February 1, 2004: The Service Is The Honor!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You have graciously called us to serve You and Your kingdom motivated by the tremendous love You showered upon us while nailed to the cross. That service is to be sacrificial—just like Yours. It is to be humble—just like Yours. It is to be kind and gentle—just like Yours. Today teach us to live up to our high calling. Amen

TEXT: I Cor. 12:27—13:13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Remember the story of the prodigal son? Remember how pride and arrogance corrupted that young man and caused him to leave home after demanding a lucrative inheritance from his father? Remember how he wasted that money on too much drink and loose women? Remember how he ended up living in a pig-pen and slowly starving to death when it was all gone? Remember how he came back to his father, expecting to be treated like a slave, but was actually given a banquet in his honor—all because this lost son had now been found? Remember how the other “good” son reacted to this? How that “good” son was angry that he had remained home and worked hard in the family business, but no banquet was given to honor him? One of the things that story teaches us is the haughty nature of human pride and how a competitive spirit often overwhelms love and compassion.

Every mortal human who has ever walked on planet earth craves honor and recognition. We crave being singled out by others and receiving their deference due to something we’ve done. But, more often than not, baggage comes with such an attitude. We start thinking we’re better than others. We start thinking that certain things are beneath us. Society is built upon structures of hierarchy. The corporate ladder comes to mind. The various ranks in the military are another example. We don’t expect CEO’s to clean the toilet in the office. We don’t expect Generals to wash their HumVees. Such “service” is beneath them. This same attitude, born of pride, infiltrates the church, too. Somehow, we think certain tasks are more holy than others. But, then, our pride takes a huge hit when we run across Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. To Him, even the mundane and lowly are worthy of honor when done out of love. And that brings us to an amazing truth. Namely, in God’s Church:


Let’s take a quiz. Is an apostle like Peter deserving of higher honor than a Sunday School teacher? Is a prophet like Jeremiah deserving of higher honor than a mother who cares for her child who has the flu? Is a pastor deserving of higher honor than a janitor? Is a synodical president deserving of higher honor than a Sunday morning usher? The Biblical answer is a resounding: No! to every one of those questions. Godly honor doesn’t stem from some title or office. No, Godly honor results from actually doing God’s work. And therefore, the service is the honor.

Out of all the people in the world, God has called you and me to be His ambassadors. He has called us to a life of service in His kingdom of grace. Such Godly service isn’t limited to preaching, or teaching, or handing out communion. No, our entire lives are to be living sacrifices to Him. Recall Jesus’ words: “Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do onto Me.” So, Christian parents who attend their sick kids and clean up after them are engaged in honorable Godly service. Christians who go to work and put up with the hassles of the corporate life are engaged in honorable service. Christian children who help around the house and make their parents’ lives a little easier are also engaged in honorable service. Now, I know we don’t view cleaning toilets on the same level as going to a banquet in our honor. Yet, we should. For in God’s kingdom, the service is the honor!


In our lesson, St. Paul says this: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

The categories that St. Paul lists are not ranks of special honor. He’s not saying that apostles are more honorable than miracle workers, or that compassionate people are more honorable than those who can heal the sick. And we should never “rank” Christians in such a way, or crave personal honor as a result of our Godly appointment, either. No, the service, the actual doing of the task has its own honor. And all those tasks are vital, otherwise God would not have appointed people to them.

The world runs on pride. It runs on a competitive spirit. And because of that we humans love to have our egos stroked. But, not God’s Church. To us the honor, all the honor, belongs to Christ, alone. And since He has given His life for yours and mine on the cross to save our souls, thereby calling us into His family of faith, we are to be content to serve Him and others based on that same love.

Paul expands on all this in the familiar words of the “love” chapter in I Corinthians 13. The word he uses for love means self-sacrificing, unconditional love. That is, love for lost souls. Love for hurting sinners. Love which tries to reach out to them and heal their hurts. Love which does even the most menial of tasks without a second thought because thereby someone else benefits. Because of this truth, we don’t single out certain people as “saints” thereby putting them on a higher pedestal than other believers. No, unlike Rome, we confess with St. Paul that all believers are saints. And all deserve the same honor. For being called to act like a Christian is the honor!

We live in a celebrity culture. The media hypes anyone who does something outlandish in order to grasp their 15 minutes of fame. But, that same culture ignores those who patiently labor in their little corner of the world motivated by Christ’s love for them. And yet, those little people, you and I, know something far more important that will never make headline news. We know that Christ was talking about us when He said: “the meek shall inherit the earth.” So, instead of letting pride or celebrity status drive you to run rough-shod over others, always remember this truth: the service is the honor! Amen