Near the Cross: Prayer and Perseverance

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Philippians 3:12-16.

Spiritual Discipline ~ Service

Discipline Scripture ~ John 13:1-5, 14-15.

During the Season of Lent, Christians through the ages ‘try on’ different spiritual disciplines as a way to lean into their life of faith in a new, deeper, or fresh way. Each week during Lent, I will offer a reflection – including thoughts by the renowned Richard Foster – on a different spiritual discipline as modeled for us by Jesus.

In our Discipline Scripture text this week we read of Jesus serving his disciples by washing their feet. His service ends with instruction, as it so often does. In John’s Gospel Jesus applies The Golden Rule, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:14-15). We, who follow Jesus, are called to serve. Called to humble ourselves. Called to honor one another. We are called after the example of our living Lord.

As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we learn more deeply the differences between Self-Righteous Service and True Service:

  • Self-Righteous Service
    • Comes through human effort
    • Is impressed with the big deal, meaning impressive gains
    • Requires external rewards
    • Is highly concerned about results
    • Picks and chooses whom to serve
    • Is affected by moods and whims
    • Is insensitive, meaning meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive
    • Fractures community
  • True Service
    • Comes from a relationship with God deep inside the individual
    • Finds it almost impossible to distinguish between the small service from the large
    • Rests contented in hiddenness
    • Is free of the need to calculate results
    • Is indiscriminate in its ministry
    • Ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need
    • Can withhold the service as freely as perform it
    • Builds community

Says Foster, “True service quietly and unpretentiously goes about caring for the needs of others. It draws, binds, heals, and builds.”*

Through service we lean into the radical role reversal that Jesus taught – that Jesus incarnated. That the last will be first. The least will be greatest. The weakest will be the strongest. Jesus did not seek position or title. Jesus served with a towel. Jesus served at the table, excluding no one. Jesus served on the cross, becoming sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.

Recall a time when you were served. What was the circumstance? How did being served make you feel? How was your relationship with the person that served you transformed by that encounter? How has this or how can this experience shape your future service? How has serving rather than being served changed your life for the better? Share your answers with a friend. I look forward to serving you in worship this Sunday.

For further reading, see Celebration of Discipline pages 126-140.

Prayer: “And through these days of penitence, and through thy passiontide, yea, evermore in life and death, Jesus, with us abide.”** Amen.

*Celebration of Discipline 128-130.

**“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,” The United Methodist Hymnal 269.

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