On Offering Service to God
Day Five, the first Sunday in Lent, which the observant amongst you will see, means that there has been no day Three or Four. I could have cobbled something together, but once again I failed to make time for reflection and prayer. My mitigation? Well I was helping with a number of services at the Cathedral; so that’s alright then is it not? Well no, not really. Sometimes, we rush about, always somehow expecting Christ to have got there first and sorted it all out ahead of us, leaving us to glide through our devotions, our services, our worship. But following in Christ’s footsteps is not about hurrying about, wearing badges, having the inside track on information. It is about offering service to God through his Church, which is of course His people, rather than the building. In offering that service, we can sometimes lose sight of the reason for offering it in the first place.
The clue is in the word “Service”. Service in God’s name can take so many forms, it is impossible to list them; from making the tea and coffee at the end of the morning service, to joining the pastoral team; reading a lesson to handing out the prayer books; and of course hearing God’s call be it a vocation to ministry in the Priesthood, to a vocation to ministry in some ill defined but equally God centred way. Only very recently have I been able to see that one can be called to serve and offer ministry in some way other than via formal lay or ordained ministry. And that can be a pretty scary discovery; all the more so when God tends to tap you on the shoulder when you least expect, or indeed want it. Can you say no? Well yes, you can; and I suspect that a great many do; out of fear, out of feelings of inadequacy, lack of will power. I’m guessing here, but I think it likely that most people feeling God’s call, would initially respond along the lines of “Why me?, What on earth can I offer?”. I believe that THE CHURCH has to take quite a lot of blame here. That is THE CHURCH as in the bricks and mortar, Oxbridge educated cleric in rambling rectory, mode, rather than the church as in God’s people. In fact, over the years, many of those called to service in God’s name, have come from anything but the standard “do gooder, Middle class, religious social worker” background. One example that springs to mind is the well known broadcaster Revd Richard Coles; formerly of Bronski Beat and the other half of the Communards with Jimmy Somerville. A very visible and angry communist, agnostic, and active homosexual, he was ordained in 1995. You can read about his journey to faith in a recent edition of The Church Times.
As we enter the second week in Lent, take time to examine what you are offering to God, and then ask why: Why am I actually doing whatever it is you are doing. If the truthful answer is “power, self enrichment, status etc” then maybe you need to think about stopping whatever it is, and looking afresh at your relationship with God before re-examining why you put yourself forward for that task in the first place. If your answer is that you feel the need to do something to help, and it seemed like a good idea at the time, then spend time thinking about whether what you are doing is still of help to someone, whether or not they are Christian. If the answer is yes, then think about how you might offer more of yourself; if no, then look at finding some other way to give of yourself. If your examination is in the negative, ask what you might be able to offer; web design, needlework, counselling, audio technician. Many and varied are the ways in which we can offer something back to the God who offers us redemption through the death of his Son Jesus Christ by way of His own unconditional love for us all.