The Rev. Dr. Denver Bitner, part-time assistant to the bishop and LSSI President Emeritus
Teacher, What is the greatest commandment in the law? And He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 22: 34-40
In the teaching ministry of Jesus faith and service were always found in relationship to one another. Whether it was teaching in parables or actually feeding thousands of people, Jesus affirmed the dependent relationship of faith and service. Faith is authenticated by the act of service to God and neighbor. When we worship we call it a service and when we show kindness to our neighbor we call it service. Our service in our house of worship and our service in the community are both acts of worship.
For many years, Jack Johnson, an insurance agent, had been called on to serve the church in a variety of ways. He had served on the church council, as an usher at services, and as treasurer of the church. After his retirement he was asked to volunteer at the our church pantry. One day I stopped by the pantry where he was serving the many families who came monthly for enough food to feed their children. I asked how it was going and he responded that this was the most spiritually rewarding experience he had shared in his many years as a volunteer in the church. He responded, “ It connects my faith with what I have learned in church.” In service to others our faith comes alive. If you want to introduce your neighbor to God’s love, join them in service to others for that is where Christ is found.
Mother Theresa put it this way; “Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service.” It is prayer that gives us strength to serve and it is service that gives us cause for thanksgiving. The word of God calls us to love our neighbor in real and tangible ways. We are to provide food for those who are hungry and comfort to those who suffer especially those who are most vulnerable among us. The ministry of service is not an add-on to our faith life. It is essential to a vibrant faith experience. Most people don’t realized that the service ministries of the church are the most significant way that we connect with our communities. Last year one out of every 50 people in the country was served by a Lutheran Service Agency. Service is at the heart of what we do as a church.
It makes a difference not only to the one who is served but also to the one who is engaged in service. For it is the one who cares who experiences the joy that God gives to those who share of themselves. Service is not always recognized or even received with gratitude but we grow in faith and maturity as we respond to God’s call to love.