The One Served – 21 March 2021

Fifth Sunday of Lent

By Pastor Bryan Niebanck

Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. ~John12:26

Who do you serve?  If you work in a restaurant, you serve the customers who come through the door looking for a meal.  And you remember that the customer is always right.  After working in a restaurant for three years, I heard of plenty of times where this was aggravating.  A server told me, “They definitely asked for no cheese on their bacon cheeseburger.  But then they asked me where the cheese was.  I can’t tell them that they asked for no cheese, but I have to ask them if they want a new one made and make it seem like it was my fault.”  I definitely have a new appreciation for what restaurant workers go through, having worked there myself.  We serve the public, and make their experience as enjoyable as we can even when they are the ones who make a blatant mistake.

Our healthcare workers serve those who need medical care.  They attend to some of the most urgent needs.  They also want to make those who require services to have as comfortable a stay as possible, whether it is extended in a hospital or simply a checkup at a doctor’s office.  Though, they deal with a lot too.  During my time as a chaplain at Marion General Hospital, I remember one nurse talking about the patient I was about to go see.  She warned me that he saw this place as a prison, believed he was perfectly healthy, and was being held here against his will.  He physically fought the nurses every time they tried to administer his medication.  Neither the nurse nor the patient was necessarily in the wrong, since the patient was in an altered mind state, but this goes to show that serving others can be incredibly hard, even when we are called to the job.

Whatever job you have, you are serving somebody.  There will be times where that serving is a joy.  For every frustrating customer or patient, there were three more who thanked us and were very pleasant people to talk to.  There will be difficult moments also, though.  The disciples were seen by some in a negative light because they did not abide by every rule that the Old Testament laid out.   In Matthew 9:14, Jesus was asked of his disciples, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”  Assumptions were made, and they were not always the most fair.  How do you do balance the feedback from the people that you serve?  Do you let it bring you down?  Does it motivate you to do better?  Do you want to scream at them because you are doing the best that you can for them?  Or do you choose to forget about the complaints and focus on the good?  Perhaps you do all of these things.

There are plenty of things that we choose to focus our minds on.  Some of it is the good and some of it is the bad.  We prayed over the past couple weeks for God to help us renew our minds so that we fill it with good things and not the things that bring us down or distract us from our true focus, being servants of God.  You spend so much energy trying to please customers and those you serve in this world.  How much of that energy do you save to try to please God?  Do not misunderstand me, for it is important to try to please those who we serve in this world.  Yet, we should please others with the wider context behind us; while serving others we are working to spread the grace and kindness of God.  We give someone grace when we do not yell back at them even if they deserve it.  Instead, we give them a smile and keep doing the best that we can.  Jesus knew that the world would hate his followers, for as he was preparing to leave the world, he prayed, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (John 17:14).  Today, we want to ask ourselves, “Who do we serve, and is this evident by who we follow?”  Do we serve the people who demand too much of us?  Or do we serve God by giving grace to the one who wasn’t so kind, and love to everyone?  I read a conversion story once about a man who had jumped someone and held them at gunpoint asking for their money.  The man with the gun was so surprised that the person responded with a smile and spoke to him that he dropped the gun and asked how the person could have been so calm.  He was baptized later that week.  Do we serve our fear, or do we serve God knowing that whatever happens to us, God will have our back?  Do we serve our worry, or do we trust God to make the most out of every situation, even if it is in our own pain?  Do we serve the need to please others, or do we place priority on serving God?

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