Sept 18, 2016 – Servant or Slave?
We just sang – the captive to release, to God the lost to bring. Have you ever been a captive? Or who has been a slave? Think about what a slave is. Slavery isn’t easy for us to get, is it?
That’s a difficulty for us with Jesus analogy today. When He was talking in the gospel lesson about serving God or money He used a word that also gives us the word for slave. That idea, of truly and fully being a slave, is one that we find difficult to get our heads around today.
Since that’s hard for us to see in our own experience, let’s put it into terms we can better relate to. Think of it in terms of serving. So, how is serving different than slavery? To serve is to offer help; to be willing, not, forced or bound to help. By the way notice that Jesus makes the assumption that you will serve or be a slave to either God or the things of this world. 13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” That idea also is hard for us to hear, but it is true. We are bound to serve, but who we serve that is what Christ has set us free for.
To serve is to give of yourself to help another person. It’s a gift when you serve. Serving one another is action – not ‘stuff’ – and its action that’s a gift of love. Service is love made visible. (2X)
Serving out of obligation, as under the law, or out of a sense of debt –with an unwilling heart – rather than love, that’s only giving half a gift, and the lesser half at that. The greatest gift, St. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 13, is love. And service is wonderful when it’s motivated by love.
Here another thing about serving; it means you are able. That is, 1 – you have a body that is capable. 2 – a mind that can grasp what another person needs. And 3 – a willingness to do for them what they can’t do for themselves.
Regarding #1 – I heard an amazing story. A young man was injured in a diving accident. He’s now bound to a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Using a joystick with his wrist he’s able to move in his motorized wheelchair. After living in that wheelchair many years, he married a very special lady and together they have parented 21 handicapped foster children. 21 children think he’s the greatest father who has ever lived. God healed his spirit after his body was broken… and he / serves, motivated by love, not in the limitations of his flesh.
To serve is not asking you to do what you can’t do. Remember – Service is love made visible. As to #2 a mind that can grasp what another person needs. A pastor friend of mine said this: To the extent that I understand Christ’s sacrifice for me, in the same measure and to the same degree will I show and exhibit that Christ lives in me.
So we cannot serve someone without first understanding that their most basic need is to know the love of Christ. Serving seeks something for others that have a need that you can understand. As you understand the love of Christ that lives in you, you can serve to share that very love with others.
Remember – Service is love made visible.
And 3 –a willingness to do for them what they can’t do for themselves. Now, if you are able but not willing, that’s a different matter. Remember – Service is love made visible.
That gets us back to both the gospel lesson and the epistle lesson. Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. Being trusted with what we’ve been given – our capacities, our money, our time, our abilities; these are things that God has entrusted to us. Jesus puts it to us today to consider how we use what we’ve been given.
And as He’s given Himself totally into death on the cross for our eternal benefit, so He calls us to give of ourselves for the benefit of others in the here and now. When we sang hymn 344 On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry verse 2 says, then cleanse be every life from sin; make straight the way for God within and let us all our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there.
Christ has entered into our hearts by grace through faith alone. He lives there as the One Who gives us the sight and strength to serve others and their needs. To serve others needs is not the same thing as solving their problems. It’s not up to us to solve another person’s problem. But to refuse them aid when we’re able is to remain selfish and closed.
Remember – Service is love made visible. That brings us to what Paul was saying in the epistle lesson he – and we – have been given the gospel, the good news of Jesus death and resurrection for the sin of the world, not for us to sit on or hide away selfishly; but for us to give away so that, as he referred to it in verse 4 – all people might be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth according to God’s will.
One writer identifies two kinds of Christians, those who wear a bib and those who wear an apron. Immature Christians view the church as a place that’s supposed to serve them. Mature Christians view the church as a place where they can serve others. Immature Christians tend to ask, “What are you going to do for me?” Mature Christians ask, “How can I serve my Lord and His people?”
Rightly serving God according to what Jesus pointed out today means not being a slave to anything or anyone on earth but to serve God.
A missionary in the interior of China was telling the story of Jesus to a group of people. After a few stories from the Scriptures, one of the Chinese people said, “Oh, yes, we knew this man; He used to live here in this city!” Somewhat surprised, the missionary corrected the man, “No, Jesus lived almost two thousand years ago in another land.” The man insisted, “No, He lived in this village and I knew Him!” Then the man led the missionary out to the village cemetery and showed him a grave – the grave of a medical missionary who had lived in that village, who lived among the people of the village and taught them, served them, healed them. After many years of ministry, he died in the village.
That medical missionary is just one example of serving others from the heart of Christ. Remember – Service is love made visible. The medical missionary lived so that others could see Jesus through his life. We don’t need to leave our homes and travel overseas to serve others.
During his years in the Senate, Senator Robert Dole made a covenant with his home church that every week he would write a short note of concern to every member of his church family that was hospitalized or sick. He kept that covenant the whole time he served in the senate.
Then there’s a story about King Henry of Bavaria. The duties of his office once became so demanding that he decided to relinquish his crown and enter a monastery where he could live a quiet and simple life of service God. He humbly presented himself to the Prior, the head of the monastery. The Prior told the king that if he wished to serve God as a member of that order, he had to promise to be absolutely obedient. The king agreed. The Prior then gave this order: “Go back to your throne and serve God as King of this land. God will give you the strength to serve Him in your calling.”
Whatever your calling in life, seek to serve God in it to the very best of your ability, in that way you show others how Christ has first served you. And how it is that Christ continues to come serve us daily through His word and sacraments.
Let me close with something else St Paul said today. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. Jesus, dying on the cross, served us by doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Don’t forget, we’re not called to serve others with what we can’t do. We couldn’t save ourselves from our own sin – only Jesus could do that and so He came and served us by becoming the ransom for all. Remember – Service is love made visible.
Today we rejoice in our salvation because it is a free gift to us that we neither earned nor deserved, but rather we’ve been served with. By Christ coming to earth and granting us that gift of eternal life He first serves us. He put love into action for us on the cross and by His resurrection from the grave. He served us because we needed it. We then put on our aprons and serve others only because we have first been served – by Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Sermon #845 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Amos 8:4-7
4 Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land,
5 saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”— skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, 6 buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
7 The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.
Epistle Reading 1 Timothy 2:1-7 2 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
Holy Gospel Luke 16:1-15
16 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.