The 2022 SERVE Theme is GRATEFULL! Read Mary Hulst’s reflection on service, gratitude, and her inspiration for this year’s theme.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Have you ever heard of “sin, salvation, service” or “guilt, grace, gratitude”? These are often presented as the three moves of faith. First, we realize our sin or our guilt, then we receive the gift of salvation or grace, and finally we live our lives in service and gratitude. Service and gratitude go hand in hand. Both are responses to what God in Christ has done for us!
By looking at different bible texts, by trying different things in prayer, and by keeping our eyes open to what God is up to, we are going to discover the beauty and joy of gratitude. Also, psychologists tell us that the two ways to lift us from anxiety and/or depression are…service and gratitude! It’s like our Creator knew exactly how we need to live in order to thrive.
The Gospel as reflected in the Theme:
Christians throughout history have been known for their service. In the early days of the church, a plague swept through Rome. Those living in Rome who had the resources to flee to the country did, leaving the sick and poor behind. Included in the group that left the city were the pagan priests. They were considered elite, and they had the money to get out of town.
The Christians, however, stayed. Wealthy Christians opened their homes to those who needed it. Church members tended to the sick and dying. They shared their food, they shared their water, they took care of orphaned children. But they didn’t just do it during the plague; they did it all the time! Serving others was simply part of the Christians’ life. Service was so much a part of the early church that one of the pagan emperors who wanted Rome to return to their traditional gods was annoyed at the Christians’ practice of serving others because it made those traditional Roman gods and their priests look so bad!
Here’s what he said:
“Why do we not observe that it is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism (non-Roman religion)? I believe that we are really and truly to practice every one of these virtues…. For it is disgraceful that, while no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans support not only their poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”
—Emperor Julian “the Apostate” as quoted in Resilient Faith by G. Sittser pp. 138-13
Wouldn’t it be amazing if those who participated in SERVE this year were known for their compassion and kindness? Every SERVE host site is in a community that needs people. They may need help with the kinds of things that SERVE teams can do: gardening, painting, cleaning, sorting. But what they really need is the love and grace you can show them. They really need Jesus.
We do, too. Maybe you’ll show up at SERVE tired, or discouraged, or regretting the choice to come. Maybe you’ll be feeling pretty empty. Maybe you’ll need some folks who serve you through meals, or prayer, or worship, or just hanging out and playing cards. Can you look for how God will bless you through the service of others?
Or, you may be full of energy and ready to rock! It’s easy when we are full of joy to run right by someone else who may be hurting. During SERVE, pay attention to others and pay attention to God. Your zeal may rise and fall over the course of the week, but the practices of service and gratitude can keep you steady regardless of how you feel. Wouldn’t it be great if your heart for service and gratitude not only blessed the community you’re in, but also made you healthier and happier? Doesn’t that sound just like something God would do?
Service. Gratitude. They change the world. They change us! #GRATFEFULL
Register for SERVE here!