Three months ago we welcomed to our church family a bright, friendly young woman who had travelled some four thousand miles from the United States to spend time on holiday with us in Lewes. During her time with us she was instrumental in setting up our cafe at TRINITY St John’s.
Amazingly, she did this on a voluntary basis because she felt that God had prompted her to perform this act of generosity. Having charmed everyone with her enthusiasm and faith, she did an incredible job of getting everything up and running. And now she has returned home. The idea that someone would come here with no hidden agenda and no desire to earn money was something that our visa system couldn’t understand.
But, in that short time she has left her mark: practically, because she has trained a group of people as baristas and cafe managers, but also spiritually, because her willingness to give up her life in the US to offer her skills in a place where she knew no one and would not benefit from her actions is very humbling. The fact that she could not get a visa to do this is indicative of how other-worldly this idea of selfless service has become.
Yet, on a daily basis, Christians around the globe perform acts of incredible selflessness; leaving homes and families to become missionaries in poverty-stricken countries; risking danger to themselves by protecting and caring for others, and giving their time and money to set up charities and organisations to create positive change. Within TRINITY we have members of our congregation who are missionaries in Ukraine, in Romania and in Rwanda (to name a few). On a smaller scale the life of TRINITY Church functions successfully only because of all the willing and generous volunteers who give up their spare time to organise clothes for refugees, run groups for children or older people, complete admin tasks, make coffee or cakes, visit the sick or lonely, give their time and talents in singing or playing an instrument, run technical support, arrange flowers, and many, many more. Lots of these tasks go on unnoticed and un-remarked upon. The people
performing the tasks do not do so for money, acclaim, or even for thanks. They do it because to be a Christian means to be servant-hearted.
Jesus performed the ultimate act of sacrifice; an act so significant and so life-changing for each of us that we feel daily the awe and thankfulness that comes from being undeservedly rescued. And this response to Jesus is what compels us to make our comparatively small offerings to others.
Recently Steve preached on John 12v 1-8, the story of Mary pouring out a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and then wiping them with her hair, and the question he asked was ‘What does wholehearted discipleship look like?’ There isn’t a non-Christian equivalent of the idea of a disciple. The word is occasionally used flippantly, usually by the media describing a celebrity’s new fad diet or exercise regime. Used in this way it simply means ‘follower’. The idea of discipleship, that is the act of behaving like a disciple, is uniquely Christian. Jesus instructed us in Matthew 28v19 to “make disciples of all nations” and so to be a disciple is to believe in, and follow, and try to be as much like Jesus as we can. The apostles, with their reassuring weaknesses, taught us how to be disciples in the way that Christ intended. Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, Matthew, James, Simon and Thomas were, at various points throughout the gospels, disloyal, doubtful, fearful, quick-tempered, impulsive, slow on the uptake, selfish, judgemental and competitive.
Nevertheless, these same men showed incredible courage and faith by the lives they led and deaths they suffered for Jesus’s sake. Their human frailties combined with their Spirit-filled resolution should give us hope that we are capable of giving up our own lives for Jesus too. Very few of us are being called to martyrdom for Jesus’ sake. But we are all called to give up our lives for him. We are all called, like Mary in John’s gospel, to give up our pride, show sacrificial devotion and lay everything before him. Jesus died so that we might have a fulfilled life on this earth and an eternal life with him. Anything we do for him seems very little in return.
For further reading on the idea of discipleship and sacrifice read Matthew 5 v 14 -16, Luke 9 v 23, Luke 14 v 33, John 8 v 31 – 32, John 13 v 34 – 35.