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Serving Others Faithfully . . .
03/25/2007
Scripture: Luke 22:24-30
Track 12 of 12 in the A Transforming Church . . . Lives By Transforming Values series
Running time: 24 minutes, 10 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Loving Service"

Eva Stump served in the nursery for 68 years. She loved children and would do anything for them. Her basement was the quintessential supply room for Vacation Bible School or Sunday School. She loved Jesus and His children.

Pat Snyder has led Lincoln Christian Church's Harvest of Talents for nearly 30 years. During that time she has seen over $1,000,000 given to International Disaster Emergency Services. She was moved by a sermon on world hunger and decided to do something about it. She loves Jesus and His hurting people around the world.

Bob Graff saw a need in Granite City. Two steel mills had shut down and another had cut back to a skeleton crew. Hundreds of unemployed workers were facing the inability to feed their families. Bob led our congregation to start a food pantry program that allowed us to give away nearly $10,000 worth of food every month. Bob loves Jesus and His family.

Ron Payne began serving the Ingraham church when he was a freshman at Lincoln Christian College. Some forty years later he's still there. They are the town youth center and the town library. They are the center for spiritual learning for a small community that all other churches have abandoned. Ron loves Jesus and his community.

These, and multitudes of others, have two things in common. They love Jesus and they serve. It's a natural combination. In fact, it's impossible to sever them. Jesus' self description was that of a servant (Luke 20:27). An early church hymn says, "Jesus . . . taking the very nature of a servant . . ." (Philippians 2:1-11). And His invitation to us is . . . "Come, follow me."

Into what area of service will you follow Jesus? In what way in the church or in the community will you let Him be seen in you?

3/25/07 Serving Others Faithfully

I actually saw this in action yesterday on a number of different occasions. I have been watching it around the building over the past several days; and I'm sure it was happening for the last several weeks, actually, in preparation for yesterday's women's gathering, The Awakening. There were people scurrying around this building very early on Saturday morning. It was a remarkable sight to see them here getting ready. I came back in at three or so in the afternoon when things were just about to wrap up, and I recognized that somebody had been hard at work because the foyer area, which had previously been set up with tables and chairs and decorations and food and all of that kind of stuff, was slick as a whistle and ready for Sunday morning. I stood here in the back and I listened as Tina made thank yous, and I saw these ladies stand up and allow themselves to be appreciated for all of the work that went on in the background. It was the kind of thing that you just marvel at as you see people doing the thing that they're gifted to do.

I watched it yesterday over at Steve Zinn's sister's home as several members of the choir and some other people were there unloading a trailer, thinking they were gonna see a 12-foot u-haul and they saw a 53-foot moving truck instead. Didn't dissuade them a bit; they went right ahead and dove in and continued to carry boxes and refrigerators and other such stuff. I'm not sure what gift that represents: stupidity, bad back, I'm not sure which one of those that is, but it's deeply appreciated.

I watched it happen yesterday, even at a professional level, when I saw Kyle Cookson come into the Nicloys' home to care for Chuck Haerle. For some of you who have not heard that news, Chuck passed away about noon yesterday. We'll be telling you more about funeral services later this morning.

But I appreciated even that gift of compassion and service that I watched in action as a professional. And what it represents to me is that people have something in them that God wants to use. And it doesn't make any difference if it happens in this building or outside of this building. I marvel at the stories I hear from time to time from you, about things that you do as families, you go places, you do things, you engage people at various levels. And you serve them for whatever capacity they need served. And it's a marvel to watch you do that, to hear about it, and I know that if the little bit that I hear is what I think it is, it's but the tip of the iceberg of the other kinds of things that happen. It just amazes me how people have decided that being a follower of Jesus represents one of our fundamental core values.

And that is that we deeply value the unique giftedness of every person. And what that translates into is --service. That God has wired all of us up in a unique way to be able to serve people and to serve Him. And it's a marvelous thing to be recognized for that; I don't mean recognized as in publicly, I don't mean made to stand up. I mean that you somehow have recognized within yourself that God has uniquely gifted you; He's given you a set of verbs, if you will. It seems to me that that's the characteristic of Christian people. They have been marked by their verbs, what they do. It's not about titles, it's not about positions, it's not about nouns. It's about verbs. Verbs that characterize the way we choose to follow Jesus with our life. I want to look at a text today in Luke 22; it's a rather interesting text in its context. And I want you just to notice something. It's a small paragraph couched in the middle of the passage that we're going to be looking at later next week and the week after as we prepare for the great season that we're about to enter into, which many would call the Holy Week.

