A major credit card company used to advertise that “membership has its privileges.” And we nod in agreement. We join organizations for the benefit we incur from membership. The better seats at the symphony or theater or ball game (along with the parking pass). The preview showing of the new art display before it is open to the public. The benefit from being associated with “movers and shakers” in the community. The discount rate for services. Membership has its privileges.
Almost everywhere. Something intuitively tells me that it should be different here. Membership in the Body of Christ doesn’t privilege us; it enlists us. Rather than granting us some status or earning us some merit that becomes an entitlement, membership in the church engages us in kingdom work, in a life of service and mission.
Take a close look at some of the membership questions that we ask: “will you resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves? do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him in union with the church, which Christ has opened to people of ages, nations, and races? will you support the ministry of the church with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness?” There’s nothing in there about special seating or reserved parking or expecting your opinion to carry the day because “I’ve been a member here for ___ years.” In fact, it seems to imply exactly the opposite.
We are called as members of the church to serve. The legend is that I banned the word “volunteer” in my first sermon here. It was actually in my third month. I suggested then – and still believe now – that Jesus did not ask for volunteers. He called and empowered servants, a people whose heart is for others, who strive tirelessly to serve others, who seek the good of others long before they seek their own. With no thought of thanks or reward.
There are countless examples of that spirit and servant’s heart here at First UMC Cary. We reach into myriads of places in this community and the world to serve in Jesus’ name. For us, membership does not have privileges; it is a privilege. The privilege of serving the Christ.
In fact, I’m not even sure if membership is the appropriate category; what we’re really talking about is discipleship.
We’ll talk about this some more this Sunday as we continue our “Sharing the Heart” sermon series. We’ll be reminded that when the disciples of Jesus began arguing about greatness, he reminded them that he came to be served and they should expect nothing else themselves (Mark 10:35-45). We’ll commission Stephen Ministers for lives of service in the congregation. Hopefully, we’ll all be invited to think about what service it is that Jesus calls us to perform.
Look forward to seeing you at the service on Sunday.
Grace and peace.