Committed to Christ: Service

1 Corinthians 12:12-20

At 11:00 a.m., “there came a second of expectant silence, then a curious rippling sound, which observers far behind the front likened to the noise of a light wind. It was the sound of men cheering from the Vosges (mountains) to the sea.”  It was the beginning of the ceasefire agreed to by representatives of the Allied Powers and Germany and signed on November 11, 1918 – one hundred years ago today. It ended the fighting in World War I.

About 37 million military and civilians were killed or wounded during the conflict, and so World War I came to be known as “the War to end all Wars,” because it was hoped the awful cost would lead nations to resolve disputes peacefully in the future.

Though the War broke out in 1914, the U.S. remained neutral until it entered the conflict in April 1917. At the start of WWI, the U.S. was unprepared for war, but an American Expeditionary Force of 4 million “doughboys” was raised, half of whom served overseas.  At the time, 25% of the adult male population of the country, ages 18-31, answered the call to military service.  116,516 U.S. soldiers gave their lives in answering the call.

After the War, November 11 was declared Armistice Day, a federal holiday to honor those who served in WWI.  In 1954, Congress passed a law changing the holiday to Veterans Day, honoring all those veterans who have answered the call to serve this country.

At this point, I would like to have any veterans rise.  … Thank you for answering the call to serve and for the sacrifices you made in doing so.

Let us pray.  O Lord our Lord, we see these individuals among us and we think of others we know who answered a call to serve our nation. Continue to bless them as they seek to live their daily lives and deal with their experiences. Help us to be supportive and appreciative.  Make us ever grateful for their service and aware of the cost of our freedom. And now, O Lord, open us so that we might hear your call to serve in your gracious Reign, offering grace and truth to our neighbors and to our world in need. Through Christ, who loved and served us. Amen.

When believers commit their lives to Jesus Christ, they accept him as their Lord and Savior.  Acknowledging Jesus as Savior means we admit that it is only through his loving and gracious sacrificial life, death and resurrection that we are forgiven for the wrongs in our lives and granted a new relationship with God that begins now and continues forever.  Calling Christ our Lord means that we commit ourselves to him completely.  So we give over control of our lives and surrender our preferences in order to trust and obey God’s will for us.  It involves realigning our priorities, attitudes, actions and lifestyle with God’s ways and relying on God’s Holy Spirit to do the work of transforming us.

Throughout this series, we have been considering activities we are called to participate in that will help us experience God’s grace.  These commitments we’ve been invited to engage in are to disciplines that will help us grow in love of God and love for our neighbors.  So far, we have considered prayer, Bible reading, financial giving and witness.  Today we consider service.

As Jesus and his disciples continued their journey toward Jerusalem, Jesus told them for a third time what he would face there.  He would be condemned to death by the religious leaders, handed over to and mocked, beaten and killed by the Romans but later he would rise (Mark 10:32-34). Even after this third time, they still did not understand. His description did not fit what they expected. They thought he would overthrow the enemy and establish a new kingdom.

So, on the trip, two of his disciples, James and John, asked to sit at his right and left, in the seats of power and honor, in the Kingdom.  When the other 10 disciples found out, they were indignant. So Jesus told them that among them, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).

Jesus’ whole life was a model of humble service. Even at his last supper with his disciples, before his arrest and death, he got up from the table and humbly served his disciples by kneeling and washing their feet (John 13:1-17). When finished, he said to them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (13:15).

Jesus’ act of washing the disciples’ feet foreshadowed what would happen to him later, when he gave himself up and was crucified for the sake of all humankind.  Jesus calls his followers, including us, to follow his example and serve others.  We serve, not simply because he told us to, but because we are grateful for the way he loved and served us all the way to the cross.  We serve as our response to the gift of God’s grace we have received.

