“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”-Matthew 20:26-28 (The Message)
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a servant is “one that serves others”; or “a public servant especially one that performs duties about the person or home of a master or personal employer.”
As one called to “Word and Service” ministry, the texts about Jesus as a servant and serving others always hit me straight in the gut. My call to ministry isn’t about being the greatest, but reaching out to wash the feet of all God’s people and welcoming all to the table. My heart is to serve others for Jesus’ sake. My prayer is that it never comes across as being about me, but that everything I do for the glory of God and serving others is for ALL God’s people.
When I first went to seminary, I didn’t feel the call to ordained ministry, but didn’t know much about any of the other rosters; Associates in Ministry, Diaconal Ministers, and Deacons/Deaconesses (which are currently now one “Word and Service” roster). I went with the intentions to receive my “Youth, Culture, and Mission” Degree (Wartburg Seminary’s Youth Ministry degree). During the course of a Master of Arts colloquim class, we began to read Duane Larson’s book “From Word to Sacrament: The History of the Diaconate.” As I began to read, phrases began to jump off the page at me “bridging church and world,” “basin and towel” and “word and service.” Those words brought me a sense of peace.
The next week, I walked into my Spiritual Director’s office and said, “I think I am called to Diaconal Ministry.” She asked, “What makes you say that?” I looked at her and replied, “All my life I have seen the ways that my mom has been treated because of her mental illness. I believe God is calling me to pick up my basin and towel to wash the feet of ALL God’s people especially those like my mom who are often seen as being on the margins.” My spiritual director looked at me and smiled; “That is exactly what Diaconal ministry is.” I left her office that day knowing that this was where God was calling me. There was never a doubt in my mind.
I am reminded of the words of Frederick Buechner “The place God calls you to be is the place where the world’s deep hunger and your deep gladness meet.” For me, serving God’s people especially those who society often deems unworthy is the place where my deep gladness meets this deep hunger.
Jesus was all about sitting with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty. Jesus also was about sharing God’s amazing scandalous love with all the world. Jesus came to “save and not condemn the world.” Or in the words of our Scripture today from the Message translation, Jesus gave his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage. This is an incredible act of love that defies what love often looks like in our broken fractured world.
Yesterday I was reading Anna Bree’s piece from the Slate Project blog and a quote she shared from Evelyn Underhill in her piece The Divine Condescension captured so well the beauty of who Jesus is-a servant and Jesus’ power in this broken world. Underhill writes:
“And indeed it is above all when we see a human spirit, knowing its own power, choose the path of sacrifice instead of the path of ambition; when we see human courage and generosity blazing out on the heroic levels in the shadow of death; the human agony and utter self-surrender of Gethsemane, the accepted desolation of the Cross, that we recognize a love and holiness which point beyond the world.”
I am linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Three Word Wednesday.