Moving from membership in an institution, to discipleship within a spiritual community requires movement – real movement in the form of service.
I love the words of Exodus 19:6,
“You shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.”
Priestliness and serving is not only for the chosen few who are ordained but it is for all the baptized. A call to discipleship is a call to “wash feet.” As Jesus stooped to wash the feet of the disciples, so we are called to stoop down and serve. It doesn’t sound very glamorous but in the economy of heaven it is an elevated vocation.
Let me share a personal story. This is just an example of the choices we can make. When on a mission trip with youth from our church we were assigned daily chores. One of the most disgusting things, from past mission trip experiences was entering the boys bathroom. I chose on this particular mission trip to make it my goal, daily, to thoroughly clean the boys bathroom. It was disgusting. No one knew I was doing it and I doubt the boys even noticed – at least they never said. Serving doesn’t always come with a certificate of appreciation. This wasn’t serving outside the community of faith but all these teens were working hard daily to serve the community we were in.
How many times have you served others and walked away from the experience feeling the sense that you had received much more than you had given? Mother Teresa once said,
“God loves the world through you and me.”
Serving within a community of faith is a fine thing and should be honored within the context of all the volunteers but serving outside of the institution is what our call to be disciples is all about. We are here to bring Christ to the larger world. When we get trapped only serving the institutional needs we miss the needs that surround us and compel us to wash feet. William Adams Brown wrote,
“The church exists to train its members throughout the practices of the presence of God to be servants of others, to the end that Christlikeness may become common property.”
A friend of mine spoke about how God compelled him one day to just stop by the Salvation Army and offer to volunteer. He didn’t know why this sense came over him, he just did it. There were no programs that day and only the Captain was there. The Salvation Army Captain was discouraged with his wife’s illness and the loss of personal motivation. My friend just spoke with him, offered him encouragement, and spent time with him. That was his calling that day. Not to the soup kitchen or food pantry volunteer but a counselor. How many pastors feel discouraged or feel like quitting and have no listening ear? We are given gifts to serve.
Imagine you are at a dinner party and someone spills soup on one of the guests. The person with the gift of mercy says, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I feel terrible. Are you alright?” The person with the gift of administration says, “Let’s get some help over here, we need paper towels, a wash cloth, and a hair dryer.” The gift of help just begins cleaning up the mess. The gift of prophecy says, “We should use a cart to serve the soup next time.” The person with the gift of proclamation says, “Let’s remember the purpose of the dinner party was to raise awareness of the need of service to the world. A little spill shouldn’t set us back.” You get the picture. You are given gifts to use that will bless others – especially outside of the Church.
Disciples form Church bodies as a training grounds to make other disciples. It is there they can find their spiritual gifts and serve the world. This of course speaks to issues of justice, peace, incarceration, inequality, racism, hunger, homelessness, and addiction. The world may have big sin problems, if we view sin as the brokenness of humanity, that disciples are called to deal with. How will God use your gifts? Offer them and see where it leads you. Think of the needs in your comity or in the world you can help with and go serve.