Summary: One of the Seven Marks of Discipleship is service in and beyond the congregation.
(Preface note to the reader: Our church elders identified 7 Marks of Discipleship. Six are suggested by Michael Foss in his book, "Power Surge." To his six, we added the seventh -- Evangelism. These marks are: Spiritual Friendships, Serve Others in and beyond the congregation, Pray Daily, Generosity with time, talents and money, Read the Bible, Worship weekly and Evangelism.)
A man went to the doctor after weeks of symptoms.
The doctor examined him carefully, then called the patient’s wife into his office.
“I have bad news,” the doctor told the man’s wife.
“Your husband is suffering from a rare disease. Without treatment, he’ll be dead in a few weeks. The good news is, it can be treated with proper care.
“You will need to get up early every morning and fix your husband a hot breakfast—pancakes, bacon and eggs, the works. He’ll need a home-cooked lunch every day, and then an old-fashioned meat-and-potato dinner every evening. It would be especially helpful if you could bake frequently. Cakes, pies, homemade bread—these are the things that will allow your husband to live.
“One more thing. His immune system is weak, so it’s important that your home be kept spotless at all times. If your husband is to live, you have to wait on this man hand and foot. Do you have any questions?”
The wife had none.
“Do you want to break the news, or shall I?” asked the doctor.
“I will,” the wife replied.
She walked into the exam room. The husband, sensing the seriousness of his illness, asked her, “Well, what did the doctor say?”
With a sob, the wife blurted out, “The doctor says you’re gonna die!”
There is something about human nature that simply resists the call to be a servant. For the most part, we don’t like to wait on anyone hand and foot, or even for a few moments.
Being a servant is not what anyone wants to be.
Ask a child, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
You will get all sorts of answers – firefighter, soldier, police officer, teacher, astronaut – but not often will a child say, “When I grow up I want to be a servant.”
It is against our nature in this culture. But in our New Testament Lesson for today, St. Paul tells Christians, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter that society tells us one thing, we don’t have to conform to that pattern. We can be transformed in such a way that we can see the great value in what the world thinks of as being without value.
St. Paul goes on in this reading from Romans to say, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us … If a man’s gift is serving, let him serve.”
The rest of culture may look down upon being a servant, but to be a Christian is to be willing to live a life of a servant.
Our elders have identified seven marks of Christian discipleship, and one of these marks is “service in and beyond the congregation.”
Since being a servant doesn’t seem to come very naturally to us, I want to suggest a handful of keys on how one begins to become a good servant.
The first key is that you have to KNOW WHO YOU WORK FOR.
There is a wonderful story in John Kenneth Galbraith’s autobiography, A Life in Our Times. Emily Gloria Wilson was his family’s housekeeper. On one particularly difficult day, Galbraith asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while he took a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. President Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House.
"Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson."
"Sorry Mr. President,” she said, “He’s sleeping.”
“Now look here, I’m the President of the United States.”
“Sorry Mr. President, but he said not to disturb him."
"Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him."
"No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.”
When Galbraith called the President back, Johnson could scarcely control his pleasure. "Tell that woman I want her to work here in the White House. It’s great to meet somebody who knows who she works for." (Houghton Mifflin in Reader’s Digest, December, 1981.)
If you are going to be successful as a servant, you need to know who you work for – and as a Christian servant, you work for God.
We are like Emily in Galbraith’s story. Others are always calling on us trying to tell us what to do. The world is calling. Our flesh is calling. The devil himself will try to call us and direct us what to do.
Our business colleagues may require us to do something dishonest. Our best friend may urge us to do something that is in his best interest, but is unsafe or unwise for us to do. And like Emily in the story, you have to make a decision when you are called upon by others – who do you work for?