6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so [e]walk in Him,7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established [f]in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing[g]with gratitude.
The verse we just read talks about gratitude, but the sermon today if you’ve noticed is titled A Commitment to Serve. If you stay with me just a little while I’m going to share how the two relate.
It’s nearly impossible for me to talk about any aspect of life without mentioning my children. So I’m just gonna jump in from the beginning. Prior to having kids John and I volunteered. Now I can’t speak for John but my motivation for volunteering centered around wanting to fill my time, looking for friends, and doing good just because good needed to be done. I volunteered where needed with no real direction.
Then I had kids. Suddenly, volunteering took on a life of it’s own. See a need, fill a need, or the kids weren’t going to get to do that one thing they desperately wanted to do and it would be all my fault, whether it was the church play, a team sport, scouting, cookie sales, field trips, homeschool co-ops, mops groups, Sunday schools and children’s church… it would be a balance between spending time with the kids and a nice healthy dose of obligation and guilt that keeps me volunteering. Except in one area.
St Jude Children’s Hospital. When they ask, or even slightly suggest, we jump. If they ask us to go speak to donors to share our daughter’s story we say yes 100% of the time, when they asked Katie to do a radiothon or to do a photoshoot we never hesitated, when they ask us to participate in research studies the answer is always yes. Why? How could we say no? It doesn’t come from a sense of obligation. At no time has the hospital said to us we did this for you, we expect loyalty and servitude. Instead, what they did was give us the greatest gift of all, our daughters life and health. They never asked for anything, not a dime. Instead, they presented us with opportunities to show our gratitude though they never required it of us. Our willingness to do whatever we can for St Jude comes from a deep seated root of gratefulness. We can never, no matter what we do for them, pay back the gift they gave us. We crave opportunities to serve them. How could we not?
But this sermon isn’t about St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
In John 21 we find Jesus talking to Peter. Not long before this scene Jesus was judged and crucified. During his trial, Peter denied knowing him three times. And here he is now, resurrected, walking with this man asking him just as many times if he loves him.
John 21:15-17 says
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon,son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tendmy sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Peter was not boastful when Jesus gave him the opportunity to be in v. 15 when he asked if Peter loved him more than the others did. At this point, Peter had learned a little humility from his previous denial of Christ. But by the third time Jesus asks whether he loves him, Peter is hurt, scripture says he was deeply grieved. Jesus’ asking three times recalls the three denials, and Peter’s pride is injured.
Here we see Christ performing painful but necessary surgery. The light is shining in the darkness of Peter’s heart, bringing life. It’s not that Jesus is saying your guilty here is your sin. Rather he is offering healing to Peter. Without brokenness, we are full of self and unable to hear and receive the guidance of God.
Jesus himself is referred to throughout scripture as the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-18), and now he commissions Peter to care for the flock that belongs to Jesus. If you love me feed my sheep. Jesus never actually has to say where Peter erred, he never says because of what I did for you do this for me. He simply asks do you love me… and Peter says, “Lord you know I do”… and without hesitation, he is told by Christ to “feed my sheep.” The why is established. Fully rooted in the love of Christ. And a response is created.
Later, we see Peter address the leaders of the community in 1 Peter 5 at this point he has found humility, his why, and is living out the response. He does so as a “fellow elder” and encourages the others to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers . . . not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” He is by example demonstrating authority exercised in humility and conscious of all that Christ had done for them.
Here’s the thing. Service springs forth from a grateful heart. Just as my family has an undying devotion to help St Jude in whatever way we are able because of the gracious gift of healing they gave our daughter…. in that same manner we should be responding in gratitude to the saving grace of Christ who for no other reason than His love for us, nothing we did or can do, He chose to endure the cross and make us His own. He chose to call us His own, to create us, to love us, to die for us and give us new life. Can you repay him for that? I can’t. In all my brokenness I will never be able to repay Him for what He has given me. But I can say thank you, I can love him because he first loved me and I can show that love to him by “feeding his sheep.”
The best part is He isn’t asking any of us to do it alone. Ministry is meant to be shared.
So here’s the question, if we are all called to “feed his sheep” and we truly believe in the “Priesthood of all believers” or that “every member is a minister” what does that mean? Should we all just rush off to the nearest seminary or full-time missions? Or is there another way in which we can minister to the body of Christ?
I want to touch on what that looks like. Why are we all referred to as ministers, what does that mean, and how do we live into that calling.
- Ministry means to serve. It’s not a title so much as it is an action. It’s that simple. It’s not something that you have to credentials for or go to a University for the right to do it.
- So if we are all called to serve. What does it mean to serve in the church? Serving is the act of putting the needs of others before our own needs. It isn’t about doing something because I’m the only one who can do it correctly. And it isn’t about serving in a function because it benefits me. It’s about serving in a capacity that benefits others and elevates them above me.
- So why if it doesn’t benefit me? Because actually it does benefit you. But on a different level. The goal of the church providing ministry opportunities is to help people become more like Jesus. The question to ask before serving is “how does my role in serving in this way help me follow in Jesus’ footsteps” “how does it make me more like Jesus”
- You cannot become like Christ unless you learn to be a servant. Why? Because he came to serve, not to be served. He washed feet, feed people, healed them, and died for them. You cannot become more like Christ without learning to be a servant.
- Serving opens our hearts to God and in doing so is part of worship. If our Why is because we love Christ then our service is an act of thanksgiving.
As I was reading and preparing for today I came across a statement that said that for Pastors and Ministry Leaders burnout is equivalent to spiritual death. This gave me a jolt. I have to be honest, I’ve been tired lately, worn out from ministry. Why? Because I’m filling my days first with the business of ministry rather than the love of why I do it. My why is Christ. I want to honor him in all I do, to strive to know Him better through the Bible, prayer, and fellowship with others. SO it’s time for me to refocus, to step back and say why am I doing this in the first place. From time to time, EACH of us needs to do that. It’s so easy to point and say, here’s the problem he/she isn’t doing this right and that’s where it’s all falling apart. But we each need to be taking a hard look at ourselves and evaluating why we feel the way we do, where we are devoting our time, and how we are pressing forward.
It is not any one person’s responsibility; it is each individual’s responsibility to make this community a loving safe place to grow. When you see a need in this community, don’t just point, step up and do it.
If we go a little further in John to 21:20-22 it says
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them,the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him,“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Peter makes the mistake of pointing at another disciple and saying what about him, and Jesus’ response is that it’s not your concern. Often when we are serving we get distracted with thoughts of but look how much I am doing and this person over here isn’t doing anything. But our individual responses are not reliant on the path Christ has sent someone else on. We can’ see their hearts. Only God can. Our response is solely a reflection of our own heart, love of God, thanksgiving, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit on our own life.
I want to leave you with one thought. This church belongs to each of you. It’s rise or fall does not rest on the shoulders of the pastor or the staff, it is the responsibility of each and every person who has committed themselves to membership. This is your church, this is OUR church. It is a community of people, who on their best days love unconditionally, who don’t always get along and don’t always like one another, but who have committed to work through their differences to learn to love as Christ has called us to love and to grow together, through good and bad, towards a common goal of showing the world who Christ is and growing every day closer to Christ through service to one another.