given on Sunday, September 8, 2013
Watch the news tonight and see what lime green shirts show up. Churches across Missouri and beyond are sporting them and stepping out of the norm to serve. Today is also Grandparents Day. [The impetus for a National Grandparents Day originated with Marian McQuade, a housewife in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her primary motivation was to champion the cause of lonely elderly in nursing homes. She also hoped to persuade grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide. President Jimmy Carter, in 1978, proclaimed that National Grandparents Day would be celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Accessed on September 7, 2013 at http://www.grandparents-day.com/] In fact, both events are clearly labeled on many calendars and both share a key ingredient—the servant heart.
Reading through the Old Testament the last few months, the emphasis seems to be on taking rather than serving. But let’s consider the concept of service as an action rather than just another church term.
First of all, serve is the base word and originated in
Origin: 1125–75; Middle English serven < Old French servir < Latin servīre, equivalent to serv ( us ) slave (cf. serf) + -īre infinitive suffix
Looking at that first, turn to the actual definitions of the term as listed in dictionary.com:
[surv] http://dictionary.reference.com/help/luna/Spell_pron_key.htmlShow IPA verb, served, serv·ing, noun
verb (used without object)
1. to act as a servant.
2. to wait on table, as a waiter.
3. to offer or have a meal or refreshments available, as for patrons or guests: Come early, we’re serving at six.
4. to offer or distribute a portion or portions of food or a beverage, as a host or hostess: It was her turn to serve at the faculty tea.
5. to render assistance; be of use; help.
verb (used with object)
12. to be in the service of; work for.
13. to be useful or of service to; help.
14. to go through (a term of service, imprisonment, etc.).
15. to render active service to (a sovereign, commander, etc.).
16. to render obedience or homage to (God, a sovereign, etc.).
32. the act, manner, or right of serving, as in tennis.
33. serve one right, to treat one as one deserves, especially to punish justly: It will serve you right if she never speaks to you again.
I am sure that some of these definitions do not fit the focus for Serve 2013, some might not fit as descriptors for what our grandparents did, but some do fit quite well. Therefore, combining the discussion of serve and of Grandparents Day makes sense.
I am sure that each one of us can close our eyes and picture our grandparents reaching out to serve someone in some manner. Even if that picture includes us as kids, teens, young adults, middle aged adults, or even as their caretakers, I expect there was always a giving of self in one way or another.
My own experience includes two sets of grandparents who were weekly role players in my life. My mom’s parents lived six miles northeast of us and my dad’s parents lived eight miles southwest of us when they left the farm and moved in town. Typical Missouri farmers, my grandparents were active in and around their farms, our farms, and even our cousins’ homes.
Never did I find my grandparents without chores to do. Never did I discover that going to my grandparents meant sitting down and simply watching TV. Even as they aged, the fingers and the minds of these four individuals were busy serving family, friends, and churches. Not one of the four followed the same path or even had similar styles, but each one served in one way or another. And each one of them served to the glory of God.
Serve 2013 in the third annual Methodist corporate event. Anything new is challenged and the practice of church members stepping outside the church building on a Sunday morning to “worship” through acts of serving challenges our paradigms of Christian worship. Where is the scripture? What hymns are being sung? How can we learn without a sermon? What about the weekly offering? The challenges can create a barrier for the church to step outside its walls and serve.
Now think about this: How many of our grandparents or possibly great-grandparents did not even have a church building in which to worship? My grandparents did, but they, too, were small rural churches that were supported primarily by the founding fathers who established their farms around that community. At least that is the history of my dad’s parents.
My mom’s grandparents were not so fortunate to be within the immediate reach of their families. In fact my grandpa had been widowed when he was just 33 and had a toddler daughter. He lived in one community working at a brick plant. He moved into the country during the depression but struggled. And somewhere along the early years of his second marriage, he had a son and eventually bought a farm in another community about 15 miles east. Never, though, did he quit serving God, even though he changed communities and churches.
Grandparents modeled God’s commandment for many of us. Granted not every grandparent did, but here we sit in 2013 and we are in a relationship with God in part to our grandparents, who modeled for our parents, who modeled for us. Living a God-centered life does not mean we are free from the trials in our earthly life, nor does it mean we are automatically sin-free. We can honor our grandparents, and our grandchildren can honor us today, but to honor God we must serve.
This may feel as though I am using circular logic, but consider how we learn most of our skills. We learn by watching, we learn by practicing, we learn by doing, and we pass it on to the generations yet to come. If God had given up on the Jewish people, would he have sent Jesus? If God had given up on the earliest Christians, would we have had more contemporary disciples like John Wesley? Finally, if God had given up at any time, would we have had our grandparents, our parents, our children and our grandchildren?
Each generation is challenged with the trials and tribulations that an earthly life creates. Some of the situations are strictly acts of nature. Some are the result of horrific crimes of humanity against humanity. Some are the failures to teach a generation about God, about loving one another, about serving one another.
The Bible tells us over and over how to treat one another. Even in the Old Testament the stories share the positive outcomes when one person serves another to the glory of God. The New Testament is entirely focused on loving one another at the expense of all other earthly actions. And today, we are refocused one more time as our corporate church, the Missouri Conference asks all Methodists to serve.
Is there any better way to honor our grandparents than to serve? Is there any better way to share God’s love than to serve one another? Is there any better method to teach our children and our grandchildren about God’s love than to demonstrate serving?
During the next week, or even yet today, look around and see how God’s children are serving one another. Watch the news. Look for the green shirts wherever you are today. Look at how people serve—even if there are no green shirts.
Make a list of the ways you serve. Last week, we served right here in our own community. Did we serve in love? Did we serve as a ministry? Do our kids and our grandchildren know why we serve? Do they join us in our efforts to serve one another in love?
Each and every way that we serve one another, we honor God. For many of us, we also are following the examples of our parents and grandparents who knew God’s grace and wanted to serve others as an outreach of Christian love. In order for the world to be transformed, we must serve one another in Christian love.
While searching for today’s hymns, I found one was unfamiliar, “Help Somebody Today.” Here these words and consider how many times you witness someone crying out for God’s love and how many different ways there are to serve.
Help Somebody Today
Mrs. Frane A. Breck, lyrics & Charles H. Gabiel, score
c. 1932, Renewal. Rodeheaver Co., owner.
the Upper Room Hymnal, no 60
Look all around you, find someone in need, Help somebody today!
Tho’ it be little—a neighborly deed—Help somebody today!
Many are waiting a kind loving word, Help somebody today!
Thou has a message, O let it be heard, Help somebody today!
Many have burdens too heavy to bear, Help somebody today!
Grief is the portion of some ev’rywhere, Help somebody today!
Some are discouraged and weary in heart, Help somebody today!
Some one the journey to Heaven should start, Help somebody today!
Help somebody today,
Somebody along life’s way;
Let sorrow be ended,
The friendless befriended,
Oh, help somebody today!
Dear Gracious God,
Thank you for the gift of our grandparents, our parents
who have guided us in our spiritual journey.
Help us honor them for the servant life they lived
by the different ways we serve today.
Thank you for the gift of grace and the servants
of the past who demonstrated how to give grace.
Help us use grace, too, to meet the needs of others
whether hungry, unclothed, unsheltered, or more.
Thank you for the skills and the means to serve
one another in love whether here or around the world.
Help us to serve and to share our blessings with others in need
so they may become disciples of Christ
for the transformation of the world. –Amen