“Altar Your Service”
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
We all know self centered people don’t we? People who get jealous because someone else is honored and they’re not, even though they didn’t do anything. People who always want to be the center of attention even if the attention should be focused on someone else. These are what we call Self Serving people and while a lot of business have moved to the Self Service model, the church has always taken the opposite stance.
We are called to Serve Others.
I remember something a Christian athlete said years ago. I don’t remember who said it but I remember what he said. “In a world where the goal is to be in 1st place and even 2nd place isn’t seen as good enough, we are called to be in 4th place. We’re called to put God 1st, Family 2nd, Others 3rd and Self 4th. That’s a servant’s heart.
In his book, Dr. George Burns’ Prescription For Happiness: Buy Two Books and Call Me in the Morning, George Burns writes: “If you were to go around asking people what would make them happier, you’d get answers like a new car, a bigger house, a raise in pay, winning a lottery, a face-lift, more kids, less kids, a new restaurant to go to -- probably not one in a hundred would say a chance to help people. And yet that may bring the most happiness of all.
I don’t know Dr. Jonas Salk, but after what he’s done for us with his polio vaccine, if he isn’t happy, he should have that brilliant head of his examined. Of course, not all of us can do what he did. I know I can’t do what he did; he beat me to it. But the point is, it doesn’t have to be anything that extraordinary. It can be working for a worthy cause, performing a needed service, or just doing something that helps another person.” (1)
We need lots of people like George Burns was describing. Dr. Salk and others like him who saw a need and tried to fill it. They were living a servant life.
In our passage of scripture for today, we find James and John wanting to race ahead of the others and jump into prime positions in the kingdom of God. But Jesus saw through their little ploy and countered with instructions on living the servant life.
Mark 10:35-45 (NRSV)  James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?”
 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.
 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.
 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,
 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.
 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
That’s nothing like the attitude of the guy in the opening clip is it. Jesus kind of kicks the “All about me” idea out the door doesn’t he, when he says, “If you would become great, you must be a servant.” Boy, that sure is counterculture isn’t it. That sure rubs against our be “the firstest with the mostest” mentality, doesn’t it? But that’s part of the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus. Rick Warren got it right in his book The Purpose Driven Life which opens with these words. “It’s not about you!” It’s not about us. It’s not about our needs or what we expect. It’s all about God and what God expects.
We’re called to “Altar Our Serve.” So, let’s look at servanthood and a couple of the things we need in our Christian lives and tool kits to be good servants and they are:
A SERVANT’S HEART, MIND, EYES AND TOUCH.
I. A SERVANT’S HEART:
A. The very first thing we need is A SERVANT’S HEART. So, how do you describe a servant’s heart? Well, first everyone needs to know that you can only have a Servant’s Heart, if you have given your heart to Christ. Jesus was and is the ultimate servant and our model for a life of servanthood. We’re called to follow His example. And we can only do that when our heart belongs to Him.
B. In my mind, one of the greatest modern examples of the Servant Heart was Mother Teresa who received the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work. She touched a people who were normally untouched, the poor, the outcasts in India, and in doing so, she touched the entire world with the message of a love and sacrifice as we carry out Christ’s ministry to the poor.
There’s great scene in the made for TV movie STARRING Geraldine Page titled Mother Teresa, In the name of God’s Poor which shows what I’m talking about. WATCH.
That’s A SERVANT’S HEART. That’s the Heart Jesus wants us all to have as we seek to serve Him and become more and more like Him each day by giving Him our heart. Oh, you don’t have to give up your life and become a nun or a priest, but what made Mother Teresa was how she lived her faith. We can all do that. We can live our faith. We can move it from our head to our hearts and hands.
Altaring our Serve begins with letting the love of Christ, the love of God Altar our hearts.
II. A SERVANT’S MIND:
We also need A SERVANT’S MIND. We need to change how we think about ourselves, others and how we bring glory to God.
Robert Greenleaf, born in 1904, is considered, by many, to be the grandfather of the new paradigm thinking and the man who coined the phrase “servant leadership” in a small essay in 1970. He died in 1990, yet he continues to teach even in his death. On his tombstone are the words: “Potentially a good plumber ruined by a sophisticated education.”
