Methodist Vows: Service

Methodist Vows: “Service”
A Message on Matthew 20:25-28

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church

January 27, 2019

By Doug Wintermute


Matthew 20:25-28 (NRSV)


But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but 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.”


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Let me see a show of hands. How many of you know who David Andrews is? How about Joe Thuney? Trent Brown? Shaq Mason? Marcus Cannon? Anyone? (Bueller? Bueller?)


Okay, let’s try again. How many of you know who John Sullivan is? How about Rodger Saffold? Andrew Whitworth? Austin Blythe? Rob Havenstein? Anyone?


Alright, let’s try another direction. How many of you know who Tom Brady is. (And please, no cursing. God loves him, too.) How about Sony Michel, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, or Rob Gronkowski?


How many of you know who Jared Goff is? How about Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, or Tyler Higbee?


If you haven’t figured it out by now, those are the names of the starting players on offense for the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, the two teams who will be playing a week from tonight in Super Bowl LIII.


Now if you didn’t know those first two sets of names don’t feel bad. Those are the offensive linemen for each of the teams, the troops in the trenches. About the only time they get their name announced or shown on tv are when they get called for holding or some other penalty.


And yet… the success of the team is very much dependent on how they do their jobs.


In many ways they have servant roles, don’t they? They serve to protect the quarterback on passing plays, and they serve to create holes for the running backs to run through on running plays.


I think that’s one of the reasons that I can’t stand what I call “look-at-me” touchdown celebrations. One person may have scored the touchdown, but he had a lot of folks doing some serious blocking in order for him to be able to do that. Instead of acting the fool in the end zone with egotistical gyrations exclaiming how great he is he ought to be back at the line of scrimmage giving big ol’ bear hugs to the guys who just blocked the defensive players and made it possible for him to score a touchdown.


Today we are going to continue our sermon series on the vows we make when we join the United Methodist Church by looking at the topic of “service.”


When we join the church we vow to support it with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. So what does it mean to support the church with our service?


I think the best place to begin is with the scriptures, of course.


In the scripture we read from the 20th chapter of Matthew we find Jesus explaining to the disciples about servant leadership. And he tells them that whoever wants to be great has to be a servant.


Now when looking at scriptures it is important to look at their context. What was happening before and after it was written?


In this case we find Jesus trying to prepare the disciples for what is about to happen. In the very next chapter we find Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Going the other way, at the beginning of chapter 20 we find Jesus telling the parable of the workers in the vineyard followed by the third time he tells the disciples about his upcoming death and resurrection.


And then, right after that, the mother of James and John come to Jesus and asks him to place her sons at his right and left hands in his kingdom. Now I find it interesting that the mom makes this request, not James and John themselves. (Was she the original “helicopter mom”?)


Somehow the other 10 disciples catch wind of this and as you imagine they are kind of upset. The scripture we read today is Jesus responding to that anger. He basically is saying that they have it all wrong.


It’s not a competition to see who is the best disciple. That’s a worldly voice. The heavenly voice –the Jesus voice– is an attitude of serving others.


Jesus was telling the disciples that they had to choose which voice to listen to. We are faced with the same choice. So which voice are you going to listen to? Which voice are you going to follow?


Part of the challenge of being a Christian today is to overcome the consumerist mentality that pervades our culture.


Pam and I watch some of these home renovation shows on HGTV, and I there are some things about those shows I just don’t understand.


First of all we can’t figure out how these young couples come up with huge amounts of money to buy these houses. How can you be in your early 30s and have $1.3 million to spend on a house?


But what irritates me even more is when they go through and look at the houses they are so… how should I put this… picky! Oh my gosh, are they picky!


They’ll say things like, “Oh, this looks so dated,” or “I don’t like that,” or “This doesn’t have an open floor plan and I want an open floor plan,” or “This doesn’t have marble countertops. I want marble countertops.” They’ll even go so far to say, “This is horrible,” or “This is ugly.”


We have been trained to be consumers and to be… well… picky. And that even extends when it comes to church, unfortunately. We come to church like we go to a store: with the expectation of getting something from it instead of what we can give to the kingdom of God.


We can develop the mindset of having the church as a spiritual vending machine. We put our money in and then we pick what we want, what we like, and expect to get it. “Let’s see, today I’d like some organ music and only hymns that I know and am familiar with, no kids making noises, I want to sit in my spot in my pew, and I don’t want the sermon to step on my toes. Oh, and I want us to get out on time or even a little early.”


Contrast that with Jesus words: “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.”


This afternoon our district will be having a leadership meeting. We are basing it on our bishop’s initiative to “We Love All God’s Children.” Our own children’s director, Natalie Dawson, will be there to share about our Mini Methodists program and encourage other churches to offer similar programs.


Natalie will tell you that one big reasons for the success of Mini Methodists is because of volunteers. We simply could not have the program without those with servants’ hearts who volunteer each week.


It takes about 40 volunteers for Mini Methodists to happen every week. A lot of churches are shocked to hear that, but it’s the truth. And it is something most churches could do. It all comes down to having enough people with a servant’s heart willing to do it.


When we join the church we pledge to support it with our service. We don’t pledge that we will just show up for what we will receive, even if that is to charge our spiritual batteries on Sunday and leave. We pledge to support it with our service.


When we think of “service” many things come to mind. We think of the waitstaff of a restaurant when we go out to eat and the “service” they provide us. And if they do a good job we even leave them tips to express our gratitude.


We think of those in the military “service,” who leave families and home to serve their country. Many give years and years of their lives in the service of their country. And some give their lives.


We used to think of “service stations,” where you would pull up in your automobile and a person would pump your gas, check your oil, check the oil in your tires, and wash your windshield. (Our own Kent Westbrook has one the last of these service stations in existence, which I think is really cool!)


There are people like our own Tim Swinney who provide lawn services. Tim and his crew will show up and mow your grass, trim around the sidewalks and streets, and make your place look great.


There are others I could mention, but all of these have one thing in common: the “services” they do are done for others, not themselves.


The Bible is very clear on the point of serving. Here are some examples:


“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” — 1 Peter 4:10


“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.” — Galatains 5:13-14, (The Message)


And what I find to be one of the most beautiful example that Jesus gives of servant leadership, “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” — John 13:12-14


If Jesus, our Lord and Savior, God’s only Son, came not to be served but to serve, then maybe we ought to do the same thing.


Years ago, 1979 to be precise,  Dylan wrote and recorded a song about serving, appropriately titled, “Serve Somebody.”


Now it has seven verses and I thought about getting my guitar and singing all seven of them, each followed by a chorus, but you will be glad to know that I chose not to do that. (Did I hear an “Amen”?)


But here are some of the lyrics:


You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls


But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody


You might be a rock ‘n’ roll addict prancing on the stage

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage

You may be a business man or some high-degree thief

They may call you doctor or they may call you chief


But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody


So, who are you going to serve? Are you going to serve the devil, or are you going to serve the Lord?


So my challenge to you this week is to serve the Lord by serving in your church. Live out your membership vow to support this church with your service.


To paraphrase John F. Kennedy (who likely paraphrased the poet Kahlil Gibran by the way), “Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church.”


And I predict that the Super Bowl next Sunday will be won by the team that has the best servant players, the best offensive line.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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