Jesus once told a story to His disciples about a master who left his servants in charge of his house. Each had his own work and commands until the master’s return. They were to stay awake lest he come home and find them asleep. Jesus said, I want you to consider yourselves to be like those servants while you wait for my return, because the Son of Man is coming again.
The question for us is, What should God’s children, His servants, be doing as we wait for the return of Jesus? This is what we have been discussing these last couple of weeks. The answer from our story today is inspired by Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have wondered what to do with Mary. After all, she was the mother of Jesus, so she has some special status, right? She has been revered and venerated – even prayed to – in the Catholic Church. However, in the Protestant tradition, she has been somewhat passed over. Yet something helpful and important can be learned from Mary and her experiences with God, as we see in today’s text.
Mary was a teenager living in the village of Nazareth without any authority or power to call her own. She was betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was descended from the house of David. From this story we learn she was a virgin and an ordinary girl who was tapped on the shoulder to do something extraordinary for God.
The angel Gabriel’s announcement to her was, “Hail, oh favored one of God. The Lord is with you!” Favored means, grace. Gabriel was basically saying, God is showing you some grace, Mary. You are favored. You are graced by God.
He went on to say, “You shall bear a son and shall name Him Jesus. He will be called great, Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him David’s throne,” just as He had promised King David back in the Old Testament days. What’s interesting here is Mary’s response.
First, she asked a question inquiring how this could happen. “How can this be since I am a virgin? (I have had no sexual relations with a man.)” The angel went on to explain that the child would be conceived by the power the Holy Spirit. This would be a virgin birth, because nothing is impossible for God.
After hearing his answer, she responded with this marvelous statement that has been revered over time: “Here am I, a servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your Word.”
Mary was presenting herself as available for service to the Lord, not sure where this would take her in life. It was like handing a blank check over with her signature saying, Go ahead. Use my womb. Use my life to be a parent to this Savior. And God did use her for His purposes.
By the way, this was no short-term mission trip. It was a mission to last a lifetime. It would be difficult. Mary became pregnant and had to experience condemning looks and rumors amongst her fellow villagers of Nazareth, as well as the sadness and hurt in Joseph’s face when he heard of the pregnancy. And what about her parents? What kind of disappointed looks did she receive from them?
Mary gave birth in the most inconvenient and uncomfortable of circumstances. She ended up having to fear for His life and hers after His birth by the hand of King Herod. They were forced to run for refuge in order to escape the slaughter of the infants, which Herod ordered to get rid of Jesus. They lived as refugees in a foreign land.
She raised Him and took care of Him. That was no easy task either. She worried about Him as parents do. We even read of her experiencing the great anxiety of losing track of Him as a twelve-year-old in the city of Jerusalem. We know she went through the heartbreak of watching Him leave home to do ministry. She worried and perhaps was embarrassed as she heard people question His sanity. She herself may have wondered about Him a bit.
Then, of course, there was the horror and despair she faced on Good Friday as she watched her beloved Son beaten and humiliated, and then nailed to a cross. There was the grief she felt on Friday evening and Saturday as she remembered the words of the priest Simeon, “A sword shall pierce your own heart, Mary.”
Have you ever wondered if she felt it was all worth it?
She must have had great joy in her heart when she heard the surprising news of His resurrection. He’s alive again! Praise God from whom all blessings flow. It’s a new day! I’m going to see my boy again! How exciting to see this movement take off that first Pentecost as she experienced the power of the Holy Spirit with many others who were waiting in the Upper Room.
Did the song she sang right after the angel’s announcement play in her head after the resurrection: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the loneliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;, for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46-55).
She felt the pain. She experienced the grief and the inconvenience of it all. Yet I believe in my heart of hearts, Mary would say, Yes! It was all worth it! I truly do see that I was favored. I was given God’s grace when He gave me the privilege of serving Him with my life as the mother of Jesus. It was a privilege, and I would do it all over again!
