February 19, 2014

Servant Ministry II

My previous post on servant ministry generated some discussion on Facebook. Thanks for that! Maybe we can go a little deeper on the topic of servant ministry.

First, I would concede that “servant ministry” and “ministry” are probably just synonyms. I like to use the phrase “servant ministry” because it keeps me honest. By intentionally using the word “servant,” I can keep that aspect of ministry always in my mind.

Second, I was asked to give examples of servant ministers. First and foremost, Jesus is an example of a servant minister who people followed. Often Jesus' ministry leads Jesus to give something of himself away. Sometimes Jesus gives himself away figuratively, as he does when he honors those society deems least. Sometimes Jesus gives himself away more literally, as he does when he heals. Sometimes Jesus gives himself away quite literally, as he does on the cross or when he says to his disciples, “Take, eat. This is my body.” Even in this eucharistic action, Jesus is serving.

Beyond Jesus, any servant-ministers I could tell you about would be tied to our context at Southside Abbey. The activities to which the Spirit calls us give able opportunity for servant ministry. Following the last church year, we have had:
  • Advent: parade-float-decorators, candy-makers, baggie-stuffers, carol-singers, cider-makers, treat-suppliers, Advent-spiral-arrangers, compline-prayers, community-collaborators, partnership-makers
  • Christmas: Lutheran-liasons, present-wrappers, omelette-makers, Christmas-storytellers, basketball-pumpers, cookie-bakers, food-sharers
  • Epiphany: Pickle-picklers, pickle-sharers, neighborhood-walkers, theology-on-tube[television]-discussers, sunday-supperer
  • Lent: Spanish-speakers, soup-crafters, soup-sharers, bible-studiers, yard-salers, shoe-drivers, relationship-builders
  • Holy Week: palm-weavers, vow-renewers, confirmands, shoe-deliverers, sock-wranglers, online-vigil-keepers
  • Easter: lamb-roasters, jubilee-bag-stuffers
  • Pentecost: tongues-of-fire-chili-cookers, chili-tasters, chili-judgers, neighborhood-sharers, motel-bridge-builders
  • Ordinary Time: extraOrdinary-jam-makers, parish-bridge-builders, neighborhood-cleaners, apartment-painters, road-show-music-makers, breakfast-coordinators, book-studiers, language-instituters, Spanish-speakers, Arabic-speakers, motel-birthday-partiers, Oktoberfesters, pub-theologizers, Education-for-Ministriers

And the list could go on and on – as it could in many places – not just ours. If the Church can provide space for people to serve well, there is room for everyone: whatever their gifts, passions, or abilities. I would never have dreamed up that we would have or need pickle-picklers (or that I would ask people to pickle pickles with me), but because that is where we were called, that is where we engaged in servant ministry . . .

But that is our context. Yours is probably going to look different. Whatever the context, servant ministers are people who do what they do not for accolades, but because Jesus asks them to. And Jesus doesn't just ask us to serve, he shows us how. Servant ministers lead by example, by serving. Jesus bids us follow him in the same way. We, as that Body of Christ that is so freely given away, are called to give ourselves away too.