The joy of service

flickr: UggBoy

I’m no behind-the-scenes servant. My love is given to wordy ministries: the nervous plunge when I teach a group of women, the energy that sparkles in a small group, the light in a friend’s eyes when God’s truth sinks in. If I’m honest, I also love the recognition that comes with this kind of ministry. There: I’ve said it.

The humble roles, the practical roles, the self-effacing roles: they don’t come naturally to me. Setting up for a meeting, cooking for an event, serving food, running crèche, stuffing envelopes: these mundane tasks aren’t on my bucket list. I have to fight my inner whinger as I do them. I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true.

I know this isn’t good enough. I know that to teach the Bible and refuse to stack chairs is as far from our Lord’s example as hell from heaven. And so picture, if you will, a recent dinner at our church. My friend who usually organises our meals isn’t there, so my husband and I set out casseroles and collect plates and scrub them clean.

Then there’s this moment. This crystal-clear, earth-touches-heaven, joy-filled moment. As I wash the dishes, it’s as if Christ’s hands are mine and mine his. If it was Paul’s privilege to suffer with him, it’s mine to serve with him.1 Hands plunged into soapy water, the grit and grease of food scraps on my fingers, I touch the tiniest edge of what it meant for him to serve.

The One with the right to a universe of worship gave up his own interests, his right to equality with God, and made himself nothing. The King of heaven and earth got off a chair, tied a towel around his waist, and knelt to wash his follower’s feet. God’s own Son was stripped naked and hung on a cross, abandoned between earth and heaven, bleeding out his life for his bride.2

Washing dishes is just a baby-step as I follow in his footsteps. But if so much joy can be found in such a simple task, I wonder what else we miss out on when we refuse to serve.

  1. Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24; John 13:14-17
  2. Philippians 2:1-11; John 13:1-17; Mark 10:35-45

7 thoughts on “The joy of service

  1. Does it work the other way, Jean–when you’re good at (and often prefer) to stuff envelopes, stack chairs and wash dishes, but the thought of leading Bible study fills you with extreme terror?

    • :) Yes, for sure, because word ministry is service too!! I have friends who fit this category, and they still serve leading Bible studies etc though it fills them with terror. I guess we all have to push ourselves to serve in the ways that are needed. Wish I loved stuffing envelopes though… ;)

  2. One of the young adults at church (half-)jokes that all the ministers he knows have big biceps from years of carrying & stacking chairs.

  3. Pingback: The joy of service (2) | The Briefing

  4. John Ortberg writes that technology was best harnessed and advanced by monks who believed the Bible distinguished between work (that which makes us like God) and toil (the curse of sin). Therefore, using creative reason to liberate people from toil is part of the redemptive work of Christ.

    What work in the church is toil? Can it be reduced, made more fun, better shared? Sometimes toil can be a good opportunity to build relationships, but often we make them very lonely jobs, or we roster people in such a way that it only allows for surface relationships to develop. Once a church reaches a certain size the organizational systems you used to get you to that size begin to fail. I think the divide is between toil and work, not up front jobs and behind the scene jobs. If your crèche is not a place where it is easy for those volunteers to see their job as work and not toil then that is a failure of leadership.

  5. Pingback: The Joy of Service « Church in the Bank

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