By Shelley Powers
This article is an edited version of a sermon I preached at Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison, MS, July 19, 2015.
When my pastor, Bruce Case, asked me recently to preach a sermon on serving Christ by serving others, I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and her hair (Luke 7:36-50).
That passage in Luke is filled with so much meaning on so many levels, but what I kept coming back to was how humbled I was by the woman’s act of service.
Her quiet, simple act showed me that, to truly have a servant’s heart…to truly serve God…takes three important things: action, resourcefulness, and being personal.
If you see a need, do something about it as soon as possible, whether at church, at home, or in the world. That’s about as straightforward as you can get when talking about serving others.
The woman didn’t go get water. She didn’t wait to see if someone else would wash Jesus’ feet. She did it.
My mom has always taught me that, if you see a mess and you don’t help clean it up, then you’re a part of the problem. Now, granted she was talking about leaving splashed water on the counter or throwing out the empty milk carton; but, her point applies universally.
We are responsible for the world around us and for the needs we see.
God put us where we are right now to make a difference where we are right now. A dear friend of mine, Mary Jones, recently shared this lesson with me, and it’s so true. You are living next to the people God needs you to live next to. You are related to the people God needs you to be related to. You work with the people God needs you to work with. We must take action to serve those God put us near.
We were created with a purpose. We are to live that purpose and get out of our comfort zones.
I watched a great TED talk a few months ago featuring Mel Robbins, who explained her 5-Second Rule. She said that, when you have an impulse, you need to take action within five seconds or the emergency brake in your brain will kill the impulse.
So, when Bruce asked me to preach, my brain started spinning really fast in those five seconds!
My first thoughts were how valued I felt and excited I was at the prospect of sharing my thoughts with others and, to be honest, how thrilling it would be to have everyone’s attention focused on me for a full 20 minutes.
Then I thought of how much work it would take, how busy I am, how nervous I would be, and how, because I had grown up Baptist, women in the pulpit wasn’t something I was really comfortable with.
But, before those five seconds were up, I swallowed hard and said yes! I decided that my comfort zone was on the couch in my living room, and I did not need to live my life there. I was presented with a challenge, and I took it!
And, yes, I was scared witless up there preaching. But I did it, and I served each person in the congregation by putting myself out there. And that felt pretty amazing.
Taking action may be awkward at times or feel too simple to make a difference, but don’t discount what God can do through you by even the simplest and most basic actions you take. Plus, the more you give of yourself, the more you’re going to want to give.
The woman who washed Jesus’ feet also teaches us resourcefulness.
She kept it simple and used what she had, which was pretty awesome since she only had her hair, her tears, and some perfume. I mean, she was kind of like MacGyver!
God blessed each of us with gifts and talents and skills and ingenuity and resourcefulness. We are to use them!
I challenge each of you reading this to list three skills, gifts, or talents you have then ask yourself, “Am I using these talents that God gave me to serve others?”
Then beside each gift, skill, or talent, write at least one way you could use that skill or talent to serve the Lord…to serve someone else…even if it sounds silly. This is about resourcefulness! Remember, that woman probably never thought of her hair and tears as a gift to present to others until she presented herself to God.
Now, take your list and pray over it. Get alone. Sit outside and really pray. Ask God how He can use your gifts, skills, and talents to serve others. And then when He reveals the answer to you, go out and do it! Don’t be shy. The woman got on her knees in front of everyone and served with her hair and tears at Jesus’ feet. If she can do it, so can you.
You’re an awesome creation of God; don’t be stingy with the gifts He gave you. Get resourceful! Be MacGyver! Share your gifts!
To kneel down and use your tears and your hair to wash another person’s feet is pretty dang personal.
Serving others shouldn’t be a faceless and nameless act.
You need to experience interaction with others because you will be blessed as much as they are.
The first time I was asked to help with Holy Communion at my church, I was nervous. But, I remembered the times that I had taken Holy Communion and how much it meant to me when the person offering the bread or the cup called me by name. “The blood of Christ shed for you, Shelley.” So, I tried to do this for others.
I didn’t remember everyone’s name and maybe even flubbed some names, but by about the 15th person, I was fighting back tears. It hit me like a ton of bricks that Christ died for each person who stood before me. I always knew that intellectually, but to look into face after face and say “The blood of Christ shed for you, Mandi…Olivia…Rachel…Bob…” brought a huge lump to my throat and a revelation to my heart that I might never have had if I hadn’t served in such a personal way.
I challenge you to practice showing personal kindness and service to others. Try it this week; deliberately serve someone and let them know they were chosen by you deliberately and that they aren’t just the lucky recipient of a random act of kindness. Christ chose each of us; go chose someone to serve!
Buy a cup of coffee for a co-worker who you know struggles with a case of the blues every Monday. Help a struggling parent in a restaurant or store who has a fussy little one. Mow a neighbor’s yard.
The point is…be deliberate…be loving…serve another person.
And as you commit your deliberate acts of kindness, reflect on how much goodness we are all capable of sharing…how you can make an amazing amount of difference in the world or just to one other human being…one act of service at a time.
Service is not just an expectation and call from God; He designed it to be a healing balm for our souls.
Just be willing and open to see whatever need He reveals to you! And then give of yourself. Give beyond what you think is expected or even anticipated…just as that precious woman did so beautifully and humbly at Christ’s feet so long ago.