Something More From the Sermon:Waiters and Servers

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Yesterday we started a new series called Vital Signs where we will examine some vital parts of the Christian faith. Yesterday’s topic was “Radical Hospitality,” having a radical openness to “the other” that we encounter.

Our primary text was Acts 2:42-47, the first summary statement from Luke concerning the early Church’s habits and patterns of openness. The whole of the book of Acts is the process of Jesus’ community opening up to a story larger than they every could’ve imagined.

I drew our attention to 1 Cor 3:5-6, where Paul equates his role in the church as a mere “servant,” a diakonos (waiter). I then made the claim that a good server at a restaurant is invisible, in the background, not drawing attention to themselves, he or she is simply brokering a connection between the kitchen staff and the customer.

This is a provocative challenge for us in our culture and climate. Christianity is one of several all-encompassing truth claims one can choose from in our 21st century, modern world. Christians are sharing space now more than in recent years.

Several years ago, I remember author and pastor Dan Kimball sharing a graphic of “Main Street America” from the first couple of decades in the 20th century, where different people expressed their religious affiliations, all different stripes of either Protestant or Roman Catholic faiths. Then Kimball showed a graphic for today’s Main Street, where the differences revealed actual unique faith systems, or no official faith affiliation. Even the religious demographic information from the New Hampshire primaries revealed that there are more “Nones” in New Hampshire than any other faith tradition. We are sharing space in a new world.

The question remains, “What will the Christian church do in this new world?”

There are several options, two which interest me more than others. First, one of the main metaphors for Church engagement within this cultural moment is “resurgence/resurging.” Those who prefer to this posture feel as if there is an established way of doing church from the past needs to be unearthed, cleaned up, and put into play again. There is something from a tradition in the past worth plugging in again in a new day.

Another metaphor in today’s Evangelical discourse is “emergence/emerging” or something coming up from the soil, fit for this cultural moment. In this camp, letting go of former ways of doing church is allowed, even required in this new frontier.

Both perspectives are interesting and troublesome. I watch each “camp” with interest because, in my opinion, we live in exciting times, times for engagement and hard work, rather than alienation and despair.

However, as Dallas Willard has famously said, ministry in the name of Jesus should be done in the name of Jesus, “with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15-16) May we go and do likewise.

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