Luke 22:24 has in this passage -- let me read it and then let's go back and pick up the context. "A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered the greatest. Jesus said to them," Verse 25, "the kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. You are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

Look at the context in which this occurs. It's such a fascinating place to put this little paragraph, because the chapter opens back in Verse 1, he is talking about the betrayal. He's getting the announcement out that somebody is going to come along and they're going to betray Jesus, and so you have this story of how Judas agrees with the Jewish leaders that he will be the one who will betray Christ and deliver Him for their arrest. You move from that story into the story of the Last Supper. And Jesus gathers His disciples for one last meal, starting in Verse 7. And inherent in that conversation about this last supper is this conversation that says somebody is sitting here at the table with me who is going to betray me, who is going to give me up. And all the disciples turn to one another, and they're asking this question, "Am I the one?" "Am I the one?" "Am I the one?"

You get to the other side of our little text here, these three or four verses that we've looked at, and you've got Jesus, beginning at Verse 31, to predict the fact that even Peter himself is going to betray Him before this thing is over; and Peter says, "Oh, no, no, no, not me," and right in the middle of all this talk about these important things -- betrayal, the new covenant, the death of Jesus, the pouring out of His life -- is this statement, "And an argument, a dispute, arose among them, which one of us is the greatest?" And don't you just want to know, what are these guys thinking? Do they just not get it? This is coming into the most significant time in human history. Well, of course, they don't know that because we're on the other side of it and we're able to look back, but they ought to know by now, having been with Jesus this long. This is important stuff! And they're caught up in their own little world of, "Who am I? Am I going to be labeled, somehow, great? What noun am I gonna have?"

And so he says you know there are people out here in the world, there are people out here in the world who want to -- here are their verbs -- exercise authority, lord it over people. He says they call themselves -- here's their noun-- benefactors. It's not a bad term; we've been using it for a long time. A benefactor is somebody who supplies the needed resources for an activity to occur. You go to any local race, like this coming weekend, The Bridge to Health Run, and you look at the back of the t-shirt and you'll see a whole list of benefactors, people who have sponsored the race. They have come along, tossed in some resources, to say this is an important activity; we'd like to contribute to this. But the difference is that these people not only want to control the fact that they've given; they want to control the control. They want their strings attached.

Some of you are old enough to remember this opening line, "My name is Michael Anthony, and until his death just a few years ago, I was the executive secretary to the late John Beresford Tipton." John Beresford Tipton, a fabulously wealthy and fascinating man, whose many hobbies included his habit of giving away one million dollars tax free each week to a total stranger. Remember it? The Millionaire? Now, as a little kid I remember dreaming about that – "When's he coming to my town?" He was a benefactor, but he was not a benefactor in the way that these people are benefactors. He was just giving his money away because he thought it was a good thing to do, no strings attached. In fact, you couldn't even know who he was. These people wanted control.

I want you to notice something about Jesus. Look at that verse, verse 27. "I am among you as one who serves." It's a verb. See, that's the issue, we're characterized by our verbs.

I love the call of Jeremiah. When the prophet Jeremiah is preparing (or being prepared, maybe, is the better way of saying it) for his prophetic office, he hears God come to him and say, "Before I formed you in the womb I already knew you; I had plans for you." Jeremiah 1:10 says, "See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms, to uproot, to tear down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build, and to plant----." Six verbs. They were used to describe his ministry as a prophet. Now, you can tell that things were not good in Israel because four of those verbs are rather harsh verbs. Two of them are very positive. The interesting thing is, if you take those verbs and you trace them through the book of Jeremiah, and everyone of them are used fairly often in Jeremiah, what you will discover is that while Jeremiah is given this commission to carry out these actions, from that point on they don't refer to Jeremiah any more. Almost all the time, not always, but almost all of the time, they refer to God. It's as if He has said, "Jeremiah, these are the things that I want you to do, and I'm going to carry them out."

There's a vitally important lesson here. That lesson is wrapped up in Romans 12. For those of you who have been coming on Wednesday nights, you have been through this passage, and so this will not be new to you. Romans 12. As we make this transition in Romans to the latter half of the book, which is about the practical application of the Christian experience, he says in Verse 6, "We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith; if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage. If it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously. If it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy let him do it cheerfully." If you have a verb, he says -- and we all do -- exercise that verb, carry it out. Do it! But back up just a little bit in that text back up to Verse 3. He says, "By the grace given me I say to every one of you, do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Hear the emphasis? It's not about you. It's about God. And when we look at the parallel passage over in 1 Corinthians 12, what we would discover is that the Spirit gives us gifts and we minister in the likeness of Jesus but, ultimately, it is God who works the outcome. See, we're characterized by our verbs, and our verbs are God's gifts to us but, ultimately, that's not primarily about us; it's about God. And what God desires to do in and through us for others. So that the attention is never on us; the attention is always on God.

