‘Our customers always come first’, ‘Serving you 24 hours a day’, ‘Our mission is to serve’. Businesses like to tell us that they exist to serve our needs and not theirs, although we suspect that’s not the whole story. And sadly it can be the customers who do all the giving and serving but have very little to show for it.
Churches also have ‘Services’ – but who, exactly, is being served? Perhaps a ‘Sunday Service’ serves God? The congregation gives to God praise, or time, or money. We do our bit to boost the singing or to make the coffee afterwards. Or perhaps it is the vicar who is being served – poor guy, he needs some people to make his work seem worthwhile!
But actually it is the other way round; the main player is not us, but God. ‘Divine Service’ (as a church service is sometimes called) is not ‘service rendered to God’ but ‘God’s service to people’. Whatever small part our serving plays, it is dwarfed by the giving and serving of the great giver, whose Son told people that he had “come not to be served but to serve.”
In a Church Service, the Lord God invites us to meet with him and to reconnect with him. He bandages our wounds, forgives our rebellion, puts us back on our feet, tells us the (painful) truth plainly, renews our hope, gives us a song to sing, builds us up, restores us to our right mind and sends us out at the end knowing what our lives are for.
But what if you say, “I don’t need God to serve me!”? Peter felt the same when he saw that Jesus had wrapped a towel round himself and was about to get down on the floor and wash Peter’s smelly, dusty feet. "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."