Connecting through serving

Pastoral Messages | March 17, 2016

My friend, Elise, and I like to say that we are hooked on service. Before seminary we both did a great deal of volunteer work within our home communities and churches. When we went to India for a seminary class, we chose to stay an extra week and volunteer at a domestic violence shelter. After that experience, we talked a lot about how service connects us with God.

Service to others pushes the boundaries of a person’s comfort zone.  Service connects individuals to people they otherwise may have overlooked.  Because of these connections and relationships, service becomes a spiritual practice that connects us with God.

This Lent, our confirmation students explored various ways to connect with God. I led the activist pathway station.

When I asked them what drew them to this particular pathway, the majority of them said something like “because we got to do something.”  Those “somethings” have been to assist the green and red apron teams in serving and cleaning up meals, baking cookies for the Madison Marketplace, and handing out bulletins. They have been able to connect with others in this congregation in ways they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. They were excited to be at church on Wednesdays.  For many, as soon as they showed up and checked in, they were ready to head to their evening activity. They didn’t want to wait around – they were eager to serve.

My hope for them is that as they continue to learn about their faith and serve in their various ways, they are able to articulate how it is that their service to others deepens their faith and connects them with God. These kids serve, not to make themselves feel better, not to get accolades, and certainly not to puff themselves up. These kids serve because they have a heart for it, and whether or not they can say this specifically, they serve because of their faith in God.

In the Gospel of Mark, the disciples were arguing over who among them was the greatest. Jesus said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all.” When I watch them serve others with smiles on their faces, I see God at work in their actions, and I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words to his disciples. These students are first because they are servants of all.

Liesebet Gravley, pastor-in-residency

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