January 15th 2010

I Am Among You As One Who Serves

 

“For who is greater, the one who is at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”

 

Luke 22:27 (NIV)

 

Today is Martin Luther King day, on the day of his assassination, commemorating his life and accomplishments for human rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not want to go to Memphis.  The civil rights movement was in trouble, splintering into feuding factions.  King was tired and overburdened.  There were many reasons not to go and support a floundering garbage-workers’ strike in Memphis. But King went anyway.  And his presence infused new life into the strike. “Each day strikers were giving up and going back to work.  We were discouraged.  But when Dr. King showed up, we knew that God was with us and that we would win,” said one of the garbage workers.

The rest is history; King met his fate in a small US southern city, supporting a few hundred woefully underpaid garbage men. In one sense it was a sad ending; in another sense it was a fitting one. After all, King served the crucified Messiah who hung between two thieves on a hill overlooking a garbage dump outside the big city.

Jesus reminds us that Christian service involves, in the words of Henri Nouwen, “Downward mobility.”  Our leadership is in our service. Remember we are all leaders in some sphere. At the Last Supper Jesus’ disciples got into a squabble over leadership. The people who had followed Jesus the most closely and heard all of his teaching were still seeking preferential treatment, still lusting for places of honour at the banquet.

His response?  “I am among you as one who serves,” He told them.

Possibly the earliest designation for Christian leaders in the New Testament is diakonos, deacon,” which translated literally in English means “butler, waiter, servant.”  Never forget that whatever office we happen to hold in church in work or in family, it is part of the deaconate.  It is all part of servant hood – leadership by basin and towel.

The young bible college student was sliding chairs into place in the church fellowship hall.  As I walked by I heard the guy mutter aloud, “When will this church realise that I am a minister and not their congregational lackey?  I went to seminary to move chairs?” I commented in passing “I think you already know the answer to your question.  You are a minister; therefore, you are always somebody’s lackey.  We prefer to call it service or ministry, but you’ll be moving chairs or setting tables or something like that to help somebody else’s meeting with God.  Better get used to being used.” The basin, the towel, the chairs, the garbage strike – that is servant leadership.  That’s how Christ would do it.

What seemingly insignificant acts of service have you performed lately?

Prayer
God, so many of the things I do in my work, in my family, and around church have little to do with status or education. Give me the grace to perform even the humblest task as unto You.

Amen

Study by Fraser Murdoch

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