This week we are continuing our preaching series on the five historical practices found in fruitful and growing congregations called the Methodist Way. We began this series by looking at the early church from Acts 2 and talking about what they did to set their world on fire for Christ and how we might follow that example today with the power of the Holy Spirit. The following week we looked at the idea of Radical Hospitality to see what Scripture says about it and how we can carry that out in this world. Next, we looked at the aspect of Passionate Worship and how and why we are to praise God. We followed that by looking at the practice of Intentional Discipling, what that means and some ways we can implement this in our own lives. Today as we spend our time together we are going to discuss the aspect of Salty Service, what it means and why we are commanded to do it.
So What is Service?
Last week we talked about Intentional Discipling and how God is not so much concerned with our comfort as much as our growing into mature disciples of Jesus Christ. One of the ways can grow into that maturity is through service.
There were 4 people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
Service takes involvement from all of us. It takes all of us working together, with a common goal in mind, to be effective. Jesus was clear that his followers are to be servants: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:26-28) Service flows naturally and inescapably from the teachings and example of Jesus. He was a great example of what it meant to be a servant. Look at his example of washing the feet of the disciples. Back in that time walking along those dusty roads, before concrete sidewalks, in sandals, before the invention of closed toe shoes, your feet got incredibly nasty. And it was customary for a servant in the house you were visiting to wash your feet as a sign of respect. We are given the example of Jesus humbling himself before his disciples and washing their feet. The Savior, our Messiah, kneeling on the ground and washing the feet of his disciples. That is the idea of what we are to do for others. Pride is not to dissuade us; ego is not to get in our way. We are called to follow the example of Christ and serve others in love. Not just those we encounter here on our terms, in our buildings, and in our comfort zones. But out there, beyond the walls, in the pain, suffering and raw existence that may be their life.
What is Meant by Salty Servant?
With a foundation of what it means to be a servant, what does it mean to be a “salty servant”? Our second Scripture lesson gives us the answer. Listen again. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
We are called to be the salt of the Earth. We are called to give this place a glimpse, a taste, of what Christ wants and calls us to be. I love the way verse 13 is translated in the Message version of Scripture. It says, “Let me tell you why you are here,” says Jesus. “You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?” (Matthew 5:13 The Message).
We are called to be the salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. We are the ones that are to be Christ to those we meet. People are to experience the love of Christ based on how we interact with them.
Let me ask you a question. Druid Hills UMC has been here for 50 wonderful years. And we here at Druid Hills do some fantastic outreach ministries to this community. But we need to consistently ask ourselves, would anybody miss us if we vanished today. Would anyone out there even know we are gone? That is the mindset that I challenge all of us to have. That is the question that we must keep asking ourselves as we consistently and constantly evaluate our effectiveness in this part of Ocala. Would anyone miss us if we vanished?
We are to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth!
How Can We be Salty Servants?
We now know what a servant is and what it means to be a salty servant. So what do we do with it? How can we be salty servants?
Our Conference leaders describe Salty Service like this: "Salty Service makes a difference in people’s lives – both those being served and those serving. Salty Service makes us “doers and not hears only” (James 1.27). Salty Service connects the lives of disciples with the ongoing work of Christ in the world. Salty Service restores credibility to those who would share a Gospel of love to a doubting world."
We need to get out there and be the salt of the world to those outside our walls. Remember our first Scripture lesson this morning, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
So how can we care for the people of this world? Some examples are to volunteer with some of the local agencies here in Ocala, Brother's Keeper, Sisterhood, Interfaith. Find a soup kitchen and volunteer to serve and work with them. Find a place where children are in after school care and volunteer to be a tutor. I encourage you to think outside of the box and pray for God to reveal to you ways that you can minister to those outside our walls.
These salty service cards that we ask you to turn in each week are not to show how great we are or so we can brag on ourselves. They are meant as a tool to help remind us that we need to be consistently looking for ways to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. At first you might be uncomfortable, but that will pass. Take that leap of faith, seek to become more vile, as Wesley put it, in reaching out to the lost and forgotten people. Whether that is here or in another land.
There is a church in the southern part of Florida that has a rather large homeless population in its surrounding neighborhoods. One summer this church recognized this and began searching for a way to help. After careful prayer and consideration they decided that they felt the best way to reach out to these people would be to serve them a hot meal. They came up with the idea to hold a dinner once a week for one month and see what impact that might have on this segment of the population. The main concern for this church was where is the money for this going to come from. Who would help fund such a ministry because the church certainly did not have the ability to do so. However, they decided to take a leap of faith and just do it and worry about the money later. Well they begin to spread the word and without that question answered, they served a hot meal to the homeless people of their neighborhood and began their four week outreach. They served about 50 people that first week. By the time the fourth week rolled around they were serving just about 150 people on the one night.
These people were absolutely amazed at the turnout they received serving those meals and they decided that this would become their mission project for the rest of the summer. By the time the summer was over they served just about 1500 meals, never wanted for volunteers, and never had to worry about the finances. This church set out to be the salt-seasoning of Christ for a specific group of people, for a brief period of time. They were not sure about what they were doing, they were not sure they would be able to pull it off, but God took care of everything and they not only gave a hot meal to some people that desperately needed it, they shared the love of Christ to a hurting community in need.
We are called to be the salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth! Let us bring flavor to all we meet!