Thursday, 27 September 2018

Spiritual Disciplines- Service

Image result for john 13 jesus washes feet

At the 10:00am service we were blessed to have Pastor Rick Abma speak to us about service- to learn more about him go here:

This week we are continuing with our sermon series on the spiritual disciplines, and today we are looking at the discipline of service. Service is an act of other-centeredness. It is exerting our energies for the benefit of another.

There are a lot of practical examples of how we can serve. We can serve at a homeless shelter, or we can listen to someone in pain, we can serve a parent with a chronic illness, we can volunteer to clean at the church- or any number of other ways we can serve God, our church, our neighbour, our friend, or our enemies.

The overall outcome is humility. The author and pastor Richard Foster says that being a servant enables a person “to say no to the world’s games of promotion and authority”. It frees us from the game of having to feel better than others. Jesus teaches us that, “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matt 20:26).

This can be tricky though because we can use our acts of service to actually inflate our egos rather than learn humility. This happened in Jesus’ day where there were people who sounded trumpets when they gave money. We can serve and be proud that others see how helpful we are. Sometimes there are people who help a charity just because they need a tax-break, or they need some charity work on their resume, or they are managing their image. In those cases there is a real danger that their act of service can be about serving themselves. … The solution when facing that temptation is to do our act of service in secret- so that God alone knows what we have done (Matt 6:4, 6:6, 6:18). It doesn’t mean every act of service we do has to be done in secret, but it can be an antidote when we are tempted to serve our own ego in our acts of service.

Jesus is our perfect example of service, so it is worth taking some time to look at an example of how he served. In John 13 the disciples arrive at a home and are eating supper when Jesus suddenly gets up, takes off his outer clothing, and wraps a towel around his waist. He gets a basin of water and begins washing the disciples' feet. Jesus gets up and dresses like a servant, then he begins doing the work of a servant.

Foot washing was among the lowest of all jobs that could be done. It wasn't just any servant who did the foot washing. It was the lowest ranking servant who did the foot washing. It was the job even the servants didn't want, so it was the duty of the lowest ranking servant. Each time a servant did the foot washing they were reminded that they were the lowest of the low. The reason they were doing this task is because there was no one lower than them.

The fact that Jesus gets up to do this task is shocking. Here is the Lord of the universe washing the feet of fishermen and tax collectors. The way the world understands power and authority has just been turned on its head. In this foot washing Jesus is enacting the ancient hymn we find in Philippians ch 2:5-8, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.”

Jesus places himself in the lowest possible position. It is a position of service to his disciples. And that points to his greater act of service to the world, which is the cross.

Peter can't accept Jesus in this role. His mind is still working in the way of the world. It can be uncomfortable to have someone serve you, especially someone you respect. Peter cannot put Jesus in that role. It is like the queen of England offering to clean your toilet, but amplified infinitely. Peter has a hard time wrapping his head around the fact that power and authority in the kingdom work differently. The ways of the world are not the ways of the kingdom. Peter needs to understand this, and so do we.

Judas was also present among the disciples during the foot washing. Jesus moved the basin and knelt at Judas' feet. And Jesus knew. He knew what was going through Judas' mind. We can't even guess as to the reasons, but Jesus knew. He knew the betrayal he was planning. He knew that Judas would set in motion a political machine that would result in his agonizing torture and death. And Jesus kneels at his feet. He pours water over the feet that have walked with him for three years of dusty roads. He washes the feet that will shortly walk away from the light into the darkness of the night to betray him to those who will kill him. The love he shows Judas is not comprehensible in any kind of worldly way.

When we move from the foot washing back to the meal we are surprised to find Judas again at a place of honour. He is close enough to Jesus for him to serve him by giving him bread. He is close enough for Jesus to whisper to him without anyone else hearing. At the meal, Judas was at a place of honour close to Jesus. Even those within the church whose hearts are set on betrayal are treated with loving service by Jesus. When we are at our darkest, we still find Jesus lovingly washing our feet and feeding us bread.

Jesus is the embodiment of the God who is love. God's love is not something we earn or work for. It doesn't matter if we are a traitor like Judas, or a zealous follower like Peter. Jesus loves us and serves us because that's who he is. It's not really about who we are, it's about who he is.

Jesus' whole life is an integrated act of loving service to us and to his Father. His birth, baptism, teaching, healing, exorcism, cross, resurrection, and ascension are all about Jesus' loving service. They all work together. The life of Jesus is an integrated whole. This foot washing teaches us about the cross. The cross is a loving act of service. It is Jesus taking the lowest position. Jesus takes the most despised position as an act of loving service. His whole life is offered to us in love. His life-force is poured out so that it can pour into us.

His love poured out, is then available for us to take into ourselves. As we feed on him we become more like him. The Lord of the universe washes our feet, and in return he doesn't ask that we wash his, He asks instead that we wash each other's feet. Our service and love to him is shown in our love and service to each other. And this is how we become known- it is by our love. We aren't shown to be followers of Jesus by the way we dress, or what we eat or don't eat. We aren't shown to be followers of Jesus based or our rituals, or our rule following. … We are shown to be followers of Jesus by our love for one another- by our willingness to serve each other and even give our lives for one another. It is demanding, but Jesus doesn't ask anything of us that he hasn't done for us.

We serve and love because God has poured his love into us. We serve and love because that is who we have become because of Jesus' love. We serve and love because Jesus, who is our Lord and God, has served us first.

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