For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:27
Our annual Thanksgiving Sunday provides an opportunity for us individually and collectively to offer thanks to God for his goodness and kindness during the past year, As we reflect on our lives we will discover that there is much for which we ought to be thankful and it is our bounder duty to express thanks and show our gratitude to God. It is easy for us to take life for granted and forget to thank God and persons for their kindnesses.
How can we show our gratitude to God for his kindness and mercy? I would like to suggest to you that we can show our gratitude to God by living a life of service to humanity. As we serve we follow the example of Jesus who came to serve and not to be served. Jesus reminds us that the great one is the one who serves and not the one who sits at table. For Jesus, greatness involves being the servant of others. The idea of service to others might not find readily acceptance in a culture that is characterised by individualism and selfishness. The society in which we live with its emphasis with its emphasis on materialism and success at all cost does not foster the idea of service. We live in a rat race environment that aborts the whole concept of service and does not encourage many people to have a positive view of service as a virtue which is vital for community living.
From a Christian perspective service to humanity has to be understood within the context of love for God and love for neighbour. We love God as we serve our neighbour and we serve God as we serve our neighbour. This is the point made by Jesus in the story of the separation when the Son of Man comes in judgement: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Jesus calls his church to be a community of faith that has service as its hall mark. The early church was known for its care of the weak and outcast. It served the needs on its members and the community and played a significant role in the social life of the community where it became established. Christian service challenges all people to forego the desire for fame and glory and become servants in the tradition of Jesus Christ.
All of us should make a commitment to service. It is necessary if we are to counteract the selfishness, self centredness and greed that pervade all sectors of our society. I think it is true to say that the economic and social pressures of life and the expectation that we be successful force us to think first of self and this breeds selfishness. As a result the society is worse off and we engage in all kinds of uncharitable practices and questionable activities that have a negative affect of people and the community at large, as we selfishly pursue our own interests. Service to our fellow citizens is an antidote to our selfish behaviour and its harmful outcomes. Service to humanity reminds us that we are our brother’s keeper and that we are obligated to care for each other. As we serve humanity we touch people’s life in a positive way.
Service to the community as an expression of our gratitude to God has the potential to destroy and remove from the national scene envy, greed, jealously and selfish ambition as we work for the common good. It allows us to interact with each other and as such can be a catalyst for social change since it has the potential to break down the barriers of fear, race, colour, stereotypes, discrimination, prejudice, suspicion, and the many other negatives that keep us apart and make us enemies.
Community service is important for relationships and good will in our nation. Service refutes the idea that life must be competitive and instils a spirit of cooperation. It helps to maintain civil society and strengthens the social fabric of our communities. Without it our communities become environments of warfare and forfeit their peace and harmony. Service to each other builds communities.
We have a duty to give back something to the communities that make our dreams realities. I believe that each citizen has a moral responsibility to ‘repay’ society for its investment in his /her development. The idea of national service which is mooted from time to time is something that needs to be pursued for the good of the nation. It seems that we lack the will to implement this programme. Refusal to serve the community cheats it of valuable resources that can be of great help in building a just society. We become parasites when we take from the society but do not give back.
Our service to humanity should not be motivated by reward but by love for the brethren. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” When we serve for personal reward and self glory service becomes a form of bribery and we engage in narcissism and egoism. It loses its genuineness and becomes a mean to an end. We have a problem whereby people are not willing to serve unless there is some financial reward. This can be traced to the materialistic nature of the society and the need to make ends meet, but it is a hurdle we have to overcome. Money is not all to life. Voluntary service can be rewarding and is rewarding as we make a selfless and meaningful contribution to the development of people and the enhancement of our society. We must educate our people about the virtue of serving voluntarily for the common good.
The service we give to our community must go beyond charity and hand outs. It must be a service that empowers people and helps them to take control of their lives and development. It must be a service that makes people independent and not dependent. It cannot be a service that makes mendicants of persons, it must make them self supporting and aid their total development-physical, spiritual and mental. It must be a service that liberates people from the oppressive forces at work in our society. We need to examine and reflect on what we are doing within the context of service to humanity, if our service is to have a redeeming impact on the people we serve.
Let us confess that as a church, as a people and as a nation we have not always been responsive to the call to serve humanity. At times we have allowed religion, politics, class, race and colour to stand in our way and prevent us from embracing the concept of service to humanity. We have sinned and we ask God’s forgiveness and pardon.
We serve; this can be the rallying cry of all people as we offer service to humanity as a sign of gratitude to God for all his mercies and blessing. Thanksgiving Sunday is a call to service.
Teach us, good Lord,
To serve Thee as Thou deservest
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and not to ask for any reward
Save that of knowing that we do Thy Will.