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06.13.2021 Benefits of a Servant’s Heart 1 Peter 4.11-17 Sermon Summary

by on June 14, 2021

There is a Chinese Proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

God has created us for such happiness.

I’d like to offer three points related to the passage for today from 1 Peter 4:11-17. First, service brings glory to God, and thus lasts forever. Second, service as it relates to our prayers. Finally, service as a personal sacrament.

The passage says, “whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.” Jesus came to glorify God by saving creatures. And he said he came, “not to be served, but to serve.”

When John the Baptist was asked about Jesus, he responded, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease.” When we serve others, our actions direct glory to God because our ego is relativized. We are less in the way and God shines through.

Someone may ask us, “Why are you doing this?” And we could respond, “Because I follow Jesus.” In John 15 Jesus said, “God is glorified by your fruit; bear fruit that will last.” He’s referring to serving others in love, “so that,” he continues, “God will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:8, 16-17)

So we turn to the relationship between service and prayer. We know to pray for ourselves and others in challenging situations. The passage says, “be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers,” and it is followed by practical—that is, serving—instructions.

Prayer is always the right place to start. But it often not the right place to stop. This passage calls us to pray, then to serve. By doing so, we become party to the answer to our prayer. We become a participant in the Spirit’s work.

Psychologists refer to the “activism cure” in dealing with mild depression. Just taking a proactive step, no matter how small, against the depressing situation helps to dispel mild depression.

The same can be applied to a lagging faith. Do your prayers not seem to be doing much? Then do something yourself, 1 Peter says. Serve someone. Not only are you party to the answers to your own prayers, you are party to the answer to someone else’s prayer. They have prayed, and you show up. This participation in answered prayer is sacramental.

Service is a personal sacrament. The passage says, “like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” In serving others, through our unique and varied gifts, God’s grace becomes real. It becomes physical. That’s the role of the sacraments.

Sacraments create and increase faith, hope, and love. So does service. Jesus is present in sacraments. And Jesus is present when we serve. He’s present within us as one who serves. And he’s present in the one being served, as he promises in Matthew 25: “As often as you serve the least of these my brothers and sisters, you serve me.”

In the sacraments we see a miracle revealed. Service also reveals miracles as lives are transformed. Sacraments create a sense of belonging; they establish community to counter isolation and loneliness. Service does the same thing. We become one with others who serve, and with those who are served.

Sacraments call us to “remember.” They help us put things in perspective. They create gratitude and contentment. Service has the same effect. As we help others, we become aware of the blessings and opportunities in our own lives.

Finally, sacraments remind us that we all have gifts. First Peter along with the writings of Paul assume that each of us have been given gifts by God’s Spirit for service to the common good in the church and the world. As we serve others, we become aware of these gifts.

There’s one more comment I want to make. It comes from the article Volunteering — 7 Big Reasons Why Serving Others Serves Us

Dr. Michael Poulin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo in New York says, “Helping appears to only be good for you if you really care about those you’re helping.” In other words, feeling resentment or obligation will erase the benefits that we might otherwise receive in both our emotions and our physiology. If you feel exploited in any way, it is better not to take the action than stress yourself out doing something for the wrong reason.

Besides the emotional and physiological benefits of serving others, something we haven’t even considered, there is a similar effect on the theology of serving others. The benefits of a servant’s heart are maximized if we really care.

With that said, let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, God so loved the world that he sent you to be our servant and savior. Help us to love those whom God loves, that we may serve them with the same joy, acceptance, patience, care, strength, and grace with which you served us, and continue to serve the world.

Lord, we pray that you will guide each of us, as members of your Body, that we may use the gifts of your Spirit which each one of us has, to serve not only the church but the world at large. Give us discipline to say “no” to distractions, that we may say “yes” to your calling us in service to the church and the world. For we believe that salvation is real for us in this life as we follow you in service to others.

Renew our minds, we pray, and may our actions follow as a living sacrifice which, by your Spirit, is our physical worship throughout the week. Unite us with Christ in his ministry, no less in our service than as you do in the sacraments. Indeed, make of us the Body of Christ, that we may be a sacramental presence to all whom we serve in his name. Amen.

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