Well, we're characterized by our verbs, but we're told not to be like the world. Did you notice that? This is such a powerful statement in scripture. "You should not be like that". The world wants to exercise authority; the world wants power. You know that. I know that. I see it fairly regularly just in the world around me. Now, no offense to former policemen, and any current policemen we might have here today, but I think one of the greatest temptations policemen have is power. They can make you stop. They can make you get out of your car. They can make you produce your documentation. They can make you do anything, because they have authority. Now without readily admitting that I've been stopped before, I've met both kinds. I've met the kind that loved their authority. And I've met the kind that are the kind of policemen I want working in my world. I don't like the other kind. The other kind who usurp their authority, who bark just because they can.

But I've seen it in churches, too. I've seen it in churches where people were in positions of authority because, well I don't know, maybe they were elected to it, maybe their grandfather was, maybe they're the only one, I don't know what the excuse is, but sometimes you just get the impression they like being in that position because they know what they say goes. I'm grateful we don't have that here. But I've seen it. Because it's a human thing; we're all into that kid of stuff if we're not careful. It's a huge temptation. Jesus comes along and says, "Don't be like that; that's not my nature." And so He moves into this really interesting set of questions. Isn't this fascinating? Look again at this text, Verse 27, "Who is greater -- the one who is at the table or the one who serves?" Well, you don't have to be Einstein to figure that one out. I've got a hole in my floor in our dining room. I have a matching hole in my floor in my kitchen. Back in the good old days, they tell me that there was a button in each of those places, and it's perfectly fit for my foot to reach down and tap the button to call the servant from the kitchen. Somebody moved that button. And apparently took the maid with them!

I know who's the greatest when you're sitting at the table. It's not the one serving. And yet Jesus says, "Am I not-- am I not able to sit at the…." Well, of all people in the world, who ought to be the one sitting at the head of the table? It ought to be Jesus, hadn't it? And yet what does He say? "I'm the One who serves." I marvel at that nature; I marvel at that character.

Some of you know I went up to Keokuk here a couple of weeks ago to preach for them. They were getting ready to do a three, four day preaching meeting, and I did a couple of those nights for them. But the thing that fascinated me was their plan for the weekend. They swept the bridge--the walking portion of the bridge, by the way, not the driving portion--they swept the bridge from Keokuk to Hamilton as a service to the community. They fed all of the firemen and the EMT people and the policemen that Saturday at their places of work. They went to the nursing home, and they visited with the people in the nursing home and sang for them. And they went to the park and they painted the children's playground stuff. And they did that all as a simple statement of, "We're here to serve the community." Sounds a lot like the nature of Jesus, doesn't it? Sounds a lot like a verb. Not a noun. But a verb.

I'm fascinated by service. And on the front page of your bulletin insert, if you take the time to read that this week, you'll discover just a few of the names of people who have crossed my path along the way, who epitomized service. Eva Stump is in that list. On Wednesday night I talked about Eva because she served in the nursery for 68 years. That's insanity! Either that or insanity is a requirement to get to that point, I'm not sure which. But the other thing I remember about her is that in Oregon where it's wet and wonderful growing weather for wild blackberries, you would see Eva all the time with buckets of blackberries. And one of two things would happen about five days a week: during blackberry season either a bucket of blackberries was going down the street to a neighbor, or a blackberry pie. In the off-season there were no buckets of blackberries, just pies -- pies of all kinds. She just walked the neighborhood, and she delivered pies. Why? Cause she loved Jesus. And she loved her neighbors, and she just felt like this was a way that she could make a contribution to her world in the name of Christ that would make a difference in somebody's life.

I guess what I'm asking you today is -- what are your verbs? What are the things that characterize you? I'm not asking about your titles. I'm not asking about your education, your degrees. I'm not asking about your position. I'm talking about what's that internal verb that characterizes who you are, that identifies you as a disciple of Jesus. Made in His likeness, living out this statement, "I am one who serves." You see that's the nature of the church. The nature of the church is to take upon itself the character of its head, and you already know that Christ is the head of the church. And every one of us who's a believer in Jesus has been verbed -- usually with multiple verbs. But Christ can't do anything more than just give you the verb; you've gotta decide what you're gonna do with it. You've gotta determine whether or not you're willing to pour yourself out, or whether you'd rather sit at the table and let somebody serve you.

The real key to all of that is just this real simple heart attitude, "Lord, take my life and let it be. Just let it be. Let it be whatever you need it to be. Just take it and use it because I'm handing it to you. I'm pouring it out to you. I'm giving it to you because I want you to be honored by my service." So that's our invitation this morning. It's a really simple one. "Lord, take my life and use it. Open the door, show me what you want me to do, and just encourage me to do it." Whether that's at work or in your neighborhood or here at the building, just look to see what it is that God is asking you to do. And then jump in and do it. And don't worry about the title that comes with it; just jump in and do it. And if somebody notices and says thank you, smile and say, "You're welcome," and if nobody ever notices, don't worry about it, because the One for whom you do this service already knows. He's already noticed. And He is smiling when you do it.

Let's stand and sing together.

[Transcribed by SM11]