Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Serve or be served...

I posed this question on my facebook page.  I was a little put out that no one responded to it.  So I'll put it here, too.

Jesus says of himself, "The Son of Man came not be served, but to serve."  And of course the Apostle Paul writes the great passage in Philippians 2:6-7 that Jesus, "6... who, although He existed in the form of God, (C)did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."

So here's the question ... are Pastors always to serve and never be served?  I don't mean be served as in "Hey, somebody peel me a grape."  I mean be served as in, be ministered to.  You see I'm reading this interesting book on hospitality right now that insists that the most condescending thing a person can do exhibit an unwillingness to be a "guest" -- reflecting an unwillingness to recognize someone else's capacity to help us.  This particular author (Anthony Gittins) is being quoted in a larger work by Christine Pohl about hospitality. 

She makes a profound point in one chapter about the role that marginality plays in providing hospitality to others.  In other words, when we are already in a position of one of the marginalized or we place ourselves in that position (aka taking a vow of poverty, etc.), we obliterate the power structures that exist between those who offer aid and those who receive aid.  What a great concept!  And I found my mind exploding, wondering, how can I speak to this idea to the people on the various ministry teams I'm involved in?  And what would this look like for me to fully embrace it?

My mind answered itself by considering a woman named Katy.  She is a resident at a nearby homeless shelter.  Actually, she has graduated to an apartment complex featuring more independent living.  And she has her own transportation.  She answers phones in the church office once a week.  She also now types up the weekly prayer requests.  At first I sort of saw myself as "helping" her by asking her to help me.  "See what a kind person I am, allowing her to feel valuable; to feel she is making a contribution."  And now I confess that it has progressed to me legitimately saying, "Man, this woman is saving my butt every week by typing all this stuff for me."  Suddenly, I don't have the upper hand in the power structure.  Suddenly, we are equals.  Why?  Because I am being served.

This leads me back to this idea of whether Pastors should be served.  In some respects, applying the arguments of Christine Pohl, a Pastor who allows him/herself to be the recipient of service or ministry is, in many respects, fulfilling the ultimate in servanthood through kenosis; the self-emptying Paul refers to in the Philippians passage.

How is it possible to be servant while being served?  I get a headache trying to hold on to my understanding of this idea.  In insisting on always serving, I fall short of the kind of kenosis, the kind of humility that says, "I am in need; serve me."  Thus in always insisting on being a servant, I somehow fail at being a servant.

Pretty interesting stuff (well, to me at least).  I suppose some people might read this and say, "Geez, Tammy, get a life!"

To which I reply, thank you, that's exactly what I'm working on.  

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