Status or Service

I am leading out in our feet-washing service at Bethel Mennonite tomorrow morning. The following are my notes.

 I don’t know how many of you have had your shoes shined by a shoeshine? I saw one of those places in our travels through Miami International recently. Brennan Manning is an evangelical Catholic leader. He describes an experience he had a while back. As He was waiting to catch a plane in the Atlanta airport, he sat down in one of the many places where usually black men shine white men’s shoes. And an elderly black man began to shine Brennan’s shoes. And Brennan had this feeling inside that after he was done, he should pay him and tip him and then reverse the roles.  And when he was finished, he stood up and looked at the black man and said, “Now, sir, I would like to shine your shoes.” And the black man recoiled and stepped back and said, “You’re going to do what?” He said, “I’d like to shine your shoes. Come on. You sit down here. How would you like them done?” And the black man began to cry, and he said, “No white man ever talked to me like this before.” And the story ends with the white man with arms around a black Atlanta man, and they’ve only just met, tears flowing, reconciliation taking place. A shoeshine place and a kind act of service. A desire for service rather than the confines of the status quo.

We can choose from one of two lines as we travel through our life experience; A line labeled “status” or a line labeled “service”.  As members of a local body of believers we constantly face decisions in our church life; The way we relate to each other in this church. The way we relate to those we interact with in our contacts throughout the day. In our family settings. In our work places. Wherever we find ourselves.

We make these line choices based on what is most important to us; What we value. Is it status or is it service?

Are we concerned about status? Do we like to associate with people that make us look good? People who have it all together. Do we enjoy the feeling of being somebody and have others look up to us? Is status what is important to us?

Are we in the service line? Are we concerned about service? Is it important to us to get in the line that Jesus is in? This line that is marked “service”. This is a shorter line of people; Not so many of us have “service” as our goal in the church.

Jesus thought it important teach His disciples a lesson just before He went to the cross. He taught it in the way that is likely the most effective of all; He provided an example for them to follow when He was gone. He wrapped a towel around his waist and bent down to wash His disciples’ feet. In doing that He clearly showed His disciples and all of us in which line He is walking.

The disciples were all lined up under the sign that said “status”. They were vying to see who could be the greatest; Who could sit next to Christ in His new kingdom. Who was the most important? Who was the greatest? Look at me! I am special!

Jesus started a new line when He wrapped a towel around His waist and got down in front of his disciples to wash their feet. The new line was labeled “service”. The line that Jesus was in was a defining statement of who He is and who we should be.

Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV)   But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

He didn’t do it because it is a fun thing to do. He didn’t do it because it would bring recognition and rewards. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet because He came to serve and not to be served. His disciples needed to see what it means to be like their Master.

Jesus gave up all the status of being God, along with its privileges and honor, and came to earth to serve the very people who would nail him to a cross. He showed his disciples and us also what it means to serve. Jesus is our perfect example!

John 13:1-17(ESV)  Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

In the quest for status there is little joy. I am always wondering and asking questions; What do people think about me? How can I get people to think more highly of me? How can I look good in the eyes of those around me?

Deep and abiding joy is a by-product of helping others, Meeting needs in and for others. Going out of our way to bless others. Doing things that help others in their journey.

What we are doing this morning and every six months or so is symbolic of what it means to serve each other; Care and concern for each other. Seeing the needs that are there. Enough concern to act. Humility – considering others better than ourselves. Doing those things that show value for our brother or sister. Lowly things. Willingness to suffer discomfort for the betterment of another. Willing to get dirty to clean up an other’s messy situation. Unselfish behavior toward each other. Putting their needs first As we wash each other’s feet this morning let’s purpose to be in that line marked “service”. Let’s follow the example of the Master

Shane Claiborne once said “Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes. Community is about doing the dishes.” We love doing revolutionary things, we love doing dramatic things. We love feeling needed. So, we want to change the world in shocking ways, in deep ways, in meaningful ways. In the process of getting to these shocking, amazing, headline grabbing ways of changing the world, we miss the basics. We miss the basic ways people need to be loved. We miss the basic ways people need care. We miss the basic needs right in front of us, because they aren’t attention grabbing enough. They’re so prosaic; they’re so real, that we miss them. So, we’re not free to do the things that are mundane. We’re not free to do the things that are real. We’re not free to meet physical needs, we’re not free to meet the needs right in front of us.

How will you serve your brother or sister in the next year; The one whose feet you wash in a symbolic gesture this morning?


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