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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

God Serves Us First

Were we to have a baptism today – we would join together in making a promise - to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.

What does it mean to serve? Of course when we make this promise we aren’t limiting serving to what happens in only in church or through church – but all of our lives. So, in your working worlds, your living worlds, your social worlds – how do you serve? I would imagine there are a wide variety of answers. Just as I imagine what motivates us to serve also varies.

We might get paid to serve – we might not. We might serve out of a sense of obligation – as in, I really owe that person something, or I really want to get rid of the guilt I’m feeling. We might serve out of a sense of duty or respect – honor thy father and mother – or to prove ourselves - yes, I will serve Thanksgiving at my house this year, despite the fact that it’s actually my sister’s turn!

And hopefully, – in some of the ways we – we might also be motivated by love. Did anyone get treated to breakfast in bed this morning? Or maybe just breakfast was served to you in the kitchen, by someone who is happy to do so.

Most morning’s when I make my daughter’s lunch – I’m happy to do so. My mom was out the door for work before I left for the bus. Making my daughter’s lunch is a pleasant chore that won’t last forever and I am grateful to be able to do– so it is serving that is both a gift and I hope, an offering.

Does God actually care about what motivates our service? I think so because what motivates you – what you give and what you receive from serving – says something about you – and God cares you very, very much.

This morning’s gospel is about serving others – it is not the set-up for mother-in-law jokes. Nor is it a biblical proof for why a woman’s place is in the home – though its been used for both. It is one of the many times we are taught something important – by Jesus and by a disciple without words, but through actions. It is a part of the picture the gospels paint for us in understanding what it means to serve and be served by God.

Have you not heard? Have you not seen? God is a most awesome God. That is the overarching message of this Old Testament lesson and the psalm. Those words paint a picture of a God that encompasses not only the earth – but the heavens. A God who is everlasting – the creator of everything. We are but grasshoppers in comparison with this God – who fills us with strength – helps us when we are weary – heals the brokenhearted – has named all the stars. Hallelujah indeed!

That shout of praise is in gratitude for the truth that a God so tremendously tremendous would be in relationships with us. Would use that power to give us strength – to lift us up when we’re low – and takes pleasure solely in the knowledge that we wait and want God to be in our lives.

If we believe that serving begins with seeing Christ in a person, a situation – then serving begins with this God seeing Christ in us – with us, like Jesus going off and asking for God’s for direction in prayer. Did you notice how the writer describes how Simon and his companions “hunted for Jesus.” Jesus goes off to seek God and they desperately seek Jesus – probably desperate for some direction on to deal with a crowd of sick people and demons.

When have you desperately hunted for God? For God’s direction? God’s strength? That tends to be true when times are really hard – when we’re scared, overwhelmed, challenged. What if we hunted for God in the good times? Or when things are just fine? We would probably see more opportunities to serve – and conversely – we would probably open our eyes in seeing how often others serve us.

Jesus is first served in Mark’s gospel by the angels – in the desert for those fun 40 days. Simon’s mother-in-law is the second person to serve Jesus. Now, there is a slippery slope here of – well Jesus healed her, and I’ve asked Jesus to heal many things and he didn’t. This is true – but that was true then too. Jesus didn’t heal every person. There is some strategic healing going on – again to teach us something. Proclaim the gospel – use words only if necessary.

In this chapter Jesus heals a demon in the synagogue. Jesus heals the family member of a friend. Then Jesus heals many in crowds of people outside of this home. Then he starts walking and heals a bunch more people – the last of whom in this section is a leper – and spoiler alert – he tells that guy to go show his healing to the priest.

All that proclaiming in deed is teaches us – that this mighty, awesome, powerful God cares so much about us – even though we’re as insignificant as grasshoppers – that God will bring healing to us – through Christ and with Christ and in Christ – no matter where we are – or who we are. That is the good news message Jesus wants to go and proclaim.

Most of my worlds are entwined with this one – so when I think of my working world and where I see serving – it was Wednesday night – and the Refugee ministry dinner. It was seeing young tweens hold a baby. It was listening to all of us try and sing a line of a hymn in Spanish. It was watching Lesli masterfully make a perfect circle of a tortilla – explaining to all of us how to do it. You all know – that just like all of you – I too sometimes think – oh, do I have to go to a church dinner tonight – I just want to eat dinner and watch tv.

But over 10 years of church dinners, without fail at some point I find myself aware of God’s presence – through a feeling of overwhelming gratitude. Gratitude for the fact that God brought us together – that God is helping us help others – and no matter what happens, good or bad in the future – we’ve had this time – and that matters tremendously, it shapes who we are becoming.

It is a gift of service this congregation gives me in granting sabbatical-time. The gratitude I feel is tremendous and I trust my gratitude will be shown in new ways when I return - through serving the Good Shepherd – and the people of Good Shepherd.

I was reading about St. Ignatius of Loyola this week – Love is shown more in deeds then in words – and he wrote this – Why did God make us? God creates human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God.* God gifts everything to human beings with all their personal talents and presents everything in creation as gifts to help them to come to know, love and serve God.

Our good work, the work that shapes us all our lives - is to choose among the many gifts which ones will guide us in a direction towards life-with-God forever – to seek and serve Christ in all persons. God is always the first to serve.

God who gifts – God who loves – God who serves. May we feel the eagerness of the disciples to find Christ in our lives – to hunt for that love – and turn our hearts over to Christ’s love – showing forth our gratitude through actions that proclaim the good news God has written on our hearts. Hallelujah and Amen.

* This section paraphrases and I am grateful for the inspiration of David Fleming's article on Ignatian spirituality and service - "Here I Am" -

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