Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Home About Worship Music and Arts Parish Life Learning Outreach News Contact
Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sermon from June 26, 2011 + Ordinary Time, Sunday 13 (A)

“Whose Servants?”

Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: Matthew 10:40-42; Romans 6:12-23

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

In a previous life, as we say, I worked in several areas of food service. I was a waiter, I was a busboy; at Gustavus I worked in the dishroom for two years. My two sisters closest to me in age always seemed to find office jobs during summers and at college. Somehow, I always had hard work jobs, service jobs, often dirty jobs; when I wasn’t doing food service I worked at a filling station, and at an adult group home as an aide. I would be glad never to have to do any of those jobs again.

In food service and at the filling station we were trained to serve the needs of the customer, the guest, no matter what. Smile, bring water, ask if they are happy. Check the air in their tires even if it’s 20 below zero. Some “guests” were less than easy to serve, or to welcome. But it didn’t matter; it was our job.

And even this cup of water to a little one that Jesus talks about can be annoying. When the little one in question has gotten up three times already, and really needs to be asleep, it can tax the patience of a parent to hear a request even for just a glass of water.

But Jesus says that a way to recognize those who are of the kingdom is by their service – even in giving a cup of cold water to a little one. Welcoming others in Jesus’ name. Serving in the name of our Lord. That’s as important to Jesus as preaching and proclaiming the Good News. For in serving and welcoming that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Today we hear Jesus as he sends out his disciples to serve in his name.

He makes this startling assumption: that just as people knew God the Father when they met Jesus the Son of God (an audacious thing to say in and of itself), so also when they met Jesus’ disciples, it would be as if they were meeting Jesus.

He elsewhere says that he came to serve, not to be served, and now he is sending out his disciples also to serve. And his promise is that when people receive them, they will be receiving Jesus himself.And when those people do things because they are moved by the disciples’ witness, when they do things, in effect, in the disciples’ name, as Jesus says, they’re doing it because they are now becoming servants of the same Lord.

And so what we have today is this promise but also this call. All those who witnessed to us – parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, pastors, neighbors – all those faithful disciples, servants of Christ, were Christ to us. That’s the promise, that they were Jesus to us – not second best, but Jesus’ best plan, that his disciples would actually be him to the world.

But therein lies the call, too – now we are asked to do the same. To serve in their name, as they served us. To serve in Jesus’ name as Jesus serves. To be Jesus to the world ourselves.

When we begin to understand this, we begin to understand Paul’s concern in Romans today. He seems to be dealing with people who are delighted to be forgiven by God, but aren’t terribly interested in living different lives afterward. This kind of attitude is what Paul can’t understand – people even seemed to be suggesting that they sin more so they could be forgiven more.

But Paul says, “By no means!” When we are made new, we are also made servants of God, not of ourselves. That’s what Paul’s trying to work through with the Roman congregation – if we’re forgiven but continue to live lives of sin, we truly have not been freed from that bondage. And we’re still servants of sin, not of our Lord Jesus.

Because Jesus seems to think that following him means our whole life changes. We will recognizably be different if we follow Jesus. Jesus, by his life, and by these words here, says this is how we will be known: by our welcoming, by our serving, by our loving. By our lives of service which themselves proclaim the Good News. Just as Jesus’ life did.

It seems the question both Paul and Jesus are asking us is: Whose servant are you?

When Jesus came to us, God-with-us, he showed us the shape of our servant life. He showed us how to live. Jesus broke barriers of society, barriers of religion, simply by serving, by being loving. Speaking publicly to women, giving them the honor they deserved as children of God. Touching the outcast, the lepers, the sick, and giving them healing. Spending time with sinners, people who were unacceptable. His love broke barriers.

And in dying for the sake of this love, this welcome, this service, he showed us that our call is to give everything we have in our service as well. Service and welcome are hard because they cost. Jesus knew this. His disciples for centuries since, including those who witnessed to us, who have served each of us, knew this. We lose a bit of ourselves when we serve others in Jesus’ name. We often lose our own comfort and convenience. Sometimes we even lose our lives.

But we are loved and forgiven by the One who in dying defeated death and risen to new life transforms all our loss into life. Now he invites us to love and welcome and serve others in his name, too. And we will show our Master, our Lord, by our lives.

If we’re still serving ourselves, serving sin, serving the Evil One – it will show in our lives. If we live for ourselves alone even after knowing we are forgiven and loved by God, if we continue to see forgiveness as only dodging punishment instead of as God’s attempt to restore our relationship and make us new, our lives will show this.

If on the other hand, we are serving our Lord, then our lives will reflect that instead. Served, welcomed, loved by God, we will live lives of service, lives of love, lives of welcome. Forgiven and blessed, we will forgive and bless. Loved, we will love. Served by our Servant King, we will serve.

And in these weeks just beyond Pentecost we remember the joyful good news that it is the Holy Spirit who will bring us to this. Our gift of life in Christ fills us with the Spirit of God, which transforms and changes us to be these new people. We will become Christ in the world ourselves – not second best, but the very plan of God to bring the Good News of God’s love to all.

I know this is hard for me, and not just when I consider working the gas pumps or the dishroom.

I often would rather not be inconvenienced, and sometimes it’s no fun to serve, to get dirty. But when I think of the many cups of cold water I’ve received from Jesus through so many disciples he’s sent, when I think of all who have served me in Jesus’ name, and in the names of the disciples who taught them the faith, when I consider the joy that such witnesses have shown me in their lives of faith and service, when I remember that all I know about God’s resurrection love for me and the world I know because of these servants, I realize that this is the only life I want to live.

And so I pray that God make it so in me. And in case you struggle with the same things, I pray that God make it so in you as well. For in our loving, in our serving, as we live Christ’s life, we are Christ to others, just as those who witnessed to us were Christ to us. We are God’s Good News of life. And through us, God hopes to serve the rest of the world.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

No comments:

Post a Comment


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Reconciling in ChristRIC

Copyright 2014 Mount Olive Lutheran Church