan River.
They head south until they come to their resting place. If you stand on the bank of that body of water, you won’t hear children splashing. There won’t be flowers growing on the shore. There are no birds flying overhead dipping in for fish, & no fishermen on the lake.
Do you know what that place is called? It’s the Dead Sea because it’s one of those places that receives water, receives the gifts, receives the blessings, & then holds on. There’s no escape, no outlet, no sharing. The waters turn stagnant, putrid, & cannot support life.
Are you like the Sea of Galilee, a channel of God’s love, or like the Dead Sea, a terminal receptor of God’s gifts? Whenever you recognize that you are a dead sea, simply repent & believe the Good News that Jesus has given you life. Then rejoice & live. The Holy Spirit will not leave you in that dead sea. Amen.
As we worship, grant us vision, till Your love’s revealing light in its height & depth & greatness, dawns upon our quickened sight, making known the needs & burdens Your compassion bids us bear, stirring us to tireless striving, Your abundant life to share. Called by worship to Your service, forth in Your dear name we go, to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show; hope & health, goodwill & comfort, counsel, aid & peace we give, that Your servants, Lord, in freedom may Your mercy show & live. Amen. LSB 848:3-4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet