The Faith Practice of Serving

Pr. Mark Oehlert, St. John’s, Sterling

Serve. Serving. Tennis anyone?  Seconds at thanksgiving dinner?   Well not exactly, at least in this communication.   This message has to do with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and how serving is at the core of Jesus teaching.  Many biblical parables speak profoundly of Jesus call to serve and care for others: from foot washing to the feeding of the five thousand, from being in relationship with tax collectors and sinners (people) of all kinds to being intentional in caring for children.  In all of these ways and more, Jesus makes his command quite clear: love God, love neighbor.  Serve!

Serving is active, participatory and alive.  In seminary when studying the Hebrew bible, I was struck by our class discovery that there is little language for the words “I” or “me” or “mine” in the language.   In the Hebrew bible, which presents the culture Jesus grew up in, most instances of relationship and interaction between people reference only community, family, neighbor and not the individual.  We on earth are created to be in relationship with one another.  Serving, as part of the seven faith practices, is meant to be as natural as eating and sleeping.   Our ELCA website page referencing the faith practice of serving includes a quote from Martin Luther that is quite relevant to todays’ message.  “Our faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing.”   Serving is alive and is done in relationship.

To serve means that we enter into life in the fullness if all of it wherever we may find ourselves.  That can mean being present in times and places that are messy or unpleasant.  The kenotic (self-emptying) example of Jesus life is clear.  Our inherent response to Jesus giving of faith includes walking with the least of these in this our day and time.  Places like prisons, disaster sites, soup kitchens and various other locations of difficulty and challenge are a few of just such places.   Even and in reality, family or close neighbor relationships can be challenging places to be as well.  While initially, entering into these types of places may not seem desirable and perhaps could even go against our instincts, if you have reservations about entering in, ask someone who has served in such places.  Here faith is alive!  Here faith is lived!  Here faith blooms!  Truly, when serving others in these places and more, Jesus tells us that in such relationships we are defined by serving and giving away ourselves. We will find joy and   the joy will be experienced in many ways.  Serving is a faith practice meant to be a blessing for the wholeness of community.