We are Servants.
What is your favorite way to think about your relationship to God. There are quite a few of them to choose from. Our opening hymn this morning “On Eagles Wings.” We think of ourselves as baby eaglets that are cared for by the Lord. Snares of the fowler, famine, and even falling from the nest aren’t a worry to us because our God is there to raise us up and take care of us.
That is similar to thinking of Jesus as a Good shepherd, and then we in that analogy would be his sheep. He leads us to safe and comfortable places. He protects us through those valleys of the show of death. He makes us lie down in green pastures. Restoring our soul so that one day we can dwell in the house of the Lord forever. We have a very dependent relationship on our God.
Maybe you really like the Father child explanation. That’s how Jesus referred to the people of the Old Testament were the sons or children of Israel. God fought wars for them, he sent food to them every morning for 40 years. He protected them and forgave them. Yes there were strong consequences for bad behavior, and the Israelites made many mistakes, but they were his people, and he was their God. And that Idea continues on in the New Testament as we continue on with the way that Jesus asks us to think about our God. “Our Father in Heaven”. No one can come to the Father except through Jesus.
These pictures of us getting everything that we need from our God. Of being saved by faith alone and by grace alone they are 100% accurate. They are given to us by the Holy Spirit for our comfort, so that we will be with the Lord forever.
But they aren’t the only way that the Bible describes our relationship with God. Our Gospel lesson this morning is a small lesson from our teacher Jesus to his disciples and us. Another relationship that we have with God. (He doesn’t hide in the clouds making us guess what his will is, he gives us his word.)
The way that Jesus talks about our relationship to God is servant and master. And by servant the Bible isn’t saying “Well, I am a servant to my job, They make me work 60 hours a week.” No if you were a servant we are talking much closer to slavery. It didn’t just feel like someone owned you. Somone did own you. Someone owns us.
1 Corinthians 6:20 tells us we don’t have to right to participate in whatever sin we want because “You are not your own you were bought at a price.” You belong to God as a servant. A master tells you what to do and you do it. He gives us his commands. This is what you should do. This is how I want you to act. This is how I want you to live.
The servant is still dependent on the master for protection and food and shelter and so many things, similar to eaglets, or children, or sheep, but the servant is expected to contribute in the way that the master asks him to.
It’s through that lens that we look at our Gospel lesson today. And right away he tells us that there is going to be hardship in your life that is going to cause you to stumble. No matter whose servant or even child you are, pain in this world is unavoidable. Being God’s servant doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt working for him. It doesn’t mean you won’t get sick. There are evils of this world that we endure because we are God’s servant.
While we can’t control certain things that come into our lives that cause us to stumble in our faith, many times we can avoid putting stumbling blocks in the paths of the people around us. Jesus says if we cause a little one to stumble in their faith, if we hurt the faith of a child, it would be better if we were thrown into the sea with a huge stone tied around our neck. That’s some serious language.
This is heavy. The way you conduct your life as a Christian can bring people closer to Christ or it can drive them away. The way that you live your life matters. Because every moment of your life as a Christian you are serving your God. We are serving him our whole lives. You never stop representing him. We don’t take breaks from this. We don’t punch in to being a Christian for a few hours a week, or just around certain groups of people, or when it is convenient. We are servants.
And the specific way that Jesus in this lesson tells us to serve him isIf our brother or sister sins against you rebuke them. Why? It’s not because you enjoy being judgmental or point out the weaknesses of others. It’s because you want that person to serve God better, so that our God is better served. It’s because not rebuking them could allow their sinful action to grow. If you don’t rebuke the bad behavior of your brother or sister soon they may think it's acceptable. And that sin might create a wedge between them and their God. Serve others by lovingly rebuking them, so that you can lovingly forgive them. So that they can know better the love that God has for them.
Over and over and over again we need to forgive each other.
Are people around us going to make mistakes? Of course they are. Is it hard to forgive people for making the same mistakes? Of course it is. But Jesus says even in you are sinned against seven times in the same day by the same person. Forgive them.
Can you imagine doing that? There is a reason that the disciples immediately asked Jesus to increase their faith because this is hard. Think about even having to forgive a relatively small sin. One that happens all the time so we often just say, eh what is the big deal. Think about hearing someone talk negatively about you behind your back in order to hurt your reputation. Now think about that happening 7 times in the same day ,and each and every time you catch them, they honestly repent of their sin. How many times in one day would you want to or even be able to forgive them. Many of us might stop even before one, a few might maybe could make it to two, three times in the same day, I doubt there would be any left. This is what your master asks you as his servant to do.
He is the one that came up with the policy. You and I just follow.
Increase our faith God. All of need to pray for that. Because we are all so weak. We rebuke because it makes us feel superior. We forgive only when we have to, or when it benefits us. We really are poor servants for our God.
And then we walk into God’s house. On Sunday morning, after a week of poor work, not a single day were we completely faithful to God or his calling. And we expect God to be happy we are here. We wonder where all those bad servants that didn’t show up for church are. I am here God! I know the rest of the world might be terrible but you got me! And we expect God to say to us, Come along now, sit down and eat! Isn’t that why you are here? To feed your soul. To strengthen your faith. To have your sins forgiven. To strengthen your family. To build up your community. I know it’s why I am here often. But that’s not the primary reason that we are here.
We are at a worship service. We are servants worshipping. This worship shows our service to God. It’s not a worship family reuining. It’s a service. It’s joyful service. We came here today to praise God. We came to glorify his name through proclaiming all of the works that he has done. We came to praise him through songs. We came to give him offerings that show our thanks to him. We came here to serve him first. It’s about him. He is God not us. We are servants.
It is great to be children. It’s great to be taken care of. It’s great to know what our Father in heaven has done. It is wonderful to know that we are heirs to everlasting life because we have been adopted into sonship. But as God’s children we don’t get to be spoiled brats. We don’t get to be freeloaders and just hang out in the church basement lounging around doing whatever we want until our Father comes back home from building us our own mansion. We have stuff to do while he is in heaven. We have things to do with our lives.
We don’t get to say my God is heaven will love me no matter what, so I can do all the things he doesn’t want me to do. I don’t care what he tells me in the Bible. We don’t get to say I don’t want God to love that person because of what they did to me. God doesn’t do whatever we want him to do. We do what God wants us to do. As his servants.
Not a single one of us deserves to be God’s child. Not a single one of us without Jesus has a right to be here. Even if you helped build this building, it doesn’t give you the right to be able to expect God to show you love and mercy here. We don’t deserve his forgiveness, and his love. We don’t deserve to be able to take the Lord’s supper regularly. We should just be keeping our heads down, thanking our God each and every day for all of the love and mercy that he continually gives to us, and begging him not to treat us as our sins deserve.
Our perfect Lord and King, and Father gives us even more than we deserve. Every time we repent to him, we get forgiven. Every time we ask him for something, he gives us what we need and what is best for us. Every moment of every day we stand in front of our God, we not just a sinner but at the same time we are a saint who has been promised ever lasting life because of what Jesus the Christ did for us.
We are servants that get to work not for a big corporation with questions ethics. We don’t work for ourselves hoping to make enough to be comfortable. All of us are servants who get the best job that there is in this world. We get the job to serve God in everything that we do. Whether its preaching a sermon, or watching a child in the nursery, or listening about a tough day that our spouse had, calling up an old friend, sorting the recycling, forgiving someone who does not deserve it. Any thing and everything we do, we do because it is an opportunity to show our love to God through our lives of service.
You are already his child. You are his wandering sheep he has brought home, his little eaglet that has been raised, and you are his valuable servant. Serve him. He deserves it. Amen.