Servant’s Heart from the desk of a deacon
The parable of the Good Samaritan came up in our lectionary, back in July, and reading it again set me to pondering it from a Deacon’s perspective: “servanthood.” It seems to me that the bar is set high as Jesus paints it in that story. Most days, most weeks, I know I do not come close to meeting it, and while surely grace abounds, I think all of us still have much to learn from what we read in that parable.
The Samaritan was a man who knew the blessing of grounding one’s life in faithful loving kindness to others. Where do my gifts, vocation, and avocation create opportunities to bless the lives of others with the steadfast loving kindness of the gospel of the kingdom of God? After all, what did the Samaritan do that was so “spectacular”? All this kind soul did was to notice the one who was wounded, and then to care enough to bind up the wounds and provide for his recuperation. It was simply a story of mercy in action: compassion that goes the second mile; but it made all the difference in the world to “the one who fell among thieves.”
It seems to me, contrary to our culture that is obsessed with all things “spectacular,” that we can make the most difference in another person’s life while engaged in the most mundane of activities. When you get right down to it, the only place we can really have influence in the life of our society is with individual actions toward individual people. We mortals rarely achieve the level of influence that can truly be effective for hundreds or thousands of people out there. For the most part, we can only touch a life here, or a life there. It is through the quality of our character, not anything “spectacular” we may do, that we have influence in another life. It is through the way in which we conduct our relationships, not through any great “achievement,” that we really have any influence on another human being. From that perspective, the Christian life is “nothing special,” it is a matter of simply living out the grace and mercy and compassion of God. It is an imperative. Do this. Draw close. Show mercy. Extend kindness. Live out our theology in hands-on care for other people. Don’t just think love. Do it!
Even with this certain truth, however, I cannot help but wonder if the Samaritan represents all the ways God is already at work in the world: showing mercy, where it is most needed, in unexpected places and using profoundly unexpected people. I wonder too if you and I who represent the church as servants of all, could somehow get over thinking it is all up to us. I wonder what would happen if we just started looking for the ways in which God is already working in the world. I wonder if we just did all we could to catch up with where God is at work by just joining in. Then we might be doing exactly what Jesus has called us to do now.