Back to my original question – What are we to be doing while we wait for Jesus to return? Mary is our example today. The answer is, We present ourselves available for service to God, who presented Himself available to serve us through the first arrival of His Son Jesus.
What about you? As you carefully examine your life, would you say you, like Mary, have presented yourself available for service to Him in grateful response for all He has done for you? After all, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a beneficiary of His service to you at the cross. He emptied Himself for you when He entered the world that first Christmas and became man. He went to the cross to pay for your sins. He is your servant King. It is He who said, “I came not to be served but to serve,” as He washed the disciples’ feet in an upper room before His crucifixion and instructed them to follow His example and wash other’s feet. Life in God’s kingdom is about serving others in His name. It is part of God’s overall redemptive plan for those He has favored, and He invites us to join Him in serving others.
Have you presented yourself on call for His bidding? Have you discovered, like Mary, that although serving God’s purposes in not always easy, it is a privilege and a joy? It is grace, and it’s worth it.
It is important to ask ourselves these questions because it’s so easy, as followers of Jesus Christ, to get mixed up and lose our way. We live in a day when people bounce from one church to the next asking the consumer question, What will you do for me? The question God longs to hear His people ask is, What can I do to advance God’s cause in the world through this church and other venues as well? Have you committed yourself to being the Lord’s “yes” woman or “yes” man, to say Use me. Have you committed yourself to be a “yes” person in the church? Have you committed yourself to do His bidding, to be available for ministry in His world, like . . .
• Sharon and Dave who work with the children’s ministry so kids can grow up with the best chance of connecting with Jesus and following Him?
• Ralph, a retiree, who still works with youth ministry alongside of parents to bring up young people to know Christ?
• Julie who has taken on the responsibility of leading a women’s Bible study group?
• Duey who leads a men’s group and made the commitment to study, prepare, and pray for the people they are leading?
• Dick who gives 20% away to support the ministry of our church reasoning, The Lord has blessed me so! I trust Him. I love Him. How can I do anything less?
• Brian, a busy dentist, who makes time to mentor young adult men in their walk with Jesus Christ within our church?
• Ingrid who uses her cooking skills to serve meals for adults taking a course on the basics of the Christian faith on Thursday nights?
• Deb who faithfully goes to the food lines, preparing meals and serving them in downtown St. Paul?
• Heidi who sends cards and notes to those who have lost loved ones letting them know they are not forgotten, but are being remembered in prayer?
• Kathy and Carol who make quilts for Lutheran World Relief and pay for them out of their own pockets?
• Keith who uses his carpentry skills for Habitat for Humanity?
• Elaine who serves food on the midway to those who are hungry?
• Dave and Claudia who work a food pantry among the low income?
• Rick who does dentistry in Honduras?
• Dick who works with the Gideons by handing out Bibles and sharing the Gospel in other parts of the world?
• Deb who runs the Teens that Serve meals?
• Larry and Pam who volunteer with the Union Gospel Mission serving homeless men and women?
• Phyllis and Hans who visit and serve in nursing home ministry?
• Carrie who sees her home as a lighthouse in her neighborhood, where kids can visit and experience God’s love and hospitality?
Opportunities for service abound. I have barely scratched the surface.
There is a world around us in need of people who, like Mary, are dedicated to being God’s “yes” people – always ready for service, to love others into a saving relationship with Christ Jesus, the servant King. Jesus once commented to His disciples, rather sadly, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Each of us is a missionary on call. If you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are a missionary right where God has you. You don’t have to travel to other parts of the world. God has placed you in a mission right where you live. Look around! The fields are white, and God can use ordinary people, like those in our story today, to do extraordinary things for His glory and His honor.
This is the appeal from God’s Word today to you. Present yourself available to Him for service starting right now. Tell God, Here I am, Lord. I am your servant. Saved by the servant King Himself, Jesus Christ. Saved for serving His purposes in this world. Reporting for duty, Father. Use me. Help me to see the people around me whom I can serve in Your name.
I promise you this: when God hears you offer yourself in this way, He will gladly honor your request. Present yourself available for God’s service. This is our message today. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer