I want to start this week by declaring some simple biblical truths over us about how God sees everyone who has placed their trust in Jesus, because I want to stir our hearts and touch our emotions.
We are all sons and daughters of the Lord most high, Children of God by right, adopted in to his family by our faith in Christ.
We are accepted by God for who we are, you are who you are because you are created that way for the sole purpose of pursuing God with all your heart, all your mind and all you soul.
Paul tells us in Colossians that we have fullness in everything through Christ Jesus, that means that no matter what life throws at us, both the good and the bad we can know that we are secure in who we are because of Christ.
We are one with Jesus in Spirit. This means that we are never alone, he is always with us.
We are created in the Image of God, both men and woman bear the image of our creator God, this marks us out as unique in all creation because we are the only things that have a resemblance to the one who created everything.
We are foreknown. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God knew us as we were formed in our mothers wombs, and it was at this point our journey was appointed, so we can know that nothing surprises God, he isn’t going to drop the ball on anything because he already knows!
We are a chosen people, royalty, a holy nation and God’s special possession (REPEAT!)
We are temples of the Holy Spirit! This means that everything that we do is worship of some kind or another of God.
We are lavished in the Fathers love because we are his Children. That means that he doesn’t just love us a bit, or love us sometimes, it means that we are totally and utterly smothered by his great love for us. Think of marinating meat or pickled onions the flavour and the influence of what has been poured over the food permeates to the core and transforms it’s flavour and character.
There are loads more that I could highlight but I want to just focus in on one so lastly for this morning.
We are clothed with Christ – what does that mean; it means that Christ gives us our dignity. Ever since the garden when sin came into the world we’ve been trying to cover up our shame, the first act of Adam and Eve was to sew clothes out of leaves to hide their shame because they were exposed. Now I am not suggesting that because we are people of faith we should all become naturist but we no longer need to be ashamed of who we are and try to hide our identity.
So why start a message on Jesus washing his disciples feet by reminding us of who we are in Christ. Well if you look at v3 you’ll see that it says that Jesus knew that all authority in heaven and earth was given to him and that he was about to return to the Father. SO he got up from the table…
You see this whole transaction took place because Jesus knew who he was, what authority he had and where he was going. This act of service - which by the way we all know is a pretty demeaning thing to do even in today’s society where we all wear shoes and socks and bathe regularly – is done from a position of power and strength. It’s done from a place that few actually achieve, he knows who he is, where he is going, he is so secure in his identity that he moves seamlessly from a position of authority and teaching to that of a servant and then back again to a teacher.
What we need to note is that it is not his task that drives Jesus identity, it is his identity that drives his task.
This is why we must remind ourselves of who we are, because once we are really secure in who we are once we know that our identity comes not from what we are doing but through who God says that we are we are released to walk in so much more authority and blessing.
You see our culture is a very task orientated, the world tells you that your worth is found in what you do and what stuff you are able to acquire because you’ve worked hard to attain what you have and you have a right to show that stuff off. The problem is that this means that we are never really satisfied, because there is always more stuff to get, there is always better holidays to go on, there are always promotions to chase after. The job is never done.
We end up being like James and John who after being sent out in pairs for the first time to preach the gospel and perform miracles without Jesus but with his authority and after seeing some absolutely amazing things including the transfiguration where Moses and Elijah appear before their eyes, they end up asking Jesus to be placed in the seats of honour. They do this because they haven’t understood their identity yet. I can forgive them though because I can identify with them realy easily. I bet they’re thinking “WOW we are on fire here… we’re healing the sick, and driving out demons, we are seeing the kingdom that Jesus is talking about growing and taking ground, we’ve seen Jesus transformed before our eyes and seen his real identity as God and have seen our hero’s face to face, we’re even heard the voice of the Father.
Talk about a tick list. If it was me who had experienced all this I am sure that I would be asking a very similar question, but this is still what Jesus is still confronting in this moment before the Passover meal. He wants his disciples to know, he wants you and I to know that when we live in our true identity, when we know who we are in Christ, when our dignity is found in Him because we are clothed by Him we can know that we are not greater than our master so we can follow his lead in how we serve each other and those that do not know him yet, we can do the things that this world deems as unworthy or beneath us, or hard work because actually our worth is not found in those things it is found in who we are called to be.
