Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To serve, to be served

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Happy Easter to all of you! We celebrate five more weeks of the Easter Season, as we all also usher in the coming of spring. And here in the Midwest, we surely need a spring pick-me-up to set our sights toward summer.


I want to talk briefly about service. What it means to serve. I propose that there are two ways to serve. The first way would be what tends to come to mind when someone suggests that they are going to serve in some capacity–––to give you, to give your time, talents, and effort and expect little to nothing in return. An example I would draw from Christian scripture: Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. After he presents this “model” to his disciples, he urges them to do the same for one another. “So that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John, chapter 13, verse 15). The basic interpretation of this verse is that if your Lord can wash your feet, then you should be able to wash anyone’s feet. No one is too important to not serve a friend in need. Likewise, no one is unworthy of being served, of having his or her feet metaphorically washed. Whether we heal someone physically, spiritually or emotionally---whether we show them faith in some manner, the presence of God in their live or the presence of hope---we can be of service. And this leads me to a second way to serve.

When I went to El Salvador last year, I struggled with the idea that a family that did not have much in terms of material goods was treating me like royalty. My friend Laura and I were given two chairs at a small table while we ate, while our host family gathered in various places to eat meals. We were given the choicest portions, served first. We were almost like the priests in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the priests in Ancient Israel who were given the greatest portions during sacrifices. This made us uncomfortable at first. We both struggled in the sense that we felt that we didn’t deserve this type of service. Who were we? What were we DOING for these people? Couldn’t we be doing more? How dare we take what little they have?

These questions took time to be resolved. Sometimes, they still eat away at me. But, just recently, a wise person made me aware of just what I WAS doing for my host family in El Salvador. By being a guest, by trying our best to be humble and grateful guests, we were serving our Salvadorian friends. How could this be? Again, I turn to a Gospel story. From John, chapter 12, we imagine Jesus in Bethany, only days before his crucifixion; Jesus is eating with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. “Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair.” This act of service, of elaborate hospitality troubles Judas. “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” While Judas might have been asking this question with less than genuine concern for the poor (we are told he was stealing from the disciples’ money bag---further, he betrays Jesus), we can at least consider our own reaction to his question. Sometimes I think to myself…you know, Judas, if he would have been speaking with genuine concern for the poor, might have had a legitimate issue with the lavish oils being poured onto Jesus simply to relieve him or serve him.

However, Jesus’ response is crucial: “Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus seems to say that it is worth our time to allow others to serve us. And if they care enough about us to do so, to turn down someone’s gift would be to deprive them of something. We might even consider it a form of betrayal. And in this sense, we see Judas’ question, even if it was asked with the most sincere of intentions, is lacking something. It is lacking in gratitude and acceptance of another person’s desire to show you that they care and love for you. To allow someone to serve you is a sincere form of service. It empowers another person and lets them enter into your life in a way that says I am open to your love and your hospitality. You warm my heart with your sign of appreciation. In turn, we then go to another person to serve them, to show that person we care. It is in giving of ourselves that we receive. It is in service that we are sometimes served and sometimes we serve.

May charity and love prevail!

A blessed continued celebration of Easter and Resurrection and Hope in new life to all!

Peace and blessings.

With love,

Your friend bob.

1 comment:

Michal L. said...

Thank you for your beautiful personal reflection on serving. There is something interested in the poor people that leads me to reflect on how much I am grateful for what I have. And, my honest answer is: not so much. This is one of the areas of my life that I need to work