Service"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me good, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'" - Matthew 25:31-40
That we are supposed to serve is pretty much a given. Both our Christian scriptures and their Hebrew antecedents are packed with proscriptions to serve, to care for the poor and to work for a more just society.
But this passage in Matthew's Gospel gives us a window into what specifically Christian service means. The service Jesus talks about here is the service where the goal is not any secular agenda, no matter how laudable. The service Jesus talks about is service where we recognize that the vulnerable person we serve is none other than Christ. That means service is much more than just handing out a sandwich ... it is addressing the question "how best can I honor the presence of Christ in each member of humanity?"
As Episcopalians, two promises of our baptismal covenant address this. We promise to "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves" and also to "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being." Combined, these two promises commit us to deep personal relationships of honoring Christ in each individual and also working structurally to transform the systems of the world that impoverish and oppress.
Christ Church Cathedral has a long history of service. You probably know about Miss Carol's Breakfast and the women and children's shelter that used to be in the basement. But did you know that the choir room, Letmar Hall, was originally haven for young, unmarried, pregnant women when the BTM first opened in the early 20th century?
More recently, we have looked to build partnerships with downtown organizations like The Bridge and St. Patrick Center. We are looking forward to welcoming Lafayette Preparatory Academy into the BTM this year as they try to improve education for all St. Louis' children. We have gathered St. Louis under our roof to pray for an end to gun violence in our city. The tradition of service is alive and well ... but where do we go from here?
As we prepare for our annual meeting and conversations this Sunday, think about this:
Why is service important to you? To us?
What are the opportunities for us to embody service today and in the future?
See you Sunday!