Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
(Originally Published in 2015)
I sign a ton of forms validating community service hours. Sometimes it is for a kid who has to volunteer for school or an organization. At other times it is for an adult who is in trouble and needs “hours” to work off their crime.
Regardless of who I am signing for, I like to ask the same question: why are you doing this? Most reply the same way… “Because I have to.”
“If I want to be in National Honor Society, I have to volunteer.”
“If I want to avoid jail, I have to put in community service.”
Now I may be cynical and a little bit crazy, but there’s something about that “have to” attitude that I just don’t like. I mean, what’s the point in doing good deeds if you’re only doing them to help yourself? If it’s all about you, is it still community service?
What got me thinking about all of this was a story from the Gospel of Mark that I find fascinating and a bit odd. Early in his ministry, Jesus entered the house of his disciple Peter and found that Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever. Jesus did what we might expect. He healed her. Scripture says, “He lifted her up.” But then an odd thing happens… this newly restored woman, who has just received a new lease on life, begins to serve. No one asks her to. It was a requirement of the healing. She didn’t have to. She could have jumped up and down on the bed or ran through the streets singing Jesus’ praises, but she doesn’t. Rather, she simply serves. Who does that? Well, apparently followers of Jesus do.
In the waters of baptism we have been lifted up. At the font, week in and week out we gather to hear God proclaim again and again: You are forgiven. At the table of grace we gather for meal in which God is broken that we might be made whole, in which God is poured out that we might be filled. Jesus promises to walk with us through this life and in the end when our feeble life is o’er, Jesus promises to lift us up once and for all in the resurrection. We have received grace upon grace (John 1:16).
How will we respond?
Will we who have been lifted up bend our knee is service to others?
Will we who have been forgiven, forgive others?
Will we who have been fed, start to feed?
Will we who have been called and claimed, go out to seek others?
We will. Not because we have to, because we get to.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35
In the Way,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.