“We Serve in Our Church, Community, and the World”
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
May 14, 2017
Galatians 5:13-14 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (NIV)
Well, first of all, Happy Mother’s Day! And in the life of our church what a great theme we have today. Today, we consider our church’s core that “we serve in our church, community and the world.” That phrase describes the very best of motherhood and is close to the original, desired meaning of Mother’s Day. Celebrating mothers goes back to ancient days and occurs in many nations. But in our country, the roots of Mother’s Day are with two Methodist Christian women: Ann Marie Jarvis and her daughter, Anna. Ann pushed Mother’s Day as a time of serving, establishing “mothering clubs” to teach prenatal care and health, friendship clubs between northern and southern veterans after the Civil war, and meeting the needs of children everywhere. After her mother died, Anna relocated to Philadelphia and there, partnering with the famous merchant, Wannamaker, eventually got President Woodrow Wilson to declare a national holiday. The holiday, at it’s core, was to be about loving, humble service, exactly what’s described in the passage Dr. Suzanne just read. This passage, so captured by our core value of service in the church, community and world together, gives us a benchmark for evaluating all we are doing or considering in our church’s life: does it serve the church, the community or the world?
Our scripture lesson guides us in the how. It reminds us we have freedom to choose in life and when choosing, choose service over selfish desires. And then, it teaches about the attitude of service: humility. And finally, our passage relates that our service is to be loving in nature. With the “how we are to be” in mind, let’s explore our core value together.
First, we are to serve in the church. Now, service always begins with our commitment to Christ. There is an old legend about a wealthy merchant who travelled a long distance to meet St. Paul. The merchant found him in a prison cell and was surprised to meet a thin, older man who had obviously been through many hardships. The talked for hours. After the conversation, the merchant sought out Timothy and said, “Paul is the most amazing man I’ve ever met. He is so wise, loving, caring, sacrificial, peaceful and serving of all. What is his secret?” Timothy replied, “He’s in love.” The merchant was surprised by the answer, “In love?” “Yes,” Timothy said, “He’s totally in love and committed to Jesus.” “Is that all?” the merchant asked. Timothy simply said, “That is enough.”
Service as Christians starts with being totally committed to and in love with Jesus! When we are, we recognize that the church isn’t an institution, club or mere social organization. At it’s best, open and obedient to the Holy Spirit, the Bible teaches the church is the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. To serve the church is to serve Christ.
Think of the myriad of ways to serve at Christ Church! From offering hospitality at the desk to teaching, to being training as a Stephen Minister; there are so many! Where are you called to serve?
Now, here’s the challenging question: what kind of church would Christ Church be if everyone in it participated, worshipped, prayed, gave, supported and served the church just as you do? Does an honest answer to this convict you? If so, could it be the Holy Spirit is urging you to “step up” your game in participating, worshipping, praying, giving, supporting, volunteering and serving at Christ Church?
We are also called to serve outside these walls, to not just come to church, but to be church, the Body of Christ. The vision statement your council developed, that is, God’s desired future for Christ Church is that we become a congregation that “embraces people, the community and the world with the boundless love of God”.
You may have “connected the dots” of that vision with the desire and command of Jesus in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In other words, we’re to witness–which is best with an integrity of word and deed–in our city, nation and the world. Note, Jesus, isn’t giving either/or options here – it’s all both/and.
This means we are to serve in the community of Greensboro, our nation, and the world.
And as we humbly serve, we do so believing God’s love is boundless, not limited to those like us or who even love God back.
Christ Church loves her community well and yet, as long as one child doesn’t have food, a decent place to live, safety, and love in their life then our work isn’t finished; God will never say, “you’ve done enough.” This means we’re called to do more, different, innovative service in the tomorrows of this church. For instance, here’s a new ministry God is bringing about: folks working for the SCMT yard sale wondered,“What if we had a year round storage space? Then, if someone moved to a retirement community and down sized anytime, the youth could schedule a time to meet the donor, and the donor has the pleasure of meeting the youth and giving to the church. And furnishing could be stored for the yard sale but if a need came about, the youth could help meet it; like a table for a refugee family, or a bed for a family who lost their belongings in a fire.
Another example is a Sunday school class dreaming God’s dream of love for all people. They’ve been dreaming about a monthly rented storefront in a distressed area of the city and having a “Christian Coffee Shop”; a place where all kinds of people could gather and folks who might not feel comfortable in a church building could feel accepted, a place where worship could happen. Or maybe, following the leadership of Dean Elaine Heath at Duke, Christ Church could rent a house or restore an empty UM parsonage in an impoverished neighborhood and provide housing for a few servants who would live by a Christian rule of life, worshipping and serving together in the neighborhood. Christ Church does so many things, and I believe God has wonderful exciting service in the years to come.
And finally, we are to serve the world. Christ Church does this in so many ways! And what a great day, besides Mother’s day, to celebrate this fact: we have Paul Webster with us today, a missionary of the church we’ve supported for years; we have Volunteers in Mission folks being commissioned to serve in Alaska; we have regular groups going East to serve in Hurricane Matthew relief; recently, a team of young adult women returned from Guatemala where they partnered with Dr. Perry’s Curamerica and cared for newborns; we just had a dinner for our Dominican Republic team finishing their project of a school now turned medical clinic. We have additional work in Africa and support mission work in Asia. Our apportionments support so many missions as well. And it all makes a difference; it all contributes to our making disciples for the transformation of the world. What’s exciting is to ask, “What’s next God?” and when God answers, to step up and say, “Here I am Lord, send me.”
Fall in love with Jesus, then serve the church, community and world from the passion Christ plants in your heart.
Halford Luccock, a United Methodist minister and longtime preaching professor at Yale Divinity school once told about Eugene Ormandy dislocating his shoulder leading the Philadelphia Orchestra! He said, “I don’t know what they were playing. Certainly not Mozart, maybe Stravinsky. But at any rate, he was giving all of himself to it. And I’ve asked myself sadly, ‘did I ever dislocate anything, even a necktie’?” We are to serve with that kind of zeal, energy and passion; after all, we’re disciples of the one who did that and even more; the cross is a constant reminder of that.
Discussion Questions for May 14
How are you currently serving as a Christian? What do you need to seek out or incorporate into your life in order to continue that service?
How have you experienced servanthood as a Christian with a small group or similar community of people?
What does it mean to serve in the name of Christ?