Today I attended a church service–virtually.
I never really noticed that word before: “service.” I knew they were called services, but I don’t think I ever thought about it. The reason it’s called a service should have been obvious, but like I said, I don’t think I ever really thought about it. It was just a word. That was what it was called.
In the traditional sense, it’s not unlike a dinner service. There’s music, there’s a starter course–perhaps communion–followed by a main course: the message.
But I also think that perhaps in my estimation, there are other reasons to call it a service. The pastors have been called by God into service. Their sacred duty and privilege is to serve their flock in Christ’s name, and to serve their community at large. They are our modern-day apostles, called to be messengers and ambassadors for Christ. In a very real way, they are both serving God and servicing us through their testimony.
In yet another way, Church calls the flock itself into service. Often, the message itself is a missive of faith and service. How can an individual serve the Lord? How can he or she serve the community, or the flock itself?
Pastor Mark Leuning, of theSprings, spoke today about the faith and trust required to put the Lord first above our own needs. He called to out a passage from Deuteronomy, chapter 26, verses 10-11: “and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me. Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.”
I have never tithed. I have never belonged to a church to which I could tithe. When I was a young boy, my grandparents would give me a small bill, perhaps a five-dollar bill, or a couple of singles, to put in the offering. When I was older, I stopped attending church regularly, and certainly never long enough to join up. The concept of tithing was foreign to me. Of course, I do understand the concept of generosity and putting yourself before others, but I honestly did not think of giving to the Lord in this way.
Oddly and coincidentally, I tithed this morning before the service. I woke up in a hurry, but I said a prayer, and I checked the church’s website to make sure I knew what time the service would start and that I had everything I needed to ready for viewing. I saw a “give” button on the website, and I was simply compelled to push it.
When I did, though, I had to do some mental math. How much should I give? How much do I have to give? What will be left over when all my other obligations are fulfilled? What can I afford?
The message of Pastor Leuning’s sermon this morning was that I did the math in reverse. Giving to the Lord, and in the service of each other, should be sacrificial in a way that changes the life we lead. By giving sacrificially, we open ourselves to the world, because that spirit of sacrifice and generosity begets an attitude of gratitude, and that gratitude begets a spirit of generosity. Then, we trust that the Lord will take note of our celebration and sacrifice, and will provide a way forward for us.
Generosity has lately been difficult for me. The word Pastor Leuning used was “grubby,” and that’s the right word. I am ashamed to admit it, but I’ve written it in this space before. I have been selfish. Now I want to be called to service.
Father, please, please bring my heart relief right now. I ache.