His whole concept was that if you’re called to serve by plumbing, then plumb to the best of your abilities. You can serve anywhere God’s calls you to be a servant.
Servants are people who understand what it means to be last. And if that means that someone else is empowered to be first, then they’ve received their reward. Servants are people who don’t use people to get the work done, but who use work to help people grow.
Being a servant isn’t easy, but is absolutely essential to our faith. Jesus says, “Look at me, I didn’t come to be served, I came to serve. I serve God. I serve you by ransoming my life for your sake. I’m your best example, and my secret is service. Wrap your heart and your mind around that and follow me”
We begin to develop A SERVANT’S MIND through Altaring our Prayers & our Presence and when we do, we also begin Altaring our Hearts and our minds.
III. A SERVANT’S EYES:
A. We also need A SERVANT’S EYES. People with SERVANT’S EYES are those people who see a need and try to fill it.
Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys is the story of the matriarchs, one upper-crust and the other working class, whose families are being torn apart by greed and scandal. Wealthy socialite Charlotte Cartwright (Kathy Bates) and her dear friend Alice Pratt (Alfre Woodard), a working class woman of high ideals have enjoyed a lasting friendship throughout many years. Suddenly, their lives become mired in turmoil because of their children. Alice, who owns her own restaurant, is a woman who has Servant Eyes. She sees beyond a person’s outer demeanor and sees into the heart of the matter. WATCH
B. People with SERVANT EYES, are those people who pay attention to others, their surrounding, their city, their church, whatever. They go around offering hope and help wherever, whenever there is a need. They are the ones who see someone’s shoe untied and bend down to tie it.
One person has called these people “PARSLEY PEOPLE.” They are always adorning that which is around them, making others look better by their actions and sometimes simply by their very presence. (3)
We all need to look at each other and the world through A SERVANT’S EYES.
IV. A SERVANT’S TOUCH:
A. And finally, we need A SERVANT’S TOUCH. When our HEART belongs to Christ, when our MIND is attuned with the servant spirit of Christ, and our EYES see the need, then we can reach out with A SERVANT’S TOUCH.
There’s a wonderful story about a hospital nurse who saw a tired, anxious young man outside the room of an elderly man. So, she took his arm, ushered him to the man’s bedside, and stooped down and whispered in the man’s ear, “Your son is here.”
She repeated this several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated and he dimly saw the figure of the young man standing beside the bed. He reached out his hand, and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement.
The nurse brought a chair to the bedside and, all through the night, the young man sat there, holding the old man’s hand, and offering gentle words of hope.
The dying man said nothing. As dawn approached, the patient died. The young man gently placed on the bed the lifeless hand he had been holding. Then he went to notify the nurse.
The nurse began to offer words of sympathy to the young man, but he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” he asked. The puzzled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father.”
“No,” the young man replied. “I never saw him before in my life.”
Horrified, the nurse asked, “Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?”
The young man replied, “I sensed that he really needed his son, and that his son wasn’t here. Then I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son. And I knew how much he needed me.” (2)
That young man had A SERVANT’S TOUCH. He was a SERVANT. He became an instrument of the Incarnation. Christ entered that hospital room through Him.
God wants to use us the same way. But in order to be used like that, we can’t try to race ahead of the traffic jam and jump into the prime positions of the kingdom of God. Because the prime positions aren’t up front, they’re at the rear. Or on your knees. God wants us to have A SERVANT’S TOUCH.
The Indian poet, Rabindanath Tagore, is the only figure in literary history that I know of who has the distinction of writing the lyrics for the national anthems of not one, but two countries (India and Bangladesh). He was, also, the first non-westerner to win the Nobel Prize in literature. He did so in 1913. He wrote this short poem:
I slept and dreamt that life was Joy;
Then I awoke and realized
that life was Service.
And then I went to work — and, lo
and behold I discovered that
Service is Joy. (5)
True happiness comes from surrendering yourself completely in humble service to God through Christ. And all you need is A SERVANT’S HEART, MIND, EYES AND TOUCH.
So, the challenge is, “How can you Altar Your Serve?”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. George Burns, Dr. George Burns’ Prescription For Happiness, (New York, NY, USA: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1984.) p. 141.
2. Author Unknown
3. Homiletics, October 19, 03A, Volume 10, Number 5. (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)
Other References Consulted