Called To Serve

Can you imagine kneeling in front of the person sitting next to you and washing their feet? That’s probably not the first thing on your to-do list before sharing communion, is it? The role of washing someone’s feet in ancient times was reserved for slaves in the household. It was a dirty job, something that was below dignity, it was to be done by servants.

Using an example of assisted living complexes and nursing homes, the hallways are filled with servants (some being more compassionate than others). There are people following a calling to get dirty for others. Thank God for their humility and compassion to help bathe, feed, clothe, and transport those who are unable to do it for themselves.

Jesus came to us as a servant, saving us because we could not do it ourselves. The disciples James and John wanted to know if they could sit at Jesus right and left side in heaven. That would be the ultimate achievement, wouldn’t it? Jesus’ response, “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt 20:26-28.

Jesus’ message sounded as backwards to the disciples back then as it does today. Our measurement of a successful life is based on what we’ve accomplished, and we take pride in our achievements. “Look, I have lived a good life. I am worthy of credit for what I have done. I’ve punched my ticket to heaven.” The central theme is ME and what I’ve done. But what does it mean when Jesus refers to the kingdom of God at the end of a parable, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matt 20:16.

Jesus lives against the grain of the world. In an upside down kingdom where society suggests that we should accomplish as much as possible for ourselves, Jesus instead calls us to serve him by serving others. He submitted himself to God by filling the servant’s role in washing feet for his disciples. Love after all, is not about ourselves.

We read in 1 John, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.”

Jesus is the Good Shepherd that leaves the 99 to go find the one that is lost. You and I are both the 99 and the one. We constantly stray and need Jesus to guide us. We do not come to him; he comes to us. It is not our responsibility to find him, he is already present and involved in our lives whether we recognize it or not. It’s up to us to stop rejecting his love and forgiveness.

He washed their feet and said that it was an example that we should follow. Maybe in today’s world we aren’t washing each other’s feet, but how are we serving others? Where are we serving as Jesus’ servant of love and mercy which doesn’t seek personal recognition? Did you notice that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, including Judas who left just a short time later to betray the Son of God? Knowing that Judas would betray him, Jesus STILL served the rebellious disciple.

Maundy Thursday is a reminder that the entire mission of Jesus (and therefore God) is to love, forgive, proclaim Christ as Lord, and faithfully serve. Jesus didn’t wait for us to come to Him. He came to us and calls the church to go out to others as well. We are called to serve everyone in His name; not to those who look like they deserve it, but especially to those who don’t. As we share in the body and blood of Christ, remember that communion isn’t just with the people in these pews, but we are joining with every Christian on earth in the salvation, blessings, and promises of Jesus. Amen.