John 13:12-15 Romans 12:1-13
The readings we heard – especially from Romans, can seem a bit scary in their demands to Roger & Jacquey and all of us:
“Really love them…Never be lazy…Always be eager”.
But we know that we are all only human – so how do we do that and avoid burn out?
I have spent this week at a course entitled ‘leading with emotional maturity’ – which aimed to help those of us on it to understand ourselves better and (I quote) ‘become more able to function as the people God has made us to be’.
I suppose those of us in Christian leadership need courses like that because we need to check, every now and again, that we are serving God through the church in the way we should, but also getting the balance right and not trying to do too much.
But I can save you four days of hard studying and all that expense by summing the course up in one sentence – be more like Jesus.
As you came in I hope you got a ‘Be like Bill’ sheet. For those of you who haven’t met ‘Bill’ before, Bill offers good advice on the internet.
So we have:
This is Bill.
Bill is here to worship God.
Bill knows that if his phone goes off he’ll be embarrassed.
Bill swtiches his phone onto silent.
Be like Bill.
I’m not the first to put together a ‘be like Jesus’ version.
This is Jesus.
Jesus washes feet;
Jesus teaches humility;
Jesus knows his purpose;
Jesus changes lives;
Be like Jesus.
This is pretty much the message of the Gospel reading we heard.
Jesus gives his followers an example of how to serve when he washes their feet.
Your reaction to feet may be the same as mine – urgh!
When I was young and foolish I had an idea one Maundy Thursday that I would wash someone’s feet. As I was sharing the service with another minister - a much more experienced colleague - it seemed quite a good idea to wash his feet. It was only during the service as he took his socks off that I realised I had never washed someone else’s feet before, and that other people’s feet - even if clean – are a bit peculiar – nobbly and hairy in all the wrong places. But there was no way out – the bowl of water and the bare feet were ready and I had to get on my knees and wash those feet.
It was a good visual example of service for the people in worship that evening, and it taught me that sometimes when we try to serve others we get into something we find quite unpleasant. And it doesn’t take much imagination to think that that the feet of fishermen who had been in a hot climate and on dusty roads all day would be spectacularly unpleasant.
When Jesus washes those feet he is doing something unpleasant but very necessary for the disciples – a footwash on entering a house would be standard in Jesus’ time – and he states clearly that he has done this to give the disciples an example to follow.
Following Jesus’ example needn’t involve feet, you may be relieved to know, but it certainly involves serving others, being ready to do what needs to be done, however unpleasant, to make someone else’s life better, and Jesus sets the example to show his disciples that nothing should be dismissed as being beneath them.
And we hear an echo of that in Paul’s teaching to the Romans to be a ‘living and holy sacrifice’.
Paul encourages us to know our purpose.
“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”
But Paul reminds us that these things are gifts from God, and those gifts are given to the different parts of Christ’s body, the church, working together. So leadership is not just about what we do - but how we enable and encourage others to use their gifts, too. That is our purpose.
As leaders, as Christians, we need to be ready to give our time and talents and lives for others and to enrich their lives. But Paul also says we are a holy sacrifice – our prime purpose in all we do is to serve God and build God’s kingdom. And so we don’t respond to every demand we see around us, we don’t allow ourselves to become burnt out by trying to serve 24 hours in every day, because we are here to glorify God in our lives of service.
There were feet Jesus did not wash, lives he did not heal, people he did not touch, because he came to show the power of God’s love in his life and death and resurrection, not to exhaust himself through good works. Jesus knows who he is – the son of God who points to God the Father and promises the Holy Spirit.
It is the Spirit who fills us with the grace and power of God to do the things he has called us and gifted us and made us to do. The fruits of the Spirit grow in us when we follow Jesus, the gifts of the Spirit equip us to serve, the Spirit shapes us into the people we are made ot be – people who are more like Jesus.
When we are open to God’s leading through the Spirit we cannot fail to use our gifts – it is what we were made for.
A light can’t fail to shine, water can’t fail to be wet, salt can’t fail to be salty…Jesus-folk can’t fail to be Jesus-y.
So as you grow into this ministry here in Lynton, Jacquey & Roger - Be like Jesus. you are made for this.
And I pray the Spirit will enable you all here in Lynton to grow more like Jesus, to declare and reveal signs of God’s kingdom.
To the glory of God, Father Son & Holy Spirit.