Summary: A Simple Sermon on service
During the American Revolution a man in civilian clothes road past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. Their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he replied with great dignity, "Sir, I am a corporal!"
The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again." The man in civilian clothes was George Washington.
I don’t know if that story is true or like that other George Washington story, You remember the one about the cherry tree. But I do know we are drawn to leaders who haven’t been corrupted by their power or changed by their positions or impressed with their titles.
The past two weeks we have been talking about what it would take to make an impression on our community. I believe that God wants us to make a mark on our neighborhoods. I believe that God wants people to know who we are, and I believe that God wants us to leave our fingerprints everywhere we go.
Two weeks ago we discovered that that can be done if we will change the way that we see power and position.
Last week we discussed that fact that if we are going to make an impact then we must change and be like little children.
This week one more story about what we need to do to leave our mark. This story is a lot like the Washington story but I know this one is true. It’s in John 13. The most famous story of service of all. Let’s listen. (John 13: 1 - 17).
Our story today explains what it means to serve. And the points are pretty basic stuff, which means they are easy to apply and hard to excuse.
Here’s the first one; service is what we do while we still have time.
V s. 1. "Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father."
He knew his time was up. He had less than 24 hours. And he knew it. If they’d had mechanical clocks back in the first century, Jesus would have heard his ticking. If they had hung calendars on the wall, He’d have turned his last page. He was in the middle of his final meal.
Have you ever thought about what you do with your last 24 hours?
Take a day trip? You wouldn’t want to go too far.
Shop? What for?
mow the lawn? Clean the house? Wash the car? Maybe. Leave things better than you found them and all that. It’s an interesting question. What would you do?
On September 11 2001, a man named Todd Beamer was faced with the question. Except he had less than 24 hours. He had minutes. According to the conversation he had with a GTE in flight operator, he knew it, too.
Beamer was a 32 year old Oracle executive who was on United flight 93. Before he left that morning he called a friend he’d been praying with, called him from the airport to check in and see how he was. Then boarded his flight. When he realized his flight was being hijacked, Beamer and at least three other passengers decided to do something about it. They’d heard what had happened to other flights that day and were determined it wouldn’t happen to theirs.
Beamer knew his wife, Lisa, was at home, but rather than calling her, he called the GTE operator. He reported the hijacking, then asked the operator to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him. The last thing the operator heard Beamer say was, "You guys ready? Let’s roll."
On September 11th Todd Beamer became an American hero because of the way he spent his last moments. I suspect there are more heroics in us than we think. When you know you aren’t going to make it, when you know the time is short, you’ll do some amazing, sacrificial things.
The sad thing is, Todd Beamer was a hero before he boarded United flight 93. He was a hero because despite his athletic success in college, despite his business success as an Oracle executive, he was a servant. That’s what he did with his time.
And I suspect one reason Todd Beamer spent his time serving others is because he had a keen sense that every day he was potentially 24 hours away from the end. Everyone of us wakes up to what may be the last day we live. So serve.
Don’t say, "I’ll become a servant one day, when I’ve achieved my goals or when the kids are grown or when I’ve taken care of my responsibilities." You won’t. If you keep putting off becoming a servant, there will always be one more very good reason to delay taking up the towel. You’ll get to the end of your life having done everything you meant to do, except serve.