Monday, September 13, 2010

Putting on the Towel

I went to a small seminar where Stephanie the leader began to call names for volunteers. 

"Keith, Elizabeth, and..."

I knew my name was coming and sure enough it came.  The three of us went to the front of the room, and Stephanie began her analogy.

We were a family.  Keith was the father and there was no mother.  Elizabeth and I were Keith's daughters; we both dropped to our knees and walked towards him.  Stephanie narrated that Keith loved us both very much, so he put his arms around our shoulders and held us close.  We smiled.  Stephanie continued by saying that Keith gave Elizabeth all of the food, the clothes, and everything and told her to take care of her sister (that's me).  Then Keith went away but continued to watch on his brand new Nanny Cam.

With Keith no longer between us, there was a gap between Elizabeth and me.  Stephanie said Elizabeth ate a big dinner, and I went hungry.  Since I truly was hungry at the time it was not difficult to act out: I frowned and rubbed my stomach.  While Elizabeth slept in her warm bed, I was left out in the cold without a bed at all.

While aspects of this drama are not Biblically accurate, it does hold some fraction of the truth.

The first chapter of James calls us to care for the widows and orphans.  In the time when this was written, widows held no role in society.  The least of these.

Plain and simple: He calls us to put the towel on and serve.

Just before Passover, Jesus and His disciples gathered for a meal.  The disciples argued over who would wash the feet.  This is a dirty job; a job for the lowest one on the totem pole.  The job of a servant.  Think about it, would you like to wash someone else's feet?  Keep in mind the disciples were wearing sandals not nice sneakers.  Think of the worst Chaco dirt-tan you've ever seen and then multiple it by twelve.  Yucky, right?  No wonder they're arguing.

Jesus stands up, leaves the room, and returns wearing a towel around his waist.  He gets down on one knee and one by one takes the feet of the disciples and washes them clean.  The Lord above all got on His knees and served His friends.  The Creator of the feet (and the dirt) caressed the callouses clean of crud.  Jesus, the Most High, took the role of the lowest of the low.  He served His brothers, and He calls us to do the same.

In today's society, serving is the cool thing to do.  People love to stand up and fight for a cause.  Look at the fund raisers for New Orleans.  For Darfur.  For Haiti.  For AIDs.  For malaria.  How many of those projects are Christ-based?  Sure, some, but many are not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, non-Christians are doing our job.  They are taking care of one another which is what Christ calls US to do.  We serve for a different reason than they do.  We serve for God's glory, not our own.


Or do we sit on our couches for Christ's glory and not our own?

Honestly, when is the last time you served someone in Christ's name?  I'm not talking about your Christian roommate or your church.  Sure, those things are important, too, absolutely, but that's not what we're discussing today.

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone, put the towel on, and cared for the least of these?  Hugged the man dying of AIDs?  Watched the single mother's children for free?  Gave food to the homeless man?  Reached out to the woman in the abusive situation?  The least of these.

"Katie, I don't know anyone with AIDs, dying of hunger, and living on the street."

You're right.  Neither do I.  Because I haven't taken the time to find them.  They exist in my city.  I bet they exist in your city, too.  They're in line at the soup kitchen every Wednesday begging for something to eat.  They're in the nursing homes yearning to be visited.  They're in the schools in needing someone to help them with their homework and teach them that they are important.  They are all around you waiting to hear the name of Christ.  Will you tell them?

Look around you.  The world's isn't all hunky dory.  It's a matter of opening our eyes and seeing the needs.  It's only after physical and emotional needs are met that we can be God's mouthpiece to reach the spiritual needs.  Do you truly believe that there are "greater things still to be done in this city"?  Why aren't you out there doing them?

Otherwise it's like Stephanie's sketch where Keith told me he loved me, but I didn't see it because Elizabeth had all of the food and I had none.  I saw that Keith loved Elizabeth, but I could not see how he loved me.  If she would take the time to show me rather than tell me Dad loved me, I might have believed her.

<>< Katie

Note: I am preaching to myself here just as much as I am preaching to anyone else.


Casey said...

Thought provoking post... I think I need to go out and find some "least of these" to serve...

Dawn said...

I'm gonna make two parts to my comments...silly and serious.
Nanny Cam..very nice.
Ever heard of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative? I have. :)
Serving is cool...Plus I tend to get a free T-shirt when I do it. :)
"Greater things to be done in this city." Great song. I was singing it today.

And I love your post. It was amazingly powerful. I just wanted to make the comment that, there are people suffering all over. And even the other Christians in your life could be the person that needs your help..and you may not even know it.

Thanks for this awesome post, Katie. :)