Fifth Sunday in Lent

ReadingsJeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 119: 9-16; Hebrews 5: 5-10, John 12: 20-33

To live joyfully is to live our best selves, to live our best lives.  How does that happen?

From our collect we hear:

    our hearts may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found.

Joy is found in the heart, it is not a thinking thing, not a brain thing.  It doesn’t matter if you just squeezed through high school, or graduated from Harvard with honors.  Joy is a heart thing.  As the Psalmist of 119 wrote:

     with my whole heart I seek you…and
     I treasure your promise in my heart.

And the one sure source of heart-joy is to be in service.  From the Gospel according to St. John this morning we hear:

      whoever serves me must follow me, and
      where I am, there will my servant be.

True heart-joy is to be found, as Jesus served, serving along side Jesus.  To serve with Jesus is to live full of heart-joy.  To get it backwards is to seek to be served, just as “evil” is “live” spelled backwards.  To live is to be full of heart-joy and serve.  All four Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus serving.  There are plenty of examples. 

There are also plenty of examples in day-to-day encounters.  “To protect and to serve” is found on many police officers shields.  Those elected to borough councils, to state houses, to congress, as judges, and as governors and presidents, they are all called public servants, to look out for our best interests, not merely their own.  There are those in our armed services.  There are those who teach. There are the medical services.  There are the transportation services.  The COVID pandemic taught us to value many services that we all took for granted. 

And, in fact, there is no such thing as retiring from service.  Retirement opens up new and expanded opportunities to serve.  Yes, if we want to partner with Jesus and to share in heart-joy we serve! 

Service taps into our generosity.  Police officers put themselves on the line for the safety of others.  Teachers give of themselves to their students.  Medical teams expend themselves to improve the health of others.  Army, Air Forces, Navy and Marines protect us all from harm. 

The most poignant of stories of a serving Jesus comes from his last supper with his disciples in the Gospel according to St. John (chap. 13).  Jesus leaves the dinner table, gets a pitcher of water and a basin, strips, girds himself with a towel and washes their tired, cracked, calloused, dirty feet.  He does this foot washing even while his betrayer, Judas, is still among them.  He washes the feet of them all, knowing that before the night is over one will betray him (Judas), one will deny knowing him three times (Peter), and all will flee for their own safety.  Jesus leaves the dinner table to serve.

To encounter true heart-joy, we, too, need to leave the dinner table, here set with bread and wine.  We receive, and then we leave, we disburse to find true heart-joy in service, perhaps also knowing that we, too, may encounter Judas, the betrayer, and Peter, the denier, and many others who wish to flee.

Jesus is our measure as we serve side by side with him. 

One last point, we can catch more with honey than we can with vinegar!  You have surely heard that before.  So, we serve with a smile, we serve letting the inner heart-joy shine forth so that others may see our good works and perhaps even join with us in giving thanks to God. 

Heart-joy is found in service.

Let us leave the table and serve!


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