Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph. D.
“Let us Be the People who Serve!”
I want to start out by sharing a funny story I heard about this six years old boy. He was standing in a church lobby, looking at the large church wall. It was filled with names and small American flags by their sides. He asked a pastor, “What does it mean?” The pastor explained how that was a memorial of all the young men and women that died in the service. The little boy stood there silently and seemed to be very concerned. He finally looked up the pastor and asked with a serious voice, “What service was that at, the 8:30 or 11 o’clock service?”
Today, I want to talk about “service.” Last week, I told you that most people would like to be served by others rather than serve others. But, everyone serves or receives other’s service in their places. Last week, as I mentioned, we serve or are served even by family members, such as making coffee. I have a question for you. Do you mostly serve others or are you more often served by others? Remember, if you serve others more than you’re served, not only you, but also your children will receive God’s grace richly because of you. Among Israelite kings, there was the king Hezekiah. He became ill and was at the point of death, and Israelite was about destroyed (2 Kings 20:1). He prayed to God, and God allowed him to live for 15 years more. At that time, God says, “I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and my servant David” (2 Kings 20:6). Because God loved the king David, God gave David victory everywhere he went (1 Chronicles 18:13). Because of David, his descendant, the king Hezekiah, became God’s favorite. Again, are you a person who serves others or receives from others?
The word “service” is interesting. We use the word “service” for military service, police officers’ service, volunteer service for the community, and even name “service” for Christian worship service and the wait staff service at a restaurant. Among the several kinds of ‘service,’ what types of service do you most express your gratitude? Perhaps it will be at a restaurant because you mostly say “thanks” to the wait staff who serves you at a restaurant.
How about police officers? How often do you express your gratitude to them? I saw some people put their appreciation on their car bumper or window with stickers that say “thank you, cops.” I know that some people don’t have good impressions of police officers, but I hope you do not generalize all cops. We can live in a safe community because of their service. I appreciate UMW’s effort to express our gratitude for their service. Accepting UMW’s idea, we keep the Sunday of this week as Police Officers’ Appreciation Day. We should recognize their service and give them thanks in our daily life. Not only to police officers, but also we have to express our gratitude to one another because we serve one another, and we live together. According to a study, the one who has a gratitude mindset can live a happier life than someone who complains or grumbles. The gratitude mindset is God’s will toward us because it makes us happy and rich in grace.
The First Thessalonians, chapter 5, verses 16-18, says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I know it is not easy. How could we be joyful and give thanks in all circumstances? It is our choice in every case. It is not only when we are in a good mood or condition, but always, and in all cases. We cannot do it by ourselves, but if we stay in Jesus Christ, we can do it because God makes things happen for us. Remember, “the one who calls us [you] is faithful, and he will do it” for us (1 Thessalonians 5:24). We should be different from non-Christians in a way. Even though the other cannot be joyful always and give thanks in all circumstances, we Christians can do it because of Jesus Christ.
In today’s Scripture, we read about Jesus’ baptism. Since John the Baptist began his baptismal ministry, the first record about baptism is Jesus’ baptism. Through his baptism, we can identify who we are. We, Christians, are a reborn people in Jesus Christ through baptism. Baptism symbolizes a rebirth that we die in Christ, and we are born again in Christ. The Second Corinthians says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We Christians, who are new creations, live according to the Holy Spirit, not according to the flesh. If we complain or blame people or the world, it is evidence the Holy Spirit is not in us because the Holy Spirit keeps us in peace and joy. If we are joyful and harmonious with one another in Christ, it is evidence the Holy Spirit is in us and among us because “God was reconciling the world to God-self in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) We also know about the people who complained in the wilderness and who died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. The gratitude mindset not only leads us to happier lives but also makes us be alive by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us have a more gratitude mindset and express it to one another in 2021.
At his baptism, Jesus was identified by God, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am pleased.” And the scripture says, “the Spirit descends on him like a dove.” The Good News is that God identifies us as the children of God through our baptism. We are beloved ones by God. So, God is with us always in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can serve people in all circumstances with gratitude. After being baptized, as he began his public ministry, baptism symbolizes that we initiate God’s ministry in the church community’s unity. We learned that Jesus served people. Jesus’ ministry was a servant ministry. Jesus also said by himself, “I came to serve people, not be served.” Jesus said, “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He became a friend to the poor, the weak, and the powerless. He fed them, cared for them, and healed them. He served them even washing their feet. In a society of Israelite, washing other’s feet was the job of servants. He showed his disciples how they should serve others. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Most of us might want to be leaders or teachers. However, who is our Lord and teacher, Jesus became an example of how to serve others so that we should follow the way Jesus taught.
Martin Luther said that “Christian worship should be like washing Jesus’ feet,” which means we should serve God and others humbly. We name Christian worship as Sunday service, Wednesday service, Christmas Eve service, Easter service, etc. Let us think of ourselves. How much are you humble for Sunday service? How do you prepare your mind for Sunday service? Especially because we have a virtual online service, perhaps we may lose our manner to worship God. However, remember, we are not watching a movie or entertainment on TV, but we worship God even via Zoom. Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship God in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers God seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Who knows it is time God seeks true worshipers. Because God is Spirit, we can worship God at home, at church, and everywhere. However, do not forget our service should be like worshiping God. We use the word “service” for every service, such as at a society or restaurant, perhaps because we should serve people as we worship God. Jesus said in a parable of the sheep and goats, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). God allowed us a new year. It is an excellent opportunity for us to serve others more humbly and joyfully. Let us be a people who serve others humbly and express gratitude gently to others who serve you in a new year. Thanks be to God. Amen!