But we have to be careful that we don’t have a false humility, we should not think that we are no good, or unworthy, or simply a sinner who is grateful to be sneaking into heaven via the backdoor, fearful that someone or worse still God will find out who they really are, because that is not our identity either.
You see our identity, who we are in Christ, is the driving force in our life, discovering more of what it means to be a child of God, of being clothed with Jesus is our aim.
Sometimes we can give an excuse that we can’t be involved in something because we don’t feel prepared by the Lord to do it yet. Well let me release you from that this morning. These are lies that we tell ourselves. We are all called to serve and to share the good news of Jesus Christ, if you are a believer then you have all the tools needed to do these two things, you do not need to wait for any more preparation it is just about rolling up ourselves, looking around ourselves and seeing who God has placed in front of our noses. It is so easy to take an inventory of our weaknesses and disqualify ourselves from the historic exploits God has assigned to each of us. We forget that service can look pretty strange at times, 5000 people were fed because a young boy chose to serve them by giving up his lunch. The crowd didn’t eat cheese and pickle sandwiches because the boy brought 2 fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus multiplied what the boy had, not what he didn’t. God doesn’t care about what you don’t have; he only cares about what you do!
Jesus finishes off this section by questioning if his disciples have understood what he was doing. So that is the question that we have today… do we understand what he was doing and why?
You see this is not a call on our lives to literally repeat the foot-washing actions of Jesus because it’s actually lost the cultural significance that it once held. But what we need to repeat is the self-sacrifice that comes from being secure in our knowledge of who we are in Christ. If you are a Christian here today and not involved in some sort of service then the challenge for us is to take seriously the challenge that Christ has set us, to know that we are not greater than our Lord and teacher, but our inheritance enables us to serve others, like Christ has served us.
This is liberating because it moves service away from being driven from a sense of duty or a sense of guilt to a place of privilege, we get to serve and it places us acutely in the footsteps of Jesus. We get to serve and it draws us closer to him, we get to serve and the result is blessings from God which is a deeper richer sense of his presence.
So I want to end by telling you all about some opportunities to serve here at St Thomas’. The great news is that we are all called to serve one another so we can all be confident that when we step up to fill a role within the body then we can lay it at the Lords feet and ask him to equip us. We as a body also have a responsibility to ensure that you’re equipped and released effectively so if you do step up into a new role then we’re not just going to throw you off of the deep end and see if you sink or swim, we are going to walk alongside you and make sure that you have the support and training that you need.
So here are some opportunities
Wendy is looking for people to come on to the Children’s Ministry team for both DJ’s on a Sunday and the Messy Church team.
Rob is looking for people to come on to the youth ministry team particularly to help with Encounter on a Sunday night and a new youth cell for yr 7-9’s which will meet during the week.
We need more people to help with both the sound and the AV on a Sunday, particularly on Sunday evenings.
Do you have a penchant for flowers! If so I am sure that Pauline Kelly or Rachel McLellan would love to have a chat with you about going on the church flower rota.
Enjoy having a coffee and a natter after church, yep so do I, but we need more people to volunteer to serve the stuff, if you could do that please talk to/email, call Jean in the office.
Enjoy gardening and can give a couple of hours at some point in the month then let Janet in the office know.
Maybe you’re a musician but have never thought about playing as part of the worship team… now is the time to act and join!
Lastly and by no means least Rod would love to talk to you if you could spare a few hours on a Wednesday to help with the bus runs from Halgarth to the supermarkets either as a driver or a host.
And these are only some of the roles that you could fill to serve the church, there are also loads of opportunities to serve our community in Charity shops, as a Samaritan, in the winter shelter, manna house.
No matter where or what it is, each and every one of us has the opportunity to serve, but the whole point of this passage, what Jesus is demonstrating to us here is not that we have to serve, but when we get our identity right, when we know fully who we are in God then how we serve doesn’t matter because you know why you’re doing it.
When we walk every day, in the knowledge that we are clothed in Christ, that we are sons and daughters of the most high, coheirs with Christ, that our dignity is found in Jesus then how we serve doesn’t matter because we are serving from our identity and when we serve from our identity we are both blessed and a blessing and the kingdom of God is advanced.