There were two things that stood out to me at church this morning:
1. We had beautiful guitar music. The man who played the guitar and led us in song told us of a time when he and his wife were driving and saw three crosses in a lawn, and, while they were passing those crosses, there was a song on the radio about three crosses. The man said that he did not think that was a coincidence, but that he doesn’t yet know the meaning of the experience.
That experience sounds to me like a coincidence. Coincidences happen, and is it a wonder that, in a nation such as the United States where Christianity is prevalent, one would see three crosses on a lawn and simultaneously hear a song on the radio about three crosses? But I can identify with wanting to see significance in those kinds of events—-to feel that they somehow communicate God’s love and care. I also liked what the man said about not yet knowing the meaning of the experience. A belief in mystery that is wrapped in the care of God makes life colorful and interesting—-as if there is a present to unwrap. Moreover, what appears to me to me to be a coincidence may touch somebody else on a deep and a personal level.
2. The sermon was about service. The pastor told us that he and his puppet, Jake, recently entertained at a Halloween party for the disabled that was put on by the Elks, and he praised the Elks for organizing this party. That, to me, exemplifies service: doing something to brighten the day of somebody else. But there are many times when service is a life and death issue, particularly when it relates to feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc.
The pastor referred to the eternal consequences of service, and he also said that, for God, service is the path to greatness. This stood out to me because my church just went through Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God, and a point that the attendees got out of that study was that we should give to God and to others out of love, not to receive a reward. But Jesus does talk about rewards for service. I think of Luke 14:12-14 (in the KJV): “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
That is a provocative passage. If I were to live only for this life, of course I would throw a party for my family, kinsmen, and the rich or influential, people I know or who can pay me back. But would I throw a party for the poor? I suppose that I could think of reasons to do so: the satisfaction of helping other people. But the belief that God would honor my service would be quite a motivator for me to throw a party for the poor. But how do I even know that Christians are correct on what the afterlife is like? Living my life in reference to the afterlife, therefore, can be quite a challenge, especially when service can get quite taxing. In such a case, I would wonder what exactly I’m working for. I admire people who are so altruistic that they do good simply because it’s good.
There is something about service that is attractive to me. I was thinking about that yesterday as my brother was getting napkins for all of us during dinner: just a simple act of service. But there are times when I do not get a “thank you” for service that I do, or acceptance and appreciation after I (say) chip in and put away chairs after an event. In those times, it’s easy for me to ask why I even should serve. The notion that God notices my service and will honor it then becomes a comfort to me, if not a motivator.