St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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S Bartholomew, 2014

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 “Our call to service through faith...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
 
Whilst still a pupil in high school, I distinctly recall teachers regularly asking their classes during Life Orientation, who would one day like to become a teacher? If my memory serves me correctly, thirty plus years ago, over half the class used to raise their hands as an indication of who would one day pursue a career as a teacher. 
 
You may be interested to note that many years later; I have regularly repeated the process of late. Except this time, I am the teacher asking the question time after time to my various classes. 
“Who of you would one day like to become a teacher?”
I remain astonished by the response.
 
To this day, no matter the class, age group or gender, not one pupil ever raises their hands anymore as a positive sign that they would one day like to enter the education profession.
 
This raises a number of startling questions.
Firstly, and I often remind the very same pupils of this once they have responded, that if they do not wish to teach, who then is going to teach their children one day?
Secondly, why is the teaching profession so frowned upon as a profession when it remains a vital and integral part of the success of any society?
Thirdly, is it only teaching that suffers from this preconception?
I decided to do some homework and soon came to the concerning conclusion that in fact many careers in our service industry are suffering the same fate. The same groups of pupils who refuse to consider teaching as a noble and crucial profession, also spurn the idea of entering the profession of nursing or police work.
What is happening here in our society where our very youth, who lean heavily on these services as they grow up, do not wish to give back to society in a similar vein?
 
In today’s Gospel reading we learn how the disciples also became trapped in the issues around status and recognition. For a moment rank and their place in the kingdom took precedence over the ministry and support of Jesus. Jesus, preoccupied with His impending journey towards the Cross, initially did not pay attention to the squabbles of His disciples. Eventually Jesus responded to the disciples. Jesus straight away lays down the law for His followers... and it was the opposite of what they had being arguing about. Jesus was not interested in rank, power and superiority. What He was interested in was dignity and  recognising the importance of serving others within the Kingdom of God so that His love might expand tenfold. 
 
You see, in the Kingdom of God, power is used to help others, not to glorify oneself. Thus it follows that SERVICE is one of the ways to become great in the Kingdom of God.
 
Serving others.
Being of service to others.
In everything that we do.
This is not a call to be taken lightly.
 
Many of us are blessed to be in a primary serving career, like medical doctors, teachers, nurses, policemen and women etc.
These vocations are all about caring for people that we come across in our everyday life. If we are a Christian and we are in a serving vocation, then indeed we are even called to share the love of Christ with the people we work with on a daily basis. This requires commitment, humility and grace, all possible through the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.
Some of us may be involved in careers that are not primarily in the service industry. As Christians we still have an obligation to bring the light of Christ into whatever we do. This would include being honest and transparent in our work ethic, as well as how we treat and speak to people in our daily business.
 
So, the question remains: 
How do we as Christians serve Christ in the manner that He deserves?
Firstly, Jesus calls us to forget about power, status and rank. This is difficult in a modern world where everywhere we go and everything we do is often defined by just this. We seek promotion at work; we often enjoy the power and privileges of rank that our hard work has brought us. Jesus is not suggesting that we resign from our jobs or restructure the companies that we work for (although it is interesting to notice that many companies, including the school that I work for, are now opting for flat structures where the traditional organigram of management structure is rejected in favour of staff empowerment), but rather that we, as Christians place even MORE emphasis on serving others as we climb the ladder of our careers. 
 
For it follows, that the more responsibility and accountability we are given in our careers, whatever they may be, the more actual opportunity we will have to make a difference to the lives of others through the gift of service.
 
An example of this would be my ordination. If anything, my feeling is that since my ordination as Priest in December 2013, I have become MORE of a servant of Christ, NOT LESS. I am not interested in any form of status or rank privileges that my office might bring me. In fact, I often get a fright when someone calls me Reverend, for ultimately I see myself as a servant for God’s people. 
 
Secondly, Jesus calls us to bring the Kingdom of God to His people. This is only possible through the Holy Spirit and service. By serving others we are able to be the servant of Christ to His people. True service by its very nature requires humility and grace. It is not interested in remuneration or recognition. All glory is for the Father.
 
Which reminds me of the dilemma that we are sitting with in society today with regards to many of our youth rejecting careers that are service orientated. This is a complex and diverse issue that will not easily be solved. It will be the jobs of sociologists and psychologists to determine the real cause and solutions. I do believe that it is a sign of a society turned in upon itself, only interested in selfish and material gain. It is concerning and requires us as Christians, more than ever before, to set the example of Christ in the world through our service so that others may be inspired by the examples  we set through the Holy Spirit.
 
The challenge to you and I today is for us to examine our own gifts of service in all that we do in our lives. Are we really maximising every opportunity that we have to serve others in His name? 
 
I am reminded of the lyrics of a well known hymn by Richard Irwin:
Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
May God bless you in this week ahead as you bring the light of Christ to the world through your gift of service to others for Him.
Amen.
 
 

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