Get in the Game - Serve
March 17, 2019 Pastor: John Palka
Scripture: Luke 13
Sermon Worthy Question: How does my faith lead me to get in the game of making a difference in my community and in the lives of others?
Short Answer: My faith leads me to serve IN & OUT.
A couple of weeks ago, Missy and I were walking back home from Costco. As we walked across the parking lot, we were hit with a breeze that was carrying what in my opinion was a mouth-watering smell of In & Out Burgers. There are a lot of fast-food burger joints and in general I don’t visit them, but when I do it most often is In & Out Burger. However, if I’m looking for what I consider the best possible burger I find myself going to Beach 26 on Washington Blvd. Oh my, their burgers are unbelievable.
I bring up In & Out Burger because in their name we can see where our faith calls us. Our faith in Jesus calls to serve both in the church and out in the community. We have an In & Out faith.
A lot of my passion for serving goes back to one my first serving opportunities that was faith generated. I was a Junior in college and my Lutheran College Student Group at NIU made a trip to inner-city Chicago to work with an almost dead Lutheran congregation. The church building was one of these enormous cathedral–like buildings. It was huge and gorgeous, but so sad to see how it had fallen into bad disrepair. We spent time in the church building basically cleaning the place. Then in the afternoon, we went out into the Puerto Rican neighborhood just talking with people, praying and pointing people to the church. We eat what I recall was a miracle lunch. We had no money. They church had no money, but somehow God managed to feed us. This made a huge impact on me. It shaped my faith and changed forever how I wanted to live my faith.
In our Gospel reading we see Jesus doing what he normally did, serving people. In this case he served a crippled Woman by healing her. Luke 13:10-13, One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11 he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” 13 Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!
Jesus’ entire life was about serving. He served those closest to him, in his inner circle and he served people out in the community who he ran upon, like the crippled lady. It turns out that our faith in Jesus leads us to that same type of In & Out life.
I’d like to share with you three critical features of a service generated by an In & Out faith.
First, we serve because we love. You don’t have to look long and hard to find out why Jesus served. He loved the world. Just after the story of Jesus healing the crippled lady, in the same chapter of Luke we see Jesus’ love for people. Luke 13:34, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings…. What a beautiful picture of love and all-consuming compassion.
Jesus’ love drove him to serve. He healed crippled people, gave sight to blind, cleansed people with leprosy, fed thousands, protected people by calming storms. Serving other was not a side thing Jesus did. Serving was who he was. Serving was his being. The Cross…
Our faith-generated love calls us to serve those both in & out of the church. We serve our fellow worshipers here in the church. Did you know that to make Sunday morning happen it takes dozens of people volunteering their service? We have altar teams, set up coffee, clean up coffee, ushers, band members, clean the altar permeates, keep the heating going, repairing our facilities, contacting guests, singing in the choir and the list goes on.
But our faith-generated love for people also sends us out into the community serving others. Two weeks ago, we had worshipers provide nearly 70 homeless youth a dinner. This was the second time we did that. It was a joy to be together, a joy to make a difference in people’s lives. Their service was a demonstration of their love and as they came along the side of other to help, those others saw Jesus.
The second thing about serving is perhaps the most challenging. When you serve you step down. This is the opposite direction then we are normally told to go. We are to always step up to higher and greater levels. Never step down. When Jesus healed the crippled lady, he knew this action would lower him in the eyes of the powerful. They would think less of him and that’s exactly what happened. Luke 13:14, But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd.
Our faith in Jesus leads us to be willing to step down so as to touch the life of another person. There’s an interesting value test that goes like this. If you knew you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do? We don’t have to wonder what Jesus would do because we know. The night before he was crucified on the cross so as to forgive our sins, what did he do? He stepped down and washed the feet of his disciples.
Jesus’ entire life embodied stepping down. He first stepped down from heaven, became a baby, 100% human just like you and me. He stepped to touch the sick and unclean, eat with outcasts, be surrounded by children, talk with outcasts of society and hang around a bunch of rough necks. For Jesus stepping down also involved being raised up.... He was raised up and nailed to a cross. 1 John 4:9-10, God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
A third thing about serving is that when we serve we help other learn how to serve. Jesus did life with great intentionality and part of that involved doing life with others. And so when Jesus served he was not alone. As his followers were with him they served. As they served by the side of Jesus they learned In & Out serving.
And so our faith-generated In & Out serving, serves from within our communities. As a parent, you serve In & Out not alone, but with your spouse and with your children. This is hugely formational for your children, not to mention your spouse. There may be countless family devotions and Sunday mornings that are forgotten, but those times of In & Out serving forms and shapes hearts.
Your kids are out of the house...it’s not too late. When your adult children are visiting you, plan during those times to serve and invite them along. Perhaps you’re a grandparent, plan some kind of kid-appropriate volunteer activity a part of their grandma and grandpa time. These experiences may be more powerful than a thousand words that may come out of your mouth.
That incredible gift of faith in Jesus that you hold in your heart calls you to get out of the bleacher seat and on the field. There is so much more joy, satisfaction and fulfillment playing on the field than sitting in the bleachers. If you’re already on the field and playing hard, then you know the joy and hard work of being in the game.