Monday, April 21, 2008

The Servants

. . . and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew (John 2:9).

Jesus said that he didn’t come to be served but to serve. We’d expect Jesus to say something like that. After all, he’s Jesus. We nod approval when Jesus says it, but we mumble the words when we speak them. Truth is, we like being served.

Some of you live out your vocation in your home and it seems like you serve all the time. Making sure meals are planned and clothes are ready and practices are made and play dates are kept. Serve, serve, serve. Being served would be wonderful. In fact, you crave it.

For those of you in the marketplace, the more competence you demonstrate in your chosen field of work, the more likely you’ll attain a position where others serve you. You’ll accumulate a roster of employees and assistants who are there to help you be effective. It’s a mark of success, others serving you. And it feels pretty good.

But no matter what you do or where you do it, the presence of God is made real when you practice the discipline of serving. Taking the role of servant puts you in the middle of what God is doing, transforming a job into a calling. Exhibit ‘A’: Jesus’ first miracle in John 2:1-11.

There at a wedding party in Cana of Galilee a crisis developed when the host ran out of wine. Mary presents the problem to Jesus (whether as observation or request is a matter of scholarly debate). Jesus remedies the problem by turning water into wine, and very good wine at that (2:10).

This story is familiar to me, but it isn’t necessarily clear. The meaning of the event is elusive. However, towards the end of the story, when the servants take the water-now-become-wine to the master of the banquet, John slips in a short comment; a comment that bestows great dignity on the servant role. The master of the banquet did not know where the wine had come from, but “the servants who had drawn the water knew.”

The servants, quiet and unnoticed, faithful and obedient – they are in on the action. They know what has happened. They know where the new wine has come from, and from whom it has come. No one else seems to know. The host of the feast does not know – he’s clearly surprised and delighted, but he isn’t truly aware. We don’t hear anything more about Mary, so we’re not really sure what she knows or when she learns of what has taken place. The crowd is clearly oblivious, some of them having had too much wine by this point in the celebration (2:10). The disciples know something since this event or “sign” leads to their putting their faith in Jesus (2:11). But they seem to be observers, or they learn of the event second-hand.

But the servants are in on the action, participants in what Jesus is doing.

Being a servant is hard. It’s hard because it’s easily unnoticed and overlooked. The role of the servant does little to evoke excitement. Servants receive instruction (“do whatever he tells you”) and carry out tasks (“draw some out and take it”). Yet, it is the servants who are in on the action. They participate directly in what Jesus doing. And that is very exciting.

If the Monday in front of you feels like a thousand other Mondays, transform it by getting in on the action. How and with whom will you assume the role of a servant today?

Lord Jesus, you didn’t cling to your God-status, though it was yours to claim. You made yourself nothing and took the form of a servant. I resist that, fearful of what it might cost in the workplace, resentful of how it goes unnoticed at home. Change my heart and teach me to be a servant so that I may get in on what you are doing around me today. Amen.

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