Series: The Heartbeat of Us
Title: A Heart for Service
Date: Preached 25th April, 2021.
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Matthew 28:1-9,16-20
Two weeks ago, I quoted Rabbi Ed Friedman who suggested that people, groups and even societies at the moment are being driven by fear and anxiety and when on to say that if we wanted to be influential in making a better society … or in the worlds of Jesus … if we wanted to be the light that shines into the darkness, then we need to first have a good understanding of who we are, what defines us and what our core values are – and instead of fear and anxiety – let those things shape us and drive us forward.
I thought that was a good question to ponder as a faith community here at TUC. At our evening service we actually pulled out a whiteboard and wrote up some idea of what we thought TUC’s defining or core values were. Would you like to know what our young people think? They said things like:
- Caring Community who love one another
- Volunteers who serve
- Passionate and Creative and musical
- Christ Followers, Christ sharers
- Peaceful and Pray-ers
Awesome list isn’t it. And I was excited because they mentioned the core value I focused on two weeks ago – that we are Christ followers who worship – that both Sunday corporate worship and our individual daily worship are a key thing that we do and it shapes who are. They also picked up on the core value that I want to focus on today … that we are community of volunteers, we are people who not only serve, but we are shaped by the way we serve one another.
Would you agree with that statement? That TUC is a community who has a core value of volunteerism – we are a community that serves … that serves each other, that serves God and that serves the wider community?
Let me show you a video that I found about 10 years ago (which is why it has very poor resolution). It is a bit of fun but it makes a point…
[Video – SuperPastor]
While that video might cut a little close to home for me – it is not true. Here in this church, I am not the superpastor who does everything but rather we have an amazing community who mows the lawn, runs kids church, leads bible studies, serves in the kitchen, prepares communion, answers phones, greets people, works on the sound desk, vacuums the floor etc.
Quickly turn to a few people around you and see how quickly you can count up 20 different names of people who volunteer or serve within our through TUC. I will give you 90 seconds … could them up on your fingers. See if you can get 20 different names in 90 seconds…
Was that hard?
For the Imagining Hope program, I sat down and did a rough count one time of all the people who served on a roster, or was on a serving or leadership or music team within our church … and I gave up when I was over 100 individuals serving in over 400 different ways.
We are a church which has had right from the beginning of the Trinity and St Margaret churches this value, this core understanding that we are all participants in the what God doing within and beyond our church. It is who we are.
And it is core to the Biblical understanding of discipleship…
- Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that he did not come to be served but to serve. In John 13 when Jesus washed the disciples feet said that he was setting an example for us to follow – that to be his disciple means to be willing to serve.
- Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 that like a body has different parts, we might have different gifts but we are all called to serve – to play our part in God’s work
- James said faith has to be more than just listening to God’s words … faith must be lived out in our actions.
- And in our bible reading for today, Jesus reminds us that we have been chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit through loving actions.
Living out of our faith through serving is not only biblical, it is so practically important to our faith. At my last church, one of the key people came to me one time and shared how he felt he was getting in the way of other people serving, that he felt he needed to step back to allow others to step up. And that is what he did, he resigned from all the teams and committees he was on, he dropped of all rosters, he cleared everything. About three months later, we had another conversation where he shared that he was really struggling with his faith and that he had never felt so far from God. I didn’t quite make the connection at the time, but I have thought about that conversation since.
You see, for this person, his faith was an active, doing sort of faith … it was expressed and shaped and grown through living it out. And when he stopped volunteering and serving … it was like his faith didn’t make sense anymore … and yes, it impacted on his spiritually and his connection with God.
I think that Jesus invites and encourages us to be serving people, not just because it is helpful for the people we serve and helpful for the Kingdom of God, but because it is helpful for us! It is a way of keeping spiritually healthy and growing.
I don’t think that many people who disagree with anything I have said so far … but there is another side to this whole idea of serving which influences this discussion … which could be summed up in the following statement, “I just think I am doing too much and I need to take some time out for myself and my family.” Now let me say upfront … there is nothing wrong with that statement. Actually, I applaud that way of thinking. What I think is worrisome is that when people are feeling this that it is often the discipline of serving God and serving others which is cut back, where I think that there is another approach to this issue which gives a much better outcome.
When I was in my 20’s I attended a conference where Dr Geoff Cornish spoke. Geoff was a POW in WW2 and afterward became very involved in the YMCA movement in Australia. His talk was all about how we can find “balance” in our lives. He shared a concept that 25 years later is still impacting and shaping me. It was a simple exercise where we plotted ourselves on four different scales … how are we going exercising physically (ie walks, gym), mentally (eg study, reading), socially (meeting, interacting with others) and spiritually (worship, prayer etc).
Would you like to do this your mind right now? 30 seconds … work out where you are on the scale
Then he said, join the dots. And this is where it was profound. He said it was not the size of the shape that is important, but the shape itself. The goal is to be squarish … in other words have a balance between the four. If you are too high in one or too low in others, it is more like a kite and the question is how can you become more balanced.
I think that this idea can also be applied to how we serve … on in the words of Jesus in our reading … how we love.
What if the four scales were:
- Time for ourselves – rest, relaxation etc
- Time for significant relationships – partner, family etc
- Time for serving others / serving God etc
- Time for Work / other Time
Dr Cornish would argue that making time for our own rest or relaxation is important … it is part of what it means to be balanced … but I wonder whether for many of us, it is the last category – our investment in our work – that dominates and maybe we need to shave off some time of that to reinvest in ourselves, our significant relationship and our service of others. I am not trying to guilt people here … but I do think that some of us, myself included, have got this balance a bit out of whack.
So coming back to my original point … this idea of serving God and serving others is a core value of the TUC community, not only because it is something Jesus calls us to do, not only because it is helpful spiritually … but it is also can be … sort of fun.
I know that not everyone who is serving at the moment is feeling the fun … sometimes when we get the balance out of whack serving can feel like a hard slog … but I think at the heart of it, serving others should be fun.
I was talking to someone this week who was saying that they are missing the Flea Markets … not necessarily for the work but they miss they fun of being with everyone as we set up and serve together. Serving others can be a great way to strengthen the bonds of friendship and support with others.
Jesus in our reading that that interesting line in verse 15 that when we serve … we are not called servants but friends. When we serve, we are not just fulfilling a function, we are part of a family.
I was tempted to almost run another mission fair today where people could sign up for stuff – and I guess if people are looking for ways to serve, talk to me because there are plenty of opportunities.
Rather I just want to hold up the challenge for us today. If serving others and volunteerism is a core value of our community, then how do we make that shine? How do we model this to the next generation so they too can discover the joy of serving? How can we work on our life balance to make sure that we have space and energy to invest into helping and serving others? And as we work on this, may we all discover that serving not only help ourselves to grow but serving can be a blessing to each other, to God and to the wider community.