“But among you it will be quite different…” Matthew 20:25 (NLT)
It was a hot summer day in July when I met Sylvester for the first time. He was a 76 year old retired electrician who lived by himself in Cairo, Georgia. Sylvester’s house was a fairly small 1940s era yellow house that sat about 3 feet off the ground on a cinder block foundation. It was one of the nicer homes in the neighborhood and Sylvester took pride in keeping up his home to the best of his ability. I met Sylvester because I was a part of a work crew of high school students, and their leaders, who had come to work on Sylvester’s house for him. In 5 days we would scrape and paint the exterior of the house and install vinyl weather skirting around the foundation. It was a long and hot week serving someone I had never met before and have never seen since. But it was a long week of work I will never forget.
In the afternoon of the first day Sylvester told me I could call him Sly. Sly had greeted us that first morning with a smile and a little bit of uncertainty. Sly didn’t know what to expect when 6 teenagers and two adults showed up to work on his house. Even though an advance team had worked with him to determine how we could best help, Sly didn’t know what to think. I believe that was initially why he came out to work with us. Sly wanted to make sure we took care of his house and knew what we were doing. I ended up working with Sly most of the week. I was the male adult leader and we just seemed to hit it off. Sly worked harder than some of the students on my team, and they worked hard.
At the end of the week of working on Sly’s house we took a team picture with Sly. He had the biggest smile on his face. We had finished the painting and his house looked good. We had installed all of the weather skirting that truly dressed up the house very well. I could tell that Sly was very pleased with the work that this team of volunteers had accomplished. But that wasn’t the real reason Sly was smiling. I believe that Sly saw Christ in each teenager who worked on his house. They gave a week of their summer break, paid a pretty hefty fee to go on the trip, and sweat in the heat of South Georgia for a week all for someone they had never met. That is why Sly was smiling. He felt loved by a group of teenagers who served him.
This is, in part, what Jesus meant when he said “But among you it will be quite different…” in Matthew 20:25. Jesus tells his followers that most people in the world use their gifts, talents, and abilities to attain power. Once power is attained these same people lord it over everyone. Jesus tells his disciples that they won’t do that. If they want to be great they need to serve everyone. This is the great paradox of following Jesus; it’s not about you! Jesus teaches that if you want to be great in the kingdom of God you must serve each other. This is quite different that the rest of the world.
There’s one thing I didn’t mention about that week with Sly. I didn’t mention how much the teenagers were touched by Sly. They absolutely loved him! It was amazing to see how much fun they had serving this 76 year old gentleman they had never ever seen before. They didn’t just serve him, they served him with joy and gusto. It was amazing to see them love him and serve him with Christ’s love. I am certain that those teenagers have never forgotten their summer with Sly and I believe they never will. The reason I am so certain of this is that I have never forgotten Sly and that was 26 years ago.
One of the reasons that I love serving as your Senior Pastor is that we have so many people that love to serve. I have listened as folks have told me how much they love serving at Dover Elementary, The Outreach Clinic, ECHO, Cornerstone Family Ministries, and Life Care. I have heard the excitement of those who serve in Children’s Ministry and Student Ministry, those who serve as Sunday School teachers and bible study leaders, ushers, greeters, choir members, orchestra, front office volunteers, three men
and a preacher, and so much more. St. Andrew’s is a place that serves and I love the people with which I am privileged to serve alongside.
This Sunday we will continue our message series “Love Does.” It will be another opportunity to see what Love Does when we lead people to experience God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We will celebrate what it means to serve each other and the community. I can’t wait to see you in church!