Servant Leadership – Who’s Serving Who?

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. John 13:1-17, 31b-35  We don’t often talk about Peter’s reluctance to Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It was a menial task usually left to servants, that is of course assuming that you had servants. Jesus’ act makes clear that this is exactly who we are – servants to one another. A friend of mine wanted to do something for me and I told her it wasn’t necessary believing that it might be a burden for her. She said something I will never forget; “Why would you deny me the opportunity to do what God has called me to do?” Who was I to determine the measure of her gift to me? No act is too small to give and no spirit is too great to receive. Jesus the perfecter of our faith has set the pathway. To lead is to serve and to serve is to lead.

You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you…  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’  John 13:1-17, 31-35

Marginalized For Christ

Mark 9:37 ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ 

In Jesus’ Palestine children were marginalized in that they had no power and certainly no authority. While the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest, Jesus is pretty much walking the green mile. He knows he is about to be put to death, essentially leaving the disciples behind to fend for themselves in this physical life. It is important for the disciples to understand that any power or authority they hope to receive will be tied to their relationships with the marginalized. Physically all of the disciples were that child at one time and now as disciples of Christ they must become that child again. Jesus became that child for us and now we must become that child for one another and for others and at all times be ready to serve because while on this earth, the power is in the service.

Mark 9:35  ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’

Proverbs 31:8-9  Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. 

Walking To Jerusalem

Lent: Day 38 –  After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them….I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:1-17, 31-35b

Holy Week  – Maundy Thursday  (Maundy – Origin: 1250–1300; Middle English maunde < Old French mande < Latin mandātum command, mandate)

Jesus’ ministry to the House of Israel and the ministry of his death and resurrection for the world began with washing. Washed by the blood of Christ, so too our journey to Jerusalem (ministry) begins and ends in service to one another. Let us understand today that we are not in competition with one another but rather the forces of this world, which seek to cover us in its darkness. But in the same way, others before us kept walking in the light of Christ ministry and love for us, so we too must keep walking. Because of this, the spiritual journey we walk together never ends and the goal of reconciliation is always at hand.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

John 13:1-7,31-35 ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 

The Art Of Reconciliation

Jacob’s reconciliation with his brother Esau is quite the interesting story. He’s been instructed to go back to the land of his father Isaac knowing that his brother Esau would be there, yet not knowing whether or not he would be received. Humility, a modest view of one’s own importance, always seems to be an overflowing trait we find in people we admire the most. Most often it is acquired through struggle. Any experience that makes us feel used or abused can elicit two responses. The first response is revenge, destroying the spirit within that seeks the good and lives at the expense of others. The second response is outreach, encouraging the spirit within that seeks the good and lives to build up and encourage others. In the larger scheme of things any physical wealth God allows us to amass can never really compare to the deeds we choose in life. If we as Christians know what is right and yet choose what is wrong, then we too participate in life’s masquerade. Christ in all his glory, came to us through works not status, to build the spirit and not destroy it, to give life and conquer death. His works always went before him and always to the glory of God. Thus, the art of reconciliation with God strips us down to the heart of Christ’s spirit within us and eventually brings every believer to the same place of outreach to praise, love, and new life.

‘Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob… Genesis 32:3-21

The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. John 10:19-30

But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge…abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming. 1 John 2:18-29

Heaven on Earth

Sunday:

Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven is a statement of faith living. It is a Kingdom consciousness, which assumes that everyone is a part of the kingdom. It doesn’t matter what we know or see, but rather what we experience from one another. God’s purpose is to be fulfilled and we each play a role in fulfilling that purpose. What many of us don’t realize is that the roles change. Life is very much about hungering, thirsting, feeling exposed, lost or held captive in varying situations. There are times when we are the “least of these.” The question before us is who will be there in this journey as we move in and out of these states physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Jesus says we are to be there for one another because to serve one another today is to serve God. It is earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 25:31-46 …for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.

Always Enough

Friday:

Every Sunday morning, my maternal grandmother made the smallest pot of grits, probably not much bigger than a 1½-quart saucepan. In addition to my grandfather, there could be up to five other people at the breakfast table. However, it didn’t matter how many people showed up for breakfast that day, she never made more than that one saucepan. Every Sunday morning that we spent there, I remember thinking (never saying a word) that it wasn’t going to be enough. Miraculously, there were always grits in that pot. There was always enough for everyone to have a side of grits to go along with the eggs, bacon and toast she had also prepared. When I got up from that table I was always full and satisfied. I don’t really know how my grandmother was able to do what she did, but along with Jesus feeding the five thousand I now understand that if God gives you a task he as already made provision for the task to be carried through to completion. My grandmother’s reality was that when you live on a fixed income you learn to ration what you have based on the number of days between those incomes. At the same time she believed and understood her task was to feed whoever sat at the table. She took exactly what was provisioned for the day and by the grace of God did exactly that. When the believer has faith in God’s authority over provisions, everyone eats and everyone is satisfied.

Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled…

Deuteronomy 2:7 “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”

Bread For Thought: Service

Sunday:

Matthew 23:1-12 The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus warns his disciples to heed the words of the well-learned scribes and Pharisees because of their expertise in the law. However their behavior served only to burden God’s people rather than help them live in communion with one another. Today, we get the message to love neighbor as self and many of us spend a lot of time trying to serve one another. However, we sometimes forget that it is God who desires to serve us through serving each other. It is the spirit and presence of God within in us that enables us to do the things that we do. Thus when we walk in Christ, the greatest among us is always the presence of God. In this way, when we all sit at the table we are all being served.

Luke 22:27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Faith And Action

Philemon 1-25 I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to youI preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother.

Occasionally we find ourselves in a place where we have to depend on someone else to make a decision concerning our ability to move forward. I don’t mind sharing with you that I hate those places. Whether it’s looking for a job, building a new business relationship, or re-establishing an old personal relationship, we can never be certain as to what the other side may be feeling. Moses’ experience with Pharaoh is a perfect example of how God intervenes when we find ourselves in such a place. The only thing Moses needed was to first have faith that God would impress the heart of the person who stood between God’s people and their ability to move forward, and second, to do (action) what he was instructed by God to do. God took care of the rest. God impressed the heart of a self-serving non-believer to help fulfill the promise he made to his people. As we fast forward to the first century we have the Apostle Paul appealing to Philemon a believer on behalf of Onesimus his runaway slave. As much as we would like to think that Philemon would do the right thing (there is no indication in the story that he did), Paul did not chance the possibility that he wouldn’t and appealed not only to the person Paul believed Philemon to be, but also, to the person Philemon claimed himself to be, a prisoner for Christ and believer in love. In either position as Pharaoh, Paul, Philemon or Onesimus what matters is what we do this day forward. Do we respond in the old way or as a new creation in Christ? Are we willing to trust God’s authority and control in the situation or rely on our own self-absorbed feelings? Like Pharaoh, Paul, Philemon and Onesimus, each of us has a story to tell. Having done all that we can do, all that has been asked of us, history shows that God will respond. What remains is whether he responds to us as believers or non-believers.

Imitating Christ

Wednesday

…on being a slave

To quote Patrick Henry “…give me liberty or give me death”, either way freedom is desired. However, only in death, is freedom eternal, forever free from a physical world and all its physical attributes. It is so easy to find our selves slaves to the physical attributes alone. We however, are more than our physical bodies. We are emotional, thought provoking, spiritual creatures and we can choose to be slaves to either one of these inherent characteristics. But Christ indenture-ship was of a different nature, choosing to be in the world but not of it, a debt he chose to pay yet did not owe. By birth we have no choice in being in the world, but we can choose not to be of it. Even as life (our interaction with the world) throws us curves and sometimes forces us into situations we can’t control, our discipline (obedience) to the heavenly, our trust in the highest authority of what is not seen, and yet like Paul, our desire to experience it; enslaves us to the life of Christ. With God’s help, we can do this. Unlike our forefathers and perhaps some leaders today,  God does not ask of us something that he himself has not already done. To imitate Christ is the highest form of service to God, and the highest form of service to one another. No doubt our physical death is inevitable, but we don’t have to wait for a physical death (nor should we want this) to experience the liberty that is in Christ. As for me; by God’s grace, let me die (to self) today, that I may live (in Christ) today.

Philippians 2:1-12  …though he was in the form of God…but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness…he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death – eve death on a cross.

Romans 6:22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

Psalm 119:45 And I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments.

John 17:13-25 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves…  They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

What If?

Monday

There were two sons, one rebellious to his death and the other obedient to his death. If you could place yourself into the story of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:9-18) or Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenant (Mark 11:27-12:12), which part would you be today? Every now and then we need to take a spiritual exercise and place our selves in the story, in order that we may discover who we are and where we are physically, emotionally, and spiritually right now. Are we being obedient to God’s call in our lives regardless of the struggles or are we following a path according to our own will. Are we a subject at the King’s service or a tenant trying to gain all that we can for ourselves at the Kings’ expense? Perhaps we are bystanders who merely look on, afraid to act for fear of jeopardizing our own self-preservation. If as Christians our goal is to build the body of Christ, the journey we travel is filled with opportunities to choose whether we will be part of the construction or participate in the destruction. Lastly, what if it were your kingdom?