How and why do we answer Jesus’ call to serve?  Let’s hear a response from one person. I invite Gary Steed to come and share with us.  (Testimony – Gary Steed)

Thank you, Gary. We’ve heard from Gary some of the motivations to serve, which include appreciating what Christ has done us and then, out of gratitude, serving others.  He also mentioned that when we’ve received much from the Lord, a response is called for, even expected – it’s what God has created us for – loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Gary said he has grown from serving others. He discovered what many of you know from times you have served others:  When we serve, we are also blessed.  We may enter a situation thinking we have something to offer, and then discover that, in our sharing of ourselves and our service, the other person blesses us.  I think this happens because we humble ourselves to open a relationship with another person, and Jesus reminded us that “whenever two or three gather in my name, I am there also.”  God is present in our interaction with those we serve, and God gives us grace to bless and encourage us as we serve.

Serving others also reminds us that there is a world outside our devotional and worship life that needs to be blessed.  It’s tempting to become cloistered or cocooned in our lives.  We can think, “Jesus and me is all that matters,” and so we focus only on practices like prayer and Bible reading.  But, if we are listening in our praying and paying attention in our Bible reading, we will hear the voice of God calling us beyond ourselves and into the world, where people are hungering, thirsting and dying for food, for love and for grace and truth.

God has created and shaped each person in this room to be a unique person.  No two people are exactly alike.  In fact, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians, each person has God-given abilities to contribute to the life of the church and the world.  Therefore, our service may be lived out in many, many different ways.

But someone might tell think they are too young or too old to serve.  Both Samuel and David were just 12 years old when God called them to serve.  And over the next several years of their lives, God shaped them to become leaders of their people.  Did you know that God called Moses to serve God when he was 80 years old, and he led the children of Israel for another 40 years?  Though our way of serving might change, there’s no retiring from serving God – it’s not biblical.  Even when Moses objected that he couldn’t speak well, God equipped him to overcome that challenge.  God always equips those God calls.

Like Moses, we too often think that there’s something wrong with us that would prevent us from serving.  “I don’t have the ability to teach like so-and-so, so I can’t serve.”  “I don’t know how to cook delicious food, so I have nothing to offer.”  “I don’t have a musical bone in my body, so I am nothing.”  However, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul provides a response to such defeating self-talk.  Using the metaphor of the body and its parts, he says, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:17-20).   The body of Christ serves the world at its best when every part of the body is serving.

How can you determine where you might be able to serve?  There are several ways.  Think about your own gifts, talents, abilities and experiences.  For instance, are you musical?  Are you able to listen closely to others and hear what they are really saying?  Are you good at organizing things?  Are you good at art or crafts?  Maybe you’re athletic, creative or have specialized training in an area?

Then reflect on what gets you interested and excited or what you really care about.  Do you love working with children or youth?  Maybe you like visiting the homebound or sick.  You might desire to help lonely adults or feed the hungry.  Literacy, domestic violence, caring for the environment, working with animals – whatever you are passionate about, God can use that passion and your gifts to serve others.

Pray and read scripture to discern where God is calling and equipping you.  Talk to a respected Christian friend or mentor.  Ask others you know and trust to help you identify your gifts.

Another important step is to explore your options and try serving for a short period of time.  That gives you the chance to try out a place to serve.  If you like it, great; if not, you can try something else.

Throughout the history of our country, people have responded to the call to serve in times of crisis and need, working toward a greater good.  God calls disciples of Jesus Christ to serve the greater good of the Kingdom of God and the Body of Christ, offering God’s grace, mercy, love and forgiveness to our world in need.  How will you answer the call?

Today there is an insert in The Messenger to help you explore ways you might be able to serve within the church and in our broader community.  You’ll find contact information so you can learn more and offer yourself to serve.

Maybe you’ll read through these options and still not find something that fits for you.  Then talk to Pastor Becky or me, and we’ll work with you to find or create a ministry opportunity.

Also in your Messenger is a Commitment Card, inviting you to consider your commitment to serving Christ.  As you do, remember that service can help you grow in faith and in love as you experience more of God’